Shifting Sands in the United Arab Emirates: Effecting Conceptual Change for Creativity in Early Childhood Teacher Education

From Section:
Instruction in Teacher Training
United Arab Emirates
Feb. 15, 2013

Source: Teacher Development, Vol. 17, No. 1, p. 72–91, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to explore conceptions held by student teachers of creativity and to examine conceptual changes they experience during a series of workshops informed by Tillema and Knol’s Conceptual Change Model (1997).
Specifically, this article addresses to the following research questions:
(1) What is the meaning of the concept of creativity student teachers hold prior to the workshops?
(2) How if at all, do workshops informed by Tillema and Knol’s Conceptual Change Model (1997) affect teacher conception of the meaning of creativity in relation to beliefs and,
(3) How if at all, do such changes in conceptualization affect practice within the study?

The participants were 32 student teachers studying at undergraduate level at an all-female university in the Emirate of Dubai.
The study examined participant preconceptions of creativity and how these conceptions changed during a series of workshops.
Data collection methods were semi-structured interviews and written and photographic reflections.


The findings reveal that before the workshops, student teachers described creativity as a character trait requiring dedicated input from parents and specialist teachers.
It was especially related to the arts and music and had a product rather than a process orientation.
During the workshops, students recognized and fruitfully developed their own creative abilities and felt reassured by new knowledge that they could work with children to enhance their creative potential.
By the conclusion to the workshops, participants acknowledged the role of the teacher in developing creativity by following children’s leads and interests and by reflecting on what they observed and heard children doing.

Notably, during the course of the workshops, the participants changed their vision of their role as teachers from managers who deliver the curriculum and assess it, to observers and facilitators of learning who are interested in creatively engaging children.
Participants felt better prepared to foster creativity as they now had a broader definition and deeper understanding of creativity which was not in contradiction to pre-existing beliefs. Participants reported being comfortable working with creativity and felt they could benefit the school by bridging a perceived gap in readiness to teach for creativity.
Student teachers reflected on their ability to pose more problems, interrupt less, give more autonomy and sense of space and time, and allow for longer child-centered, play-based activities.


The author argues that the emergent themes showed that student teachers re-conceptualized what is meant by ‘creativity’ as they assimilated new dimensions and notions.

Overall, the findings suggest that student engagement with the Conceptual Change Model process had a significant impact on student teacher development of conceptual knowledge and in turn had a direct impact on their reflections and practice of learning and teaching. Beliefs held prior to the study were attributed to a lack of knowledge and prior experience rather than to any resistance to creativity or deep rooted beliefs.
Hence, the workshops were considered essential to the development of a confident sense of what creativity involves and the experience was effective in recognizing and supporting creativity amongst student teachers and early learners within the context.

The author concludes that these findings show that collectively the participants changed their notion of what creativity means and also suggest that it is feasible to bring about conceptual change through a short series of workshops which follow a conceptual change approach.

Tillema, H. H., and W. E. Knol. 1997. “Promoting Student Teacher Learning Through Conceptual Change or Direct Instruction.” Teacher and Teacher Education 13 (6): 579–595.

Updated: Dec. 19, 2019
Creativity | Early childhood education | Student teachers | Teacher beliefs