Creativity Promotion in an Excellence Program for Preservice Teacher Candidates

October - November 1, 2020

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume: 71 issue: 5, page(s): 505-517

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This qualitative study examined factors affecting little-c creativity within an intensive, and unconventional, teacher education program that implicitly offered major components of creativity-promoting education.
One of the main challenges facing teacher educators is to establish appropriate settings to promote creativity within the boundaries of preservice education.
It is in this context that the “REGEV” program was selected for this study.
This study’s aim was twofold.
The first was to examine qualitatively whether the undergraduate teacher candidates’ every day, little-c creativity would emerge in a multidisciplinary and initiative-based education curriculum.
The second was to examine if and how it provided the correct setting for the components that have previously been shown to promote creativity.
The focus of the study was the experiences the candidates underwent and through which their creativity might emerge.
The following questions were posed:
1. Did the candidates exhibit little-c creativity during their unique fieldwork?
2. Which of the following components promoted and were related to the candidates’ emerging little-c creativity?
•• hands-on learning (White, 2006) as described in White’s (2006) “performance pedagogy” (that included risk-taking, unfamiliar setting, group support, encouragement, and collaboration);
•• group activities (Davis et al., 2012; Kukner & Orr, 2015) similar to communities of inquiry (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009);
•• candidates from multiple disciplines (Dunbar, 1995).

This study was designed as a qualitative empirical study.
The aim of this study was an in-depth analysis of individuals and local situations (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007) as experienced in a unique teacher candidate education program.

The participants in this study included teacher candidates, the pedagogical counselor, and club principals.
(a) Candidates: the candidates were enrolled at a teachers college in central Israel, in their first year of learning for BEd studies.
To get a representative sample, the 11 portfolios were picked (at random) from each of the school clubs and education areas.
(b) The pedagogical counselor: an expert in high-risk adolescents.
(c) The club principals.

Research Context: The REGEV Program for Excellence in Teaching

Overall program structure and components’ interrelations - During their first semester, the candidates were required to work in a multidisciplinary extracurricular context with an assigned pupil and construct a novel initiative concerning those pupils, which the candidates then implemented during their second semester.
Fieldwork included a weekly reflective workshop, similar to a community of inquiry (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009), led and supervised by the pedagogical counselor.

Fieldwork setting and practicum education activity - The school at which the candidates carried out their weekly field visit is a comprehensive multicultural, 12-grade school in central Israel.
This Hebrew-speaking school is considered at high risk.
For the first semester of fieldwork, the candidates chose one of four extracurricular options for assisting the pupils during their 3-hr visits at one of the four after-school clubs.
To expand multidisciplinary learning and exposure, the candidates were encouraged to choose an extracurricular option based on their skills and preferences rather than on their selected academic specialization or school level (primary/secondary) for future teaching.

Initiative construction and implementation - In line with theories positing that creativity grows from chaos-like complex and unpredictable situations (Burgess, 2004), each candidate’s generation of an initiative was expected to develop from unfamiliar, perplexing problems experienced during the first semester in the new unknown territory of the school setting.
The hope was that they would dare develop initiatives that would be creative and relevant enough to increase the motivation and participation of the at-risk pupils.
From the beginning, the candidates were immersed in relevant and authentic situations and were expected to learn in hands-on situations (White, 2006), in line with the concept that teachers’ and candidates’ learning needs to be meaningful and authentically applied (Fox, Muccio, White, & Tian, 2015).

Fieldwork supervision and reflective workshops - The pedagogical counselor was present in the school throughout the candidates’ 3-hr after-school weekly activity in both semesters. Immediately following every weekly practicum experience, all candidates met as a group with the pedagogical counselor for one academic hour at the school for a reflective workshop.
These reflective workshops were similar to a community of inquiry (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009) in which the counselor assisted the candidates.
In these multidisciplinary peer group workshops (Dunbar, 1995), they discussed and brainstormed their concerns, hardships, and dilemmas and also shared their aspirations and successes.

Assessment Measures
To enhance the trustworthiness of the data collected in this qualitative empirical study, the authors adopted a number of techniques suggested by researchers, including a reflexive, open, nonjudgmental stance; the pursuit of multiple voices; and triangulation of data sources to reduce researcher-participant bias (Creswell, 2007).
The main data source to examine candidates’ creativity in this study was their portfolios.
To provide triangulation, two additional assessment measures were collected in this study:
the pedagogical counselor’s reflective journal and the electronic communications between the pedagogical counselor and the school club principals.


Data analysis - The collected portfolio data underwent content analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) that was theory-driven.
The final themes were based on portfolio analysis complemented by the reflective journal and electronic communications and linked to the professional literature.

Results and discussion
The content analysis and triangulation of the data revealed three major themes related to the candidates’ creativity and the components that promoted it.
The first major theme, the process the candidates underwent to construct and implement their initiatives, is related specifically to the first aim and question of this study, whether candidate creativity emerged during their unique fieldwork.
The second and third themes—regarding the evolving process within the REGEV program’s initiative-based component, which include the transition from feelings of chaos to creativity and the candidates’ interpersonal relationships—are related, in the most part, to the second aim and question regarding the components that fostered and promoted the candidates’ creativity.
They also encompass elements that underscore the candidates’ creativity, in line with the first question.

The process the candidates underwent to construct and implement their initiatives - The various initiatives encompassed aspects of creativity related to teaching, although they were placed in an informal boundary-spanned setting (Zeichner, 2010).
Creative lesson planning (Kukner & Orr, 2015) typified all the initiatives, such as the social topics developed and implemented in the elementary school, the varied cooking activities in the junior high, the musical setting in Shira and Dean’s musical initiative, and the math “magical notebook.”
The candidates’ creativity was affirmed as such by the school staff and principals and demonstrated by the pupils’ active participation in the initiatives.
The candidates encountered challenges to their creative teaching attempts, especially pupil adversity and resistance, underscoring the complexities of learning to teach (Orr & Kukner, 2015).
During the process, the candidates first had to overcome that adversity and only then could their creativity emerge.
Part of that process included connecting with their pupils on a micro-oriented personal basis and by sharing their own experiences they managed to connect with their pupils.

The Components that Fostered Creativity
The second aim was to examine whether and how implicit education provided the correct setting for the components that had previously been shown to promote creativity.
The components included hands-on learning (Gardner, 2006; White, 2006) as described in White’s (2006) “performance pedagogy” (that included risk-taking, unfamiliar setting, group support, encouragement, and collaboration); group activities (Davis et al., 2012; Kukner & Orr, 2015) similar to communities of inquiry (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009); and candidates from multiple disciplines (Dunbar, 1995).
This study demonstrates that, when all these components are present, candidates’ creativity can emerge.
Throughout the school year, the candidates underwent a process that led them to a “performance pedagogy.”
The elements of risk-taking in an unfamiliar setting (White, 2006, 2008) are found in the developmental process from chaos to creativity that the candidates underwent.

The challenge for teacher education is the didactic nature of higher education, in which teacher candidates often experience limited instances of creativity as learning and teaching priorities (O’Brien, 2012).
This study underscores the benefits of bringing little-c creativity to pedagogy in teacher education—in line with the OECD’s broad goals for 21st century educational policy.
With the aim of preparing creative teachers capable of leading future change within the educational system, the REGEV program can promote candidates’ creative growth before they become inculcated into a particular discipline’s thinking and then constrained by its norms and boundaries.
The current findings on the importance of an implicit multidisciplinary and initiative-based program as a trigger of creativity highlight the need for future creativity-promoting professional development programs to include elements that advance teacher candidates’ creativity.
The authors recommend that teacher education encompasses White’s (2006, 2008) performance-pedagogy climate that is conducive to interpersonal interaction, support, collegiality, and collaboration while working to solve actual problems in unfamiliar settings.
The group activities (Davis et al., 2012; Kukner & Orr, 2015) should be planned as communities of inquiry (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009) with candidates from multiple disciplines (Dunbar, 1995).
All these will add meaning to preservice education and enable candidates to develop their individual and group creativity.

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Zeichner, K. (2010). Rethinking the connections between campus courses and field experiences in college and university-based teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 61, 89-99. 

Updated: Mar. 15, 2021