Do Creative Schools Make a Difference?

Don’t you love it when you find unexpected treasures? It might be a first spring flower emerging, or maybe a coin needed for the parking meter appearing on the sidewalk. Sometimes (at least in the academic world) it is new research related to a question that puzzles you.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about the strategies necessary to encourage creativity in whole schools and districts, rather than individual classrooms. This, of course, requires supporting teachers and other staff in their creativity, to let both classroom creativity and building-level creativity emerge. Because research on school-level creativity efforts is minimal, we are left wondering, “Will it matter? Will anything really change?”

Of course, no single study will answer that question, but this week I came across new research that gives us some clues. Xianhan Huang, (2022) of the University of Hong Kong, recently published a study examing the relationships among teachers’ creative role identity, creative self-efficacy, and teaching behaviors.  The study asked whether the way teachers thought about their own creative role, the expectations of creativity of those in their school environment, and their confidence in their ability to support students’ creativity affected teachers’ teaching for creativity. The answer, in short, was yes.

It is not surprising to find that teachers who are more confident in their ability to support teaching for creativity would describe themselves as using more strategies that support creativity than those with less such confidence. But the most powerful predictor of teachers’ use of strategies that supported creativity was their belief that their school valued creativity. In other words, in a place in which teachers felt supported in efforts to encourage creativity, they were more likely to take the risks involved in teaching in new ways more supportive of students’ creativity. We don’t know precisely what those schools did; all we know is that the teachers perceived that creativity was seen as valuable in their school environment.

This study took place in Shanxi province, located in central China. In many ways, the dilemmas of supporting creativity in China parallel those in the U.S. While national recommendations for educational reform emphasize creativity and problem solving (see below), teachers “on the ground” still feel tremendous pressure to assure that students are successful on standardized tests. It seems completely logical that only where teachers felt that those in the administrative structures of their schools were supportive of their creative efforts did they move forward in utilizing teaching methods supportive of creativity. I’d love to see the results of a parallel study in the U.S., perhaps with additional observations of the creative teaching strategies utilized. Anyone need a dissertation topic?

Huang, X. (2022). Constructing associations between creative role identity, creative self-efficacy, and teaching for creativity for primary and secondary school teachers. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 16(1).

The State Council of the People’s Republic of China. (2018, January 20).Suggestions for comprehensively reform teachers in a new era [关于全面深化新时代教师队伍建设改革的意见].

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