Creativity Research in Education from 2005-2015: A Systematic Review and Synthesis.
There are a number of baseline conceptions of creativity that research generally supports. For instance, the research community generally believes that cultivating creativity spans the intersection of students' personalities, their natural creative instincts, the classroom environment, and the teacher (Carlile & Jordan, 2012; Newton & Newton, 2014; Sawyer, 2012). Another conception of creativity is the notion that creative production requires a certain amount of base knowledge in a given subject, but also requires time and space for divergent thinking, revision and reflection (Carlile & Jordan, 2012; Sawyer, 2012). According to Sawyer (2012), creativity is "an incremental step beyond what has come before" (p. 421). Such "incremental steps" require divergent thinking (among other skills). Divergent thought takes a student beyond the first idea that comes to mind and allow the genesis of a multitude of ideas; those multiple ideas are then analyzed for their appropriateness and narrowed down from many to, perhaps, just one. However, deep knowledge of the subject is also important--creativity demands not only divergent thinking (multiple ideas) and convergent thinking (one idea), but also requires critical thinking, or the process of distilling information into one preferred solution. While we can create conditions that are fertile for creative thinking and behaviors--creativity cannot be produced on demand. The conception of creativity that we adopt in the current study is Plucker, Beghetto, and Dow's (2004) definition: "creativity is the interaction among aptitude, process, and environment by which an individual or group produces a perceptible product that is both novel and useful as defined within a social context" (p. 90). Product in this sense can be a physical product (such as a paper, science experiment, or artistic performance) or an intangible one (such as an idea, a new way to solve a problem, or a unique perspective on a concept).
Education represents an important area of creativity research (Runco, 2007), and creativity research is a particular area that stands to benefit substantially from field-based research approaches. Field-based research approaches allow the study of creativity within natural contexts and with diverse populations of students (Javorsky et al., 2000). As with many other educational domains, the study of creativity resides within the context of education and is influenced by its social trends, beliefs, and norms (Shavelson & Towne, 2000). School-based research approaches allow the examination of the foci of creativity within a natural context and with diverse populations of students (Javorsky et al., 2000). If we truly want to understand creativity in the educational setting in order to affect later outcomes in the workforce post-schooling, then there needs to be a clear picture of how we are engaging in the research of creativity. Is it possible that our research practices are undermining our understanding of the phenomenon? Do we need to change how and where we are collecting data, or are we on the correct path?
The purpose of this research synthesis is to crystallize a picture of current practice in creativity research and the implications of these practices. The following questions guided the current study: (1) How much creativity research in the educational domain is being conducted in schools, relative to research being conducted outside schools? (2) What range of topics and questions are being investigated in school-based creativity research? (3) What research designs and methods are being used in school-based research? (4) What is the level of involvement of practitioners in school-based creativity research? and (5) What questions suited to school-based creativity research remain unanswered and warrant further investigation?
Our source for data on field-based creativity research spanned five leading psychology journals that publish creativity research. Creativity Research Journal and Journal of Creative Behavior are the two oldest creativity journals, have published the most studies of creativity, and are the most highly cited journals in the field (Long, Plucker, Yu, Ding, & Kaufman, 2014). Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts and Thinking Skills and Creativity both began publishing in 2006; although these two journals are relative newcomers, their impact continues to increase. The International Journal of Creativity & Problem Solving, originally founded in 1991 as The Korean Journal of Creativity & Problem Solving, has been publishing under its current title since 2009.
The five journals differ in scope. Creativity Research Journal covers a range of approaches to the study of creativity including behavioral, clinical, cognitive, cross-cultural, developmental, educational, genetic, organizational, psychoanalytic, psychometrics, and social approaches. The journal includes interdisciplinary research, research within specific domains such as art or science, and research on critical issues such as aesthetics, imagery, imagination, incubation, insight, problem finding and solving. Journal of Creative Behavior publishes the innovative research, theory, and applications of creativity. The journal's content covers a diverse range of approaches, settings, and contexts. Thinking Skills and Creativity provides a forum for communication and debate for researchers interested in teaching for thinking and fostering creativity. Content includes a variety of theoretical perspectives, methodological approaches, and settings. The International Journal of Creativity & Problem Solving publishes original empirical and theoretical work on human higher-order cognition, with a particular emphasis on creativity. The journal focuses on empirical research but also considers reviews that analyze, evaluate, or synthesize existing literature. Diverse topic areas include critical thinking, problem solving, decision-making, and other facets of creativity. The journal emphasizes studies in psychology, education, and business. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts promotes research on the psychology of the production and appreciation of the arts and all aspects of creativity. The journal includes original empirical research and papers that synthesize and evaluate extant research that relates to the psychology of aesthetics, creativity, and the arts. Unlike the other journal in the current study, however, PACA discourages qualitative research, essays, and reviews.
We limited our search of the five journals to studies conducted in the United States and internationally, published between January 2005 to July 2015. The time span was chosen to capture recent advances in research methods and methodologies. All searches were performed against the article titles and abstracts. Our literature search concluded in July 2015.
The process of compiling a list of search terms involved four steps. First, we drew upon an informal review of relevant literature to formulate a list of terms describing concepts related to teaching and classroom settings. Those search terms included classroom, student, teacher, classroom, school, creativity, and research. Second, we devised a central list of combined terms. Terms on the central list were selected and combined in order to align the search with our research questions. Third, we performed an initial search by visually inspecting the article abstract of each article published between January 2005 and July 2015 for mention of the individual search terms students, teacher, classroom, and school. Fourth, we performed a confirmatory electronic search of each journal's index for each combined search term. Table 1 lists the combined search terms and number of articles initially found in each journal.
A number of inclusion criteria were used to narrow the list of 452 articles located in the preliminary literature search. Table 2 summarizes those inclusion criteria. First, only empirical studies (qualitative and quantitative) were included; other types of studies such as meta-analyses, literature reviews, and theoretical discussions were excluded. Second, we included only studies that presented field-based creativity research findings. We operationalized "field-based creativity research" in three ways: (1) creativity research carried out within a public or private K-12 classroom, (2) creativity research involving in-service or teacher-intern observations, and (3) creativity research involving pre-service and offsite data collection if and only if the research purpose was classroom-focused. Third, we included studies with research focused on areas that included learning environment, creative skills, ideation, student perceptions of creativity, creative curricula, creativity assessment, and socioemotional factors related to creativity. One hundred eighty-eight articles (Table 1) met our inclusion criteria and were retained for review.
Quality of the Studies
To further narrow the selection of articles, we excluded articles that failed to meet a minimum quality standard. Each article was evaluated using a quality rubric consisting of 10 quality dimensions (Table 3). Each dimension was judged on a 4-point scale where 0 = "unacceptable," 1 = "poor quality," 2 = "good quality," and 3 = "high quality." Two experienced raters carried out scoring of the articles independently, resulting in a 95% interrater agreement. The 2 raters then conferred to resolve discrepancies resulting in a 100% interrater agreement. A total score for each article was calculated by summing the article's criterion scores over the 10 dimensions. Total scores ranged from 0 to 30. We excluded articles with a total quality score less than 10. The threshold score of 10 eliminated only "poor" and "unacceptable" studies. Our quality assessment eliminated 138 articles; after the quality assessment, our final data corpus consisted of 49 articles.
Data were analyzed using thematic analysis, a qualitative analytic method for "identifying, analyzing, and reporting patterns (themes) within data" (Braun & Clarke, 2006, p. 79). A thematic analysis proceeds through six phases. The first phase involves becoming familiar with the data; in the current study, familiarity with the data was accomplished during the selection process and quality assessment. The second phase entails generating initial codes, which in our study was accomplished in the data extraction process. The next three phases involve searching for themes, reviewing themes, and defining themes. Finally, the process culminates in a rich description of the themes. To generate the initial codes, we developed a protocol to extract key data items from the 49 articles. Extracted variables included the study purpose, study relationship to our research goals, research context (geographic region and specific setting where the research was conducted), description of participants, study design, data collection method, evidence of validity and reliability, and key findings. A brief summary of extracted data is presented in Table 4. A theme "captures something important about the data in relation to the research questions and represents some level of patterned response or meaning within the data set" (Braun & Clarke, 2006, p. 82). The principal author selected themes independently.
The findings of this research synthesis paint a broad picture of what aims and purposes were represented in creativity research from 2005-2015, where the research took place, and how the research was conducted. Our analysis revealed trends overall and within research conducted in elementary, middle, and high schools.
What: Research Aims
Overall, the research aims ran from multifaceted investigations of creativity in elementary schools to a more narrow concentration on cognitive processes and specific interventions in high schools. Research in elementary schools examined different types of creativity through teachers' and students' perspectives, and looked at the effects of environment, pedagogy, and cognitive processes on creativity. Studies in elementary schools reflected attempts to achieve a fuller grasp of creativity through multiple lenses, including those of teacher, student, and environment. Researchers asked what teachers thought about creativity and how they taught to engage it; they also asked students what creativity was, what creative teachers were like, what creative students "looked like in school, and how the school and classroom environments influenced creativity.
Middle school research narrowed focus by concentrating on specific interventions and pedagogies for improving or engaging creativity, and by examining interactions between school environment, student personality, cognitive processes and creativity. Most middle school research asked how environmental, personal and cognitive characteristics impacted creative ability in students. Similarly, research conducted in high schools aimed to understand the effects of specific interventions, programs, or pedagogies on students' creativity. High school research also looked at how students' personal characteristics and cognitive processes affected their creative capabilities. Specific methodologies and students' personal attributes were larger research themes. However, the higher the grade level, the less concerned the researcher appeared to be with classroom and school environmental impacts on student creativity, and the less interest in teachers' perceptions of or personal practices in creativity.
Where: Research Contexts
Most research was conducted in grades K-5 (28 studies), followed by grades 6-8 (12 studies) and grades 9-12 (11 studies). Grade 4 was the most researched (11 studies), followed by grade 5 (eight studies). The least research was conducted in grades K (two studies) and 1 (three studies). Thirty-two studies took place in a classroom and seven on school grounds; location was unspecified in ten studies. The most studies were published in 2010 and 2013 (nine and eight studies respectively), followed by 2006 (seven studies), and 2014 and 2009 (five studies each). Table 5 summarizes the number of studies by research context, grade level, and year of publication.
Table 6 summarizes studies by geographic location and grade level. The largest number of research studies were conducted in China or Taiwan (15 studies; 11 in China), followed by the United States (10 studies) and Europe (10 studies). Overall there was a balance between Eastern and Western perspectives, with 20 studies from countries of eastern origin and 21 from those in the west. The majority of studies from China were in elementary schools, with no studies from China in middle school and only one in high school. The United States conducted four studies in grades K-5 and 6-8 and only two studies in grades 9-12. European countries conducted seven studies in grades K-5, but only two studies in both grades 6-8 and 9-12. Reported research was heavily skewed towards grades K-5, with both eastern and western countries largely distributed in grades K-5 and 6-8. With two studies in grades 9-12 from eastern countries and four from western, the research reported in high school from 2005-2015 may be more reflective of western culture.
How: Research Design
Quantitative research designs were by far the majority of studies, with thirty-three quantitative research studies, thirteen qualitative, and three mixed-methods (Table 7). We examined the research designs used in the quantitative studies and found that of the quantitative studies and mixed methods studies, only one study used an experimental design. Seven studies used quasi-experimental designs, 25 used correlational designs, and one study used a descriptive design. We also looked at the research methods used in the qualitative studies; three studies used grounded theory, one used an ethnographic approach, one used discourse analysis, and one used framing methodology. The other six studies used generic qualitative methods or approaches including inductive or open coding (3), case study (2), and deductive coding (1).
Grade divisions retained a quantitative design dominance with eighteen studies in grades K-5, nine in grades 6-8, and seven in grades 9-12. Data collection methods reflected a quantitative design as well with testing as the majority data collection method in 23 studies, closely followed by self-reports or surveys and interviews (22 studies). Observations were used in seven studies with intervention and creative products in six studies. When viewed by grade divisions, the dominance of testing as a data collection method is more noticeable with 13 studies in grades K-5, seven studies in grades 6-8, and 5 studies in grades 9-12. Of note is that observation was heavily relied upon in grades K-5 (seven studies) but only in two studies in grades 6-8, and none in grades 9-12. Interviews were a data source in all grade divisions, and creative products were used in grades 6-8 (four studies), once in grades 9-12 and not at all in grades K-5.
Gaps and Limitations
The effects of teacher characteristics and learning environments were missing from research conducted in upper grades. Further, elementary grades were represented in a broad range of global contributions of research, but global diversity considerably as grade level increased. Research aims reflected the standardized testing culture in schools; the older the students, the more quantitative and outcome-focused the research aim. Similarly, the research favored quantitative methods.
Effects of Assessment Driven Education on Creativity Research
The largely quantitative approach to research in creativity may reflect funding opportunities geared towards quantitative results, and researcher preference for the simplicity of using standardized protocols that can be easily administered and analyzed. The long terms effects of NCLB have created school environments that are not amenable to qualitative research, particularly in upper grades. This is reflected in the heavier use of observation in elementary grades but not in middle and high school. Administrators, teachers and curricular demands in upper grades leave little room for experimental interventions or changes in pedagogy with so much riding on annual test results. Therefore, we see more diverse research in elementary grades as it is easier for researchers to access the time to observe, try interventions, and interview students and teachers. This creates a lop-sided research agenda that relies heavily on tests for divergent and creative thinking. Resting our understandings of creativity solely in quantitative studies leaves out the human element of creativity that is best observed through observation, interview, self-reflection and review of creative products (Beghetto, 2009; Beghetto & Kaufman, 2014).
An Incomplete Picture of Creativity in Education
The field of creativity research is missing out a well- rounded understanding of creativity in middle and high school grades as the influence of the teacher and the environment on student creativity disappears from studies in these grades. Research aims are a reflection of a standardized testing culture in schools; the older the student, the more quantitative and outcome focused the research aim. This different focus in elementary vs. middle vs. high school gives us an incomplete view of creativity and its different incarnations. We don't know how creativity manifestations change from elementary to high school. The focus in middle and high school is on improving use of creativity and student personal creativity which seems to be an extension of standardized practices and pressures in those grades as opposed to an organic understanding of creativity. However, in order to cultivate creative practices in students, support and understanding of the creative process must exist in all levels of schooling.
Effect of Gatekeepers of Published Research
We limited our review to specific journals; however, creativity research is published in other outlets. The decision to search only the five journals and utilize these specific key words limits this study due to excluding other field-based creativity studies published in other journals with subjects outside the predetermined search terms. However, we assumed that researcher, teachers, and laypersons interested in creativity would most likely start with the major journals dedicated to the topic. If these journals are the leaders in the field, then what they decide to publish shapes the narrative and conceptions of creative research. Our findings reflect what the editors decided was of value to share with readers by choosing largely quantitative studies, based in elementary grades, focusing on generating creative results in students.
The goal of school-based education research is to produce credible, relevant evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to facilitate movement of knowledge between the research and education communities. By determining what works, what does not work, and explaining why, school-based research strives to systematically improve educational outcomes for all students, particularly those at risk of failure (U.S. Department of Education, 2013).
Based on our findings, we make the following recommendations for future research. First, future research should examine how creativity manifestations change over time. Second, more research that includes the effects of context in high schools is needed to round out the picture creativity in school settings. Third, more research on teacher influence is needed in middle and upper grades.
In order to meet these recommendations, we further suggest a larger emphasis on the use of creative products that utilize a visual image analysis studies of students' products for data. A more systematized process of creative product evaluations based on research outcomes could help teachers evaluate products more accurately and efficiently. A larger number of qualitative studies, in particular, ethnographic studies based on extended observations of teachers and their students would allow for a richer understanding of creativity in education. Specifically, two studies are needed. The first is a study that focuses on typical teachers, with the goal of describing how they foster and conceive of creativity in their classrooms; the second on teachers who are extremely successful at teaching for creativity (for example, what are they doing that works?). Further, a greater use of single-subject research design (SSRD) studies is also recommended. SSRDs could be used to evaluate the effects of creativity interventions on individual (or small groups of) students. Although results do not generalize, they do have limited transferability and bring attention to creativity interventions with high potential for success. The findings from these studies could then be used as the basis for larger quantitative and mixed-methods studies of creativity in schools.
Creativity does not happen in a vacuum. Creativity research in schools must fully explore all the facets of the classroom that encourage and detract from developing creative habits of mind in students. To accomplish this, a richer understanding of creativity must be explored though qualitative and quantitative studies that take the environment, teacher, subject matter, and student characteristics into account.
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(*) Yi, X., Hu, W., Plucker, J. A., & McWilliams, J. (2013). Is there a developmental slump in creativity in China? The relationship between organizational climate and creativity development in Chinese adolescents. Journal of Creative Behavior, 47, 22-40. doi:10.1002/jocb.21
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(*) Denotes article included in research synthesis.
Amy Willerson and Dianna R. Mullet
University of North Texas, USA
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Amy Willerson, Department of Teacher Education and Administration, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas 76203 USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Table 1 Search Terms and Initial Results Combined Search Terms Journal Initial Results "classroom research" AND Creativity Research 27 "creativity" Journal "creativity" AND "research" "creativity" AND "research" International Journal of 27 AND "education" "creativity" AND "research" Creativity and Problem AND "classroom" Solving Journal of Creative 17 Behavior Journal of Psychology, 7 Aesthetics, and Creativity in the Arts (PACA) Thinking Skills and 32 Creativity Total 188 Table 2 Article Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria Criteria for Inclusion Participants K-12 students Study Empirical quantitative and/or qualitative Design designs Study Research conducted in the field Setting * Public or private K-12 classrooms * In-service teacher observations * Teacher-intern observations if conducted in acceptable in classroom * Pre-service or offsite setting if and only if research purpose is classroom-focused Relevance Purpose aligns with our research goal Criteria for Exclusion Participants University and pre-K students Study Non-empirical studies (e.g. Design monograph, editorial, review, meta-analysis) Study Exclude studies conducted Setting outside K-12 classrooms if not classroom focused No in-service teacher was involved in the research Relevance Exclude all others Table 3 Quality Appraisal Rubric Criterion Excellent Good Poor (3) (2) (1) Qualitative Studies Findings are credible/trustworthy Knowledge/understanding been extended by this study Analysis addresses original aims/purpose Sampling strategy, sample, data collection, and analysis approach are clearly described Contexts are portrayed with detail Diversity of perspective is explored Detail, depth, and complexity are clearly conveyed Clear links between data, interpretation and conclusions Reporting is clear and coherent Theoretical perspectives/values that have shaped the form and content of the finding are clearly articulated Quantitative Studies Sampling strategy clearly articulated Participants clearly and completely described Comparison group (if applicable) is appropriately matched to the intervention group Use of appropriate statistical controls Intervention (if applicable) clearly described Independent and dependent variables objectively and adequately measured (i.e. valid and reliable) Measures used in the study are the most relevant measures for answering the research questions (For longitudinal or survey studies) Attrition or response rates reported Length of the study and/or sample size long/large enough to allow changes to be detected (i.e. adequate statistical power and sensitivity) Outcome assessment blind to exposure status (i.e. free of bias introduced by the researchers measuring the outcome) Criterion Unacceptable (0) Qualitative Studies Findings are credible/trustworthy Knowledge/understanding been extended by this study Analysis addresses original aims/purpose Sampling strategy, sample, data collection, and analysis approach are clearly described Contexts are portrayed with detail Diversity of perspective is explored Detail, depth, and complexity are clearly conveyed Clear links between data, interpretation and conclusions Reporting is clear and coherent Theoretical perspectives/values that have shaped the form and content of the finding are clearly articulated Quantitative Studies Sampling strategy clearly articulated Participants clearly and completely described Comparison group (if applicable) is appropriately matched to the intervention group Use of appropriate statistical controls Intervention (if applicable) clearly described Independent and dependent variables objectively and adequately measured (i.e. valid and reliable) Measures used in the study are the most relevant measures for answering the research questions (For longitudinal or survey studies) Attrition or response rates reported Length of the study and/or sample size long/large enough to allow changes to be detected (i.e. adequate statistical power and sensitivity) Outcome assessment blind to exposure status (i.e. free of bias introduced by the researchers measuring the outcome) Table 4 Research Aims Major Research Aims Subtopics Teachers and students, Students' perceptions of creativity, creativity, and schooling creative teachers and teaching, creative environments, and creative learning experiences Teachers' perspectives on students' creativity, creative curricula, creative teaching, creative climate in the classroom, and evaluating creativity Creative student personality, experience, and motivation: students as creative persons and factors that impact their development of or use of creativity Improving student creativity using specific approaches Student academic performance and creativity curricula or pedagogy Creative potential in teachers and students Specific types or domains Assessment, evaluation, comparison, or of creativity investigation of Specific programs to activate or improve access to Issues and tensions surrounding the domain Relationship of the domain to intelligence and problem solving Math and creativity Relationship between math creativity and achievement Indicators of student creativity in math and effects of external influences and student personality Specific programs designed to improve or activate math creativity Improving students' math creativity Major Research Aims Studies Teachers and students, Beghetto (2006) creativity, and schooling Chan & Yuen (2014) Cheng (2011) Cho et al. (2013) Claxton et al. (2006) Forrester & Hui (2007) Lassig (2013) Tan & Rasidir (2006) Yi et al. (2013) Cheng (2010) Eason et al. (2009) Huang & Lee (2015) Long (2014) Kim (2010) Kousoulas & Mega (2009) Sarsani (2008) Fernandez-Cardenas (2008) Garaidgordobil (2006) Hu et al. (2013) Koren et al. (2005) McLellan & Nicholl (2013) Missett et al. (2013) Nogueria (2006) Pagona & Costas (2008) Peng et al. (2013) Sahin (2014) Gralewski & Karwowski (2012) Han (2013) Hu et al. (2010) Rule et al. (2009) Schacter et al. (2006) Wong et al. (2014) Specific types or domains Chen & Zhou (2010) of creativity Cheng et al. (2010) Liu et al. (2010) Sak & Oz (2010) Smith & Graham (2009) Vass (2007) Myhill & Wilson (2013) Kao (2014) Kousoulas (2010) Woodel-Johnson et al. (2012) Math and creativity Mann (2009) Leu & Chiu (2015) Sak & Maker (2006) Levenson (2011) Jeon et al. (2011) Table 5 Number of Studies by Context Context Number of Studies Research Setting Classroom 32 Unspecified 10 School Grounds 7 Grade Level Elementary (K-5) 28 Middle Secondary (6-8) 12 Upper Secondary (9-12) 11 Table 6 Number of Studies by Geographic Region and Grade Level Region Total Elementary/K-5 Middle Upper Secondary/6-8 Secondary/9-12 Asia 15 14 0 1 (China, Taiwan) North America 10 4 4 2 (U.S.) Europe 10 7 2 2 Total 45 25 6 5 Table 7 Design and Data Collection Approaches Used in the Research All Grades Elementary Middle Upper Secondary (K-5) (6-8) (9-12) Research Design Quantitative 33 18 9 7 Qualitative 13 Mixed 3 Data Collection Strategy Assessment 23 13 7 5 Survey or self-report 22 Observation 9 7 2 0 Creative product 5 0 4 1 Quantitative Design Experimental 1 Quasi-experimental 7 Correlational 25 Descriptive 1 Quantitative Approach Inductive coding 3 Deductive coding 1 Grounded theory 3 Ethnography 1 Discourse analysis 1 Image analysis 1 Framing methodology 1 Case study 2
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|Author:||Willerson, Amy; Mullet, Dianna R.|
|Publication:||The International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2017|
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