Part 2: the three Ps

Introducing the second post in a three-part series relating to creativity in which I look at how Possibility thinking can be supported in the classroom through pedagogical practices.

Where practitioners recognise the social construction of learning and development in the area of expressive arts and design, thereby enabling children to participate as active agents in the learning process, they instinctively employ pedagogical opportunities which encourage the intrinsic motivation of a child to be creative. Practitioners also implement strategies to challenge a child’s thinking beyond natural boundaries so that they begin to wonder or to marvel “what if”.

In 2006, Cremin, Burnard and Craft embarked upon an exploratory study to examine both the nature of creativity and how it is promoted in the classroom. The findings of the study identified three key pedagogical practices which nurture possibility thinking: standing back, learner agency and providing children with time and space (in both a physical and emotional sense).

1. Standing back

By observing and listening to children, practitioners notice what inspires a child; “the nature of the learner’s engagement was prioritised”. The practitioner is therefore able to tailor a child’s learning through guided pedagogical practices which foster independence. The quality of the relationship between the child and the practitioner is central to the success of ‘standing back’; the adult trusts their instincts in shaping their pedagogy and the child trusts the adult because they feel their ideas are supported, valued and respected.

2. Learner agency

By allowing a child the independence to initiate their own experiences or to make their own choices within a guided pedagogical practice (“a loosely framed activity”) a child takes ownership of their learning process. A child is intrinsically motivated to persevere where their passions are promoted, with the teacher acting as a facilitator, enlisting pedagogical tools such as reverse questioning, or deliberately taking a speculative stance to extend their learning. In the “Born Creative” report, Ellyatt (2010) reminded practitioners that the correct degree of structure can be essential; “too many choices or too few can depress motivation and subsequent achievement”. There not only needs to be a “reaching from within” by children to create their own questions and to find their own answers, but practitioners must also ‘reach from within’ to determine the balance of adult-led and child-initiated activity when planning experiences to promote the learning and development of expressive arts and design.

3. Time and space

Open access to a wide variety of resources and time to explore a context are key to children engaging in the creative process. Flexibility in pedagogical practice, such as the concept of ‘stretchy time’ was found in the exploratory study by Cremin et al. (2006) to be effective in encouraging children to persevere in their investigations, highlighting the importance of children being able to return to work-in-progress. The concept of ‘stretchy time’ closely relates to project work or inquiry-based learning which permits cross-curricular learning and development. These practices demonstrate a shift from individualism to reciprocity and recognise the benefits of collaboration.

Cremin, T., Burnard, P., and Craft, A. (2006). Pedagogy and Possibility Thinking in the Early Years. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 1, 108-119.

Ellyatt, W. (2010). ‘A science of learning: new approaches to thinking about creativity in the early years’. In C. Tims (Ed.), Born Creative (pp. 89-98). London: Demos.


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