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Implicit individualism in teachers' theories of creativity: through the "Four P's" looking glass.

Implicit theories of creativity include constructions of people derived from their belief systems about creativity (Sternberg, 1985). They include people's beliefs about creative activity and inclinations, the ability to integrate ideas in new ways, aesthetic taste, decisional skills, personality characteristics, and attitudes and behaviors in questioning social norms and assumptions (Sternberg, 1988). Implicit theories of creativity became a topic of research because of their impact on thinking and behavior, such as recognizing and nurturing creativity, as well as developing attitudes toward it (Chan & Chan, 1999; Dweck, Chiu & Hong, 1995).

Most empirical studies exploring implicit conceptions of creativity have focused on the characteristics of creative individuals or the conceptualization of creativity (Fryer & Collings, 1991; Runco & Bahleda, 1987; Sternberg, 1985). In his seminal work on implicit theories of creativity, Sternberg (1985) found that laypeople's conceptions of creativity overlap with conceptions of intelligence and wisdom. The main distinctive characteristics of creativity were imagination, aesthetic taste, intuition, inquisitiveness, freedom of spirit and unwillingness to be bound by the rules of society. Implicit concepts focusing on descriptions of a creative person cluster into motivational qualities, personality characteristics, and cognitive traits (Rudowicz, 2004). The most evident motivational characteristics emerging from a number of studies were: energetic, active, motivated, willing to take a stand, inquisitive, excited, impulsive, curious, adventurous, ambitious, self-confident, determined, and enthusiastic (Runco & Bahleda, 1987; Sternberg, 1985). The cognitive characteristics identified in Sternberg's (1985) study included the ability to make connections and distinguish between ideas and things, the ability to understand and interpret environment, the ability to grasp abstract ideas, a high IQ level, is always thinking, attaching importance to ideas, and the ability to implement old concepts and theories in a new way. Among the personality characteristics most often identified in the implicit concepts of creativity held by the respondents participating in Sternberg's (1985) study were free spirit, nonconformist, unorthodox, questions societal norms and assumptions, appreciates arts, good aesthetic taste, and a sense of humor.

Many similarities in the implicit conceptions of creativity have been found between Eastern and Western cultures, such as: originality imagination, intelligence, independence, and high energy (Rudowicz, 2004). The Eastern view of creativity did not emphasize humor and aesthetic sensitivity, but did accentuate the social and moral aspects of creativity. As Leung, Au & Leung (2004) point out, the East Asian view tends to be collectivistic and pragmatic, while the Western one is often individualistic and expressive. In their cross-cultural study, Rudowicz, Tokarz & Beauvale (2009) found that Polish university students attached higher desirability to creative traits than Chinese students. In another cross-cultural study on the implicit theories of American and Serbian university students, a high degree of similarity was found in terms of their views on the creative person, as well as in the positive attitude of both groups of students toward creativity (Kankaras, 2009).

An overview of research into teachers' implicit theories of creativity reveals a generally positive attitude (Aljughaiman & Mowrer-Reynolds, 2005). Teachers tend to describe creative persons as artistic, curious, imaginative, independent, innovative, intelligent, with wide interests, inventive, original, quick to respond, of high intellectual ability, good at observation and like/willing to think (Chan & Chan, 1999). In another study, teachers described creative children as adaptable, adventurous, clever, curious, daring, dreamy, imaginative and inventive, cheerful, easygoing, emotional, friendly, and spontaneous (Runco & Johnson, 2002). Moreover, teachers tend to believe that creativity can be developed (Fryer & Collings, 1991; Kampylis, Berki & Saariluoma, 2009). Teachers look to favorable characteristics when describing creative children and unfavorable characteristics when describing uncreative ones (Runco, Johnson & Bear, 1993).

Despite the fact that teachers generally have a positive view of supporting creativity in school, they tend to dislike certain characteristics and behaviors of creative students (Cropley, 1996). As Aljughaiman & Mowrer-Reynolds (2005) point out in their study, teachers may identify students as creative if they demonstrate likeable characteristics and are high achievers, but overlook creative students who manifest negative behaviors or low achievement scores. In the same study, it was found that teachers reject responsibility for the development of students' creativity, which is somewhat inconsistent with their belief that creativity can be developed. Additionally, researchers have also pointed to inconsistencies between teachers' beliefs and their teaching practice (Fleith, 2000).

A common characteristic in studies carried out in different countries refers to a lack of concern for creativity in school, in spite of the formal declarations of policy makers regarding its importance (Rudowicz, 2003). The general assumption that creativity is linked to originality and imagination also seems to be common (Paletz, Peng & Li, 2011). The sharpest contrast in teachers' implicit theories of creativity has been found between Eastern and Western cultures (Rudowicz, Tokarz & Beauvale, 2009). These differences are mainly accounted for in terms of the collectivist orientation of Eastern countries versus the individualistic orientation of the Western countries. According to Lam (1996), Hong Kong teachers' perception of an ideal pupil fitted a typical Chinese 'good child' type, rather than a 'creative child' model. The top ranked traits among Hong Kong teachers were honest, self-disciplined, responsible, respects parents, diligent, unselfish, humble and obedient. Chan & Chan (1999) also concluded that Chinese teachers might look on certain creative behaviors less favorably.

However, we need to go beyond the usual North American individualism vs. Asian collectivism distinction as seen in the majority of studies into the cultural specifics of teachers' implicit theories of creativity (Rudowicz, 2003). An example of these studies is Diakidoy & Phtiaka's (2001) study into Cypriot teachers' beliefs, which pointed to the importance of personality characteristics and cognitive skills, as well as the view that creativity can be developed. A study into Greek in-service and prospective teachers' conceptualizations of creativity revealed that although creativity is believed to be something that can be developed, the majority of them felt poorly equipped to facilitate creativity in students (Kampylis et al., 2009). Similarly, a study of Romanian teachers (Dinca, 1999) suggested that schools lack the means to stimulate creativity. In Maksic & Pavlovic's (2011) study of Serbian educational researchers' personal explicit theories, creativity was mainly described in terms of the creative person and various personality traits, divergent thinking and imagination, openness and courage, motivation, independence and individuality. In the same study, it was also concluded that teachers were perceived as having the most prominent role in supporting creativity at school. Although there are few studies focusing on the cultural differences beyond the East-West divide, one of the themes that seems to emerge from these studies is the ability of teachers to support students' creativity within the restraining characteristics of the educational system.

One of the themes in contemporary research on teachers' implicit theories of creativity is the lack of a comprehensive framework for research into creativity and related phenomena (Andiliou & Murphy, 2010). In a systematic review of studies on teachers' beliefs on creativity, Andiliou & Murphy (2010) proposed a framework to enable researchers to conceptualize teachers' beliefs about creativity. Their conceptual framework was constructed on three anchors: (a) beliefs about the nature of creativity, (b) beliefs about the profiles and characteristics of creative individuals (i.e., knowledge and personality), and (c) beliefs about a creativity fostering classroom environment.

In another study, Seo, Lee & Kim (2005) used Urban's three component model (cognitive, personality, environmental) of creativity to frame Korean teachers' beliefs of creativity. The teachers who mentioned all three components were grouped into the "balanced view" category, whereas those who mentioned two components were grouped into the "transitional view" category. In cases where teachers mentioned only one component, they were grouped into the "biased view" category. The majority of teachers (76.7%) expressed a biased view of creativity in terms of overestimating the importance of the cognitive component over the personality characteristics and environmental component. The environmental component was identified only as social values.

Finally, there have also been efforts to frame teachers' beliefs in terms of the classic 4P's model (Rhodes, 1961). This conceptual approach to creativity included the study of the creative person, creative process, creative product and press of the environment for or against creativity. The creative person includes the abilities, cognitive styles, affective and motivational patterns, intentions, attitudes, values and other characteristics relevant for creative thinking, behavior and production. The creative process refers to the ways in which creators think, feel, experience, motivate or direct themselves, and behave related to the generation of original and meaningful outcomes. The creative product is the result of creative efforts, such as a concrete product, set of ideas, or a process one is attempting to influence. The press of the environment favoring creativity involves the circumstances around individuals necessary for releasing their creative production (Richards, 1999). For example, in their study, Spiel and von Korff (1998) asked politicians, scientists, artists and teachers to write down what they spontaneously associated with the word creativity and framed their responses in terms of the 4P's model. Teachers most often chose the person and the process approach, while the environment approach was chosen most seldom. Almost 20% of teachers mentioned all four approaches.

What these various frameworks share is an openness to identify the importance of environmental conditions in teachers' beliefs. This is especially important in the light of the conclusions that for many years both laypeople and experts tended to display an individualistic view of creativity (Montuori & Purser, 1999; Rudowicz, 2004; Sawyer, 2006; Simonton, 2000). These individualistic views of creativity have been criticized for being reductionist and de-contextualized, focusing on intra-psychic explanations and excluding other levels and facets of creativity. Therefore, efforts have been made to "put the social" back into the study of creativity, e.g. in the systems approach (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999; Zeigler & Phillipson, 2012) or in the cultural psychology of creativity or the We-paradigm (Glaveanu, 2010).

Contextual Background of the Study

Serbia is a small European country situated on the Balkan Peninsula. In 2006 Serbia was re-established as an independent country after the dissolution of the socialist Yugoslavia. The average estimated population of Serbia in 2010 was more than 7 million inhabitants (Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of Serbia 2011, 2011), with Serbs as the largest ethnic group (82.9%), followed by Hungarians, Bosniaks, Roma, and others. The average age of inhabitants in 2010 was 41.4 years. The population is overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian. The unemployment rate is above 20%. The political changes introduced in the early 2000s have not significantly reduced the migration processes of highly educated young people from the period of the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

Primary education in Serbia is comprehensive and compulsory, lasting eight years, from the age of 7 to 15. As for the teaching staff, more than half of them work in primary education (in total 42,997) where female teachers prevail (73%). Classroom teachers who teach in the first cycle of primary education (Grades 1-4) receive education at faculties of teacher education, while subject teachers who teach in the second cycle (Grades 5-8) are trained at faculties for the respective academic disciplines. The average teacher salary is higher than that in the public sector, but has not reached the point of making teaching a desirable job in terms of income (Spasenovic, 2012).

The data from Hofstede's (2009) study show that Serbian society is more collectivist than individualist. Another dimension of Serbian culture is a very high power distance. These two dimensions bring Serbia closer to Eastern cultures, than to those of the West. However, Serbia deviates from the Eastern cultural pattern in terms of high to medium femininity (caring for others and quality of life) and very high uncertainty avoidance. While China (a typical representative of the East) and the United States (as a typical representative of the West) tend to rank high on masculinity (driven by competition, achievement and success), Serbian culture is more driven by feminine values. Additionally, both China and the United States tend to embrace uncertainty on a cultural level, while Serbia has a very high preference for avoiding it. In terms of a general profile on Hofstede's dimensions, Serbian culture tends to be most similar to other Eastern European countries. In sum, belonging to the Eastern European group of countries, Serbia fits neither the East nor the West cultural pattern.

During the period of the former Yugoslavia, most research and publications on creativity in Serbia referred to gifted children and were concerned with their identification, professional orientation and supportive teaching and learning practices (Dordevic, 1979; Maksic, 1992; Milinkovic, 1980). Primary and secondary schools were required to offer organized extra work, the formation of various "scientific groups", optional lectures, and accelerated education programs to students who showed higher than average achievement, ability or interest in school subjects. An analysis of the legislative, curricula and school instructions reveals that creativity was referred to in terms of creative personality, creative behavior, creative production, creative thinking, creative abilities and creative work (Maksic, 1999). However, the policy documents were somewhat in discord with the school practice, which was far from satisfactory in terms of supporting creativity in students (Maksic, 2006). Today, in Serbian policy documents, the development of creativity is also promoted as one of the goals of the educational system (Nacionalna strategija za mlade, 2008).

Purpose of the Study

The aim of this study was to understand the most important elements in Serbian teachers' implicit theories of creativity and their relationship with scientific theories and research on creativity. More precisely, we were interested in the ways teachers define the essential aspects of creativity. The rationale of the study was threefold. Firstly, understanding teachers' conceptions of creativity is important because of their role in supporting creativity at school. Secondly, the study was designed to gain insight into teachers' theories of creativity from a wider perspective, including not only the creative person, but also other relevant aspects. Thirdly, teachers' implicit theories of creativity are still in the early stage of investigation in Serbia (Maksic & Andelkovic, 2011; Maksic & Sevkusic, 2012), while there are more studies into other Eastern European countries (Diakidoy & Phtiaka, 2001; Dinca, 1999; Kampylis et al., 2009; Rudowicz, 2003).


In this paper we report the results of a small scale semi-qualitative study into primary teachers' implicit theories of creativity, which forms part of a larger study on implicit theories of creativity in Serbia.


The participants in this study were classroom and subject teachers (N = 144) working in public primary schools in urban and rural areas in different regions in Serbia. 81.40% were female teachers and 18.60% male. The age of the participants ranged from 24 to 57, with an average of 40.12 years. The participants' work experience in education ranged from 1 to 30 years, with an average of 12.05. All teachers held a diploma in higher education. The participation in the study was on a voluntary basis, with the response rate 85.21%. Although the sample was convenient, its characteristics reflect the general gender and age structure of the primary teacher population in Serbia.


The participants were administered the questionnaire with open-ended questions concerning general definitions of creativity, its manifestations throughout the life span and ways to encourage the development of creativity in the school setting. These somewhat general questions were repeated from a previous study on educational researchers' implicit theories of creativity in order to grasp implicit theories from the different social groups who influence the educational system and process, such as educators, primary and secondary teachers, decision makers (Maksic & Pavlovic, 2011). In this paper, we present the data referring to the teachers' answers to the question What is the essence of creativity.

Data Gathering Procedure

The data collection was carried out individually in groups of 20-25 participants during a nationally accredited professional development program on classroom management in 2010 and 2011. The participants filled in the questionnaire in approximately 20 minutes. Answering the questionnaire on teachers' views of creativity was used as an introductory activity for the topic Students ' creativity and their behavioral problems. Therefore, the teachers' implicit theories were elicited before exposure to formal theories of creativity later during the program. One researcher was present in a dual role, both to carry out the data collection procedure and to run the professional development program. The participants were given two reasons for the data collection: (1) using the data for research purposes, for which oral consent was obtained from the participants; (2) inviting teachers to articulate their views of creativity in written form for the purpose of stimulating discussion during the workshop which was part of the professional development program.

Data Analysis Procedure

Our approach to the data was in line with the general exploratory and semi-qualitative focus of the study (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Two researchers repeatedly read the answers and agreed on the data analysis procedure. During this initial reading of the data, we were faced with the fact that the broad formulation of the questionnaire allowed for many different conceptualizations. In the first phase, one researcher carried out the analysis by reading the data without a predefined coding scheme. In the first coding phase, each participant's answer was assigned initial codes which were recognized as basic psychological phenomena, such as ability, problem solving, freedom of expression, discovery. A master list of the initial codes was compiled, including from 1 to 7 codes per participant (an average of 2.6 codes per participant; a total of 374 initial items).

The initial codes were difficult to integrate into a single conceptual framework, which would transform the raw data minimally. The initial codes were discussed among the researchers and a joint decision was made to use the 4P's model in subsequent coding phases. This model minimized ambiguity in the process of fracturing data, without imposing too much theoretical saturation. The 4P's model seemed to provide a clear, neutral and comprehensive framework which would allow insight into the important aspects of the teachers' implicit theories of creativity. The classic 4 P's model (Richards, 1999) was chosen as a framework for systematizing the data in relatively well defined and broad clusters. Since most of the teachers responded in the form of a sentence or several words, it was relatively easy to fit each of the responses into it. In cases where several of these categories were observed, the teacher's response was coded as a combination of the 4 P's.

In the second coding phase, the initial codes were grouped into one of the categories from the 4 P's model of creativity (person, process, product, press) or into a fifth category for combinations of at least two. The unit of analysis in this phase was the participant's answer as a whole. The first researcher carried out the second phase of coding, which proved the 4P's model to be a useful and adequate analytical tool. The second researcher checked the coding process carried out in the first and second phases. Both of the researchers agreed on the coding in 95.83% of cases, while for the remaining participants' answers (n = 6) there was some disagreement. The disagreement referred to unclear and ambiguous answers (3 cases) and over-generalized answers (3 cases). The first three cases were consensually re-coded and the other three were omitted from the analysis. Therefore, a total of three participant answers were excluded from the analysis because of the extremely low level of information carried (e.g. It is important to be a creative teacher).

In the third phase, the first researcher further "unpacked" the teachers' responses belonging to some of the 4 P's or their combinations. In this phase of coding, the teachers' responses were segmented and the unit of analysis was a meaningful segment pointing to an aspect of each of the 4 P's. These segments were then clustered to form subcategories of higher and lower level according to the level of generality. The subcategories of both higher and lower order were identified based on the data, rather than on theory or previous empirical findings. The general orientation in this phase was again to preserve the meaning of the raw data and their specificities to the highest degree. An illustration of the coding process is given in Figure 1. The subcategories of higher level (e.g. ability) were more general, while those of lower order (e.g. cognitive ability) were included under them. This phase was also checked by the second researcher and finalized through discussion.

Both the categories from the 4 P's model and the respective subcategories were quantified in terms of frequencies. It was possible to derive several subcategories of higher and lower order from one participant's answer. Consequently, the frequencies of these subcategories did not correspond to the number of participants, because the unit of analysis in the third phase of coding was part of a participants' answer. Quantification was performed in order to assist our understanding of the data in terms of more or less dominant categories and subcategories. However, our analytic procedure was dominantly qualitatively driven because we wanted to explore and describe teachers' definitions of creativity and their implications for further research and school practice.

The whole process of coding was carried out in the Serbian language. The translation of the codes, categories and subcategories was done at the end of the research process by a professional translator.


An overview of the full coding scheme, together with the frequencies for each of the five categories (person, process, product, press, and combinations of 4P's), and the subcategories of higher and lower order is given in Table 1.

Table 1. An overview of the full coding scheme with frequencies of categories and subcategories in teachers' definitions of creativity.

The analysis of the data revealed that teachers defined creativity mostly in terms of the creative person (Table 2). At the same time there was a striking lack of definitions referring to creative products or the environmental aspects of creativity. These findings bring us to a hypothesis about implicit individualistic views of creativity in teachers' theories. It is in line with the general orientation of creativity research in which creativity has been considered as an individual attribute (Amabile, 1996; Glaveanu, 2011; Simonton, 2000). Moreover, it is also in line with the study on teachers' implicit theories of creativity, in which the 4 P's model was used (Spiel and von Korff, 1998).

The Creative Person

In our study of teachers' implicit theories, the creative person was described in terms of several higher-order subcategories (Table 2). When describing their views of creativity, the teachers directly pointed to each of the higher order subcategories within the person category. Examples of teachers' answers for each higher order subcategory are the following: personality (Personality, not being vain; Being a complete and relaxed personality with experience and physical and mental stability), ability (Ability to observe and solve problems; Intelligence), motivation (Motivation, persistence; Motivation (internal and external), giftedness/talent (Being talented; Talent) and knowledge (Knowledge and know-how; Knowledge). The creative person was described in positive terms, i.e. none of the teachers' responses included negative attributes or associations.

Our study confirmed the importance of personality, ability, motivation and knowledge in descriptions of the creative person as identified in previous studies on teachers' beliefs (Andiliou & Murphy, 2010; Rudowicz et al., 2009). These findings correspond to Urban's (1995) personality and cognitive components in his componential model of creativity. This positive view of creativity is consistent with previous studies of implicit theories of creativity held by Serbian students and educational experts (Kankaras, 2009; Maksic & Pavlovic, 2011). It is also consistent with the finding that teachers tend to attribute favorable characteristics to creative students (Runco, Nemiro & Walberg, 1993).

The image of the creative personality, as a subcategory of higher order, was fragmented, with many low frequency subcategories of lower order employed. Out of 17 subcategories derived from the teachers' answers, ten displayed a frequency lower than 3 (subcategory "other characteristics" in Table 1). The cluster of curiosity, expressiveness, imagination and originality largely corresponds to the concept of Openness in the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (McCrae & John, 1992). It is exactly this personality characteristic that is most consistently associated with creativity in numerous studies (Barron & Harrington, 1981; King, McKee & Broyles, 1996; Treffinger, 2002).

When the teachers described the creative person in terms of ability, they referred to cognitive ability and expressive ability (Table 2). The finding that some teachers recognized the relevance of cognitive ability for creativity is in accordance with previous studies on teachers' beliefs (Andiliou & Murphy, 2010). However, contemporary studies argue that creativity and intelligence are separate constructs (Karwowski & Gralewski, 2013; Kim, 2005). Apart from cognitive abilities, the teachers also referred to the ability of personal expression in various domains. This type of expressive ability in teachers' implicit theories seems to be in line with more complex views of ability, such as Gardner's concept of multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1985). Using the language of ability to describe the expression of the creative person has not been identified in previous studies and opens a new and interesting direction for further studies.

In the teachers' descriptions of the creative person, motivation included the need to create, enjoying the activity and being interested (Table 2). The teachers referred to creative motivation in terms of an internal impulse, accompanied by feelings of enjoyment. Motivational factors were ranked most highly in previous research on implicit theories (Runco et al, 1993). Creative persons have been found to be more distinguished by interests and drives than by intellectual abilities (Dellas & Gaier, 1970). This emphasis on motivation in teachers' theories has important educational implications since it assumes plasticity in students' creativity. In other words, if motivation is relevant for creativity, then it is something that can be developed through appropriate educational interventions (e.g. see Babaeva, 1999).

In the teachers' implicit theories, the creative person was also conceptualized in terms of giftedness or talent, as well as knowledge (Table 1). No lower order subcategories were singled out for these subcategories because they were relatively consistent. The responses categorized as examples of giftedness and talent included the following: genes, natural giftedness, unspecified talent. In these types of explanations, creativity was most closely defined as a predetermined biological category. The teachers' responses categorized as knowledge were not further specified, although knowledge was recognized as a major factor in formal theories of child creativity (Feldhusen, 2002).

In sum, the findings from our study point out that the teachers' implicit theories of the characteristics of the creative person largely corresponded to previous empirical studies on teachers' beliefs about creativity and formal theories, especially in terms of the role of personality, ability, motivation, and knowledge. The teachers in our research portrayed the creative person as an open personality, intrinsically motivated, with both cognitive and expressive abilities. The implicit individualism in Serbian teachers' portrait of the creative person points to similarities with the Western view of creativity, despite the fact that Serbian culture is still more collectivistic (Hofstede, 2009).

The Creative Process

In our study, the creative process was described in its cognitive, expressive, practical and imaginative aspects (Table 3). The teachers' implicit theories pointed to the different domains of the creative process, but did not imply the idea of the stage-based process (Wallas, 1926). The idea of the stage-based creative process has been considered as the basis of the scientific understanding of the creative process, although more recent research seems to question its viability (Lubart, 2001).

In our study, the teachers most frequently referred to the cognitive aspects of the creative process: thinking, idea generation, gaining insights and problem solving. Similarly, in cognitive psychology, the creative process has been defined in terms of the underlying cognitive mechanisms (Kozbelt, Beghetto, & Runco, 2010). However, our Serbian teachers' implicit theories are less elaborated in comparison with formal theories of creativity in terms of the variety of cognitive mechanisms underlying the creative process (e.g. divergent thinking, metacognition, metaphorical thinking, and conceptual combination). Another similarity between our teachers' implicit theories and formal cognitive theories of creativity was the emphasis placed on the idea that creative cognition stems from mundane cognitive processes. In other words, creative cognition is considered as a property of normative human cognition (Ward, Saunders & Dodds, 1999). This finding is very important for educational practice because it implies that creative thought is accessible to almost anyone (Vygotski, 1930/2005).

In their implicit theories the teachers also referred to the expressive aspects of the creative process, which included expression of viewpoints, emotions, personal style and self-expression. Emphasizing the expressive aspect of the creative process brings the creativity of children and artists closer (Glaveanu, 2011). Additionally, seeing the creative process in its expressive aspect implied a high developmental potential. However, in recent formal theories of creativity, it has been proposed to remove the experiential aspect from the creative process. Runco (1995) pointed to the fact that creativity represents an intrapersonal process which is independent of expressive and attributional processes. In other words, removing the expressive aspect from the creative process has been proposed with the goal of putting creativity back into the individual. It is worth noting that expressiveness was identified as a higher order subcategory within the process category, as well as a lower order subcategory within the person category. Expressiveness was referred to as a processual characteristic in cases when no personal attribution was made (neither to the personality characteristics, nor to the personal abilities).

Besides the cognitive and expressive aspects, the teachers also pointed to the pragmatic aspects of the creative process: finding the best way to achieve the best results, using all available tools and resources, maximizing results and applying ideas. These findings resemble the concepts of practical and successful intelligence, which emphasize applying abilities and orientation toward success (Sternberg, 2005). However, Sternberg and Lubart (1999) have criticized similar attempts to conceptualize creativity as practical, primarily because they found them ungrounded in psychological theory or research (such as De Bono's concept of lateral thinking). In recent literature, practical creativity is referred to as "targeted innovation" (Gryskiewicz & Taylor, 2003). Underlying this concept is the idea of the increased efficiency of the creative process in the contemporary world, especially in highly competitive business environments.

The teachers in our study also pointed to the imaginative aspects of the creative process: daydreaming, fantasizing and imagining. These findings certainly invoke psychoanalytic ideas of the importance of primary processes in creativity (Suler, 1980). In terms of the stage-based models of the creative process, the imaginative aspects would correspond to the initial phases of the production of creative ideas, without necessarily verifying the outcome of the process. Finally, stressing the imaginative component of the creative process brings it close to children's everyday experience (Vygotsky, 1998). Imaginativeness was referred to as characteristic of the creative process in cases when no personal attribution was made, but rather abstract activities were depicted.

In sum, the teachers' implicit theories of the creative process represented a simplified version of the cognitive processes elaborated in formal theories and research. At the same time, the Serbian teachers' views were close to formal theories that emphasize the expressive and imaginative aspects of the creative process. The process perspective implicit in the teachers' theories assumed the plasticity hypothesis to an even greater extent than the previously elaborated person perspective.

Combinations of the Four P's

Some of the teachers' responses did not belong to only one of the Four P's category, but represented a combination instead. Table 4 presents the examples and frequencies of these combinations. The category of combined 4 P's is in line with Urban's (1995) suggestion that it is important to consider the interactive structure of the creative person, problem, process and product within the environmental and ecological framework. In line with the general prevalence of the person and process perspective in teachers' implicit theories, their combination also prevailed.

The teachers' responses belonging to combinations of the 4P's can be treated as examples of the "transitional" view of creativity (Seo, 2005). In line with the categorization of teachers' views of creativity proposed by Seo et al. (2005), we may conclude that in our study the "biased" view of creativity prevailed, pointing to the overestimation of the importance of one component over the others. The educational implications of the "biased" view of creativity among Serbian teachers are yet to be explored, but we may assume that a more balanced view of creativity could have a positive impact in the classroom.

Lack of Products and Environment: A Telling Absence?

In our study, both creative products and the creative environment were rarely mentioned in the teachers' implicit theories. In formal theories, the product perspective has been considered the most objective approach to the creativity of adults (Kaufman & Beghetto, 2009). However, it has been noted that focusing on products may only lead to missing out on much of what creativity is (Glaveanu, 2011; Kozbelt et al. 2010). In light of this dilemma, the absence of the product perspective in Serbian teachers' implicit theories may imply their understanding of the fact that children do not have the time or opportunity for creative production, so their creativity was better understood through the person and process lenses. The other explanation for the lack of product orientation could be the fact that creative products are highly dependent on domain (Maksic & Andelkovic, 2011; Maksic & Sevkusic, 2012).

The almost complete absence of the environment perspective in these teachers' theories of creativity may be seen as a clear manifestation of implicit individualism. As Simonton (2000) points out, early research on creativity also tended to adopt an excessively individualistic perspective, since "creativity was viewed as a process that took place in the mind of a single individual who possessed the appropriate personal characteristics" (p. 154). However, the articulation of more social approaches in the study of creativity called attention to the setting or climate in which an individual resides, i.e. to the social factors that influence creativity as an individual phenomenon (Amabile, 1996; Kozbelt et al, 2010). In more recent elaborations, Glaveanu (2010) went even further to develop a cultural definition of creativity as "a complex sociocultural-psychological process that, through working with "culturally-impregnated" materials within an intersubjective space, leads to the generation of artifacts that are evaluated as new and significant by one or more persons or communities at a given time" (p. 11). In light of this definition, we may say that it is also teachers and students who may create an intersubjective space for creativity development--or they may fail to do so. The absence of the environment perspective is a striking finding from our study that points to the need to raise awareness of the social and cultural aspects of creativity among teachers.


This study aimed at understanding primary teachers' implicit theories of creativity, with an underlying assumption that these theories influence teachers' attitudes towards students' creativity as well as their own. The 4 P's model was chosen because it offered a meaningful frame for systematizing data without too much theoretical saturation, which made it suitable for the purpose of our analysis. Since this study formed part of a larger project on implicit theories of creativity, the relatively general research question may have guided teachers away from contextual thinking. Therefore, we cannot claim that the teachers had children's creativity in mind while answering the questionnaire. Greater control over the teachers' referential frame could have been achieved by using other methods, such as interviews and focus groups, which is a recommended direction for future studies.

In the teachers' implicit theories, the creative person was portrayed as an open personality, intrinsically motivated and in possession of cognitive and expressive abilities. The teachers saw the creative process as including cognitive aspects, but also expressive, practical and imaginative ones. The teachers consistently emphasized both the cognitive and expressive aspects of the creative person and process. We may infer from the descriptions of the creative person and creative process that creativity can be developed. In other words, the teachers' implicit theories included a flexible view of creativity.

The lack of environmental perspective further raises the question about the role of teachers in the development of students' creativity in everyday school practice. Currently, Serbia is in a prolonged transitional period, with the constant devaluation of collective goals and the common good. At the same time, global trends concerning the importance of personal development and the individualization of responsibility influence all spheres of social life, making creativity important for Serbian society as well as all others around the world (Maksic & Pavlovic, 2013). Therefore, there is a need for further studies that would clarify the relation between individualism and collectivism in perceptions of creativity.

The practical implications of teachers' implicit individualism refer to the need to raise awareness and educate teachers about the social construction of creativity in schools. In our view, professional development programs could be used as a vehicle for influencing teachers' implicit theories of creativity and consequently their teaching practice. Initial teacher training and in-service programs based on experiential learning and the reflective practitioner model could serve to inspire the development of a more social view of creativity (Pavlovic, 2010). The challenge for further research and practice is how to encourage teachers to become agents of change in the development of schools as creative environments.

Jelena Pavlovic, Slavica Maksic and Bojana Bodroza

Institute for Educational Research, Serbia

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jelena Pavlovic, Dobrinjska 11/III, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia, E-mail:

Acknowledgements. This article is the result of the projects "Improving the quality and accessibility of education in modernization processes in Serbia" (No. 47008) and "From encouraging initiative, cooperation and creativity in education to new roles and identities in society" (No. 179034), which are financially supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia (2011-2014).


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Table 1
An Overview of the Full Coding Scheme with Frequencies of Categories
and Subcategories in Teachers' Definitions of Creativity.


Subcategories of higher order

Personality             Ability                 Motivation
(58)                    (28)                    (20)

Subcategorics of        Subcategories of        Subcategories of
lower order             lower order             lower order

* Curiosity (10)        * Cognitive (17)        * Need to create (10)
* Expressiveness (9)    * Expressive (7)        * Enjoying the
* Imagination (8)       * Unspecified (4)         activity and
* Originality (4)                                 being interested
* Being experienced                               (7)
* Resourcefulness (3)                           * Unspecified (3)
* Individuality (3)
* Olher


Subcategories of higher order

Cognitive               Expressive              Practical
(22)                    (10)                    (8)




Subcategorics of higher order

Person--process         Person - press          Process--product
(16)                    (4)                     (2)

Subcategories of higher order

Personality            and talent             Knowledge
(58)                   (7)                    (5)

Subcategorics of       Subcategories of       Subcategories of
lower order            lower order            lower order

* Curiosity (10)       /                      /
* Expressiveness (9)
* Imagination (8)
* Originality (4)
* Being experienced
* Resourcefulness (3)
* Individuality (3)
* Olher


Subcategories of higher order

Cognitive              Imaginative            Uncategorized
(22)                   (7)                    (3)




Subcategorics of higher order

Person--process                               Person--product
(16)                                          (2)

Table 2
Characteristics of the Creative Person.

Subcategories          Subcategories of       Examples
of higher order        lower order            (verbatim)

Personality            Curiosity              There is no
                                              creativity without

                       Expressiveness         Freedom to express
                                              your own attitude,
                                              perspective or

                                              Being free to
                                              express yourself.

                       Imagination            Being imaginative.

                       Originality            Originality

                                              Originality and
                                              individual style,

                       Being                  Complete personality
                       experienced            with experience.


                       Resourcefulness        Being resourceful.

                                              Being a person who
                                              adapts easily.

                       Individuality          Being different.
                                              Being independent.

                       Other                  Personality.
                       characteristics        Relaxedness.

Ability                Cognitive              There is no
                                              creativity without

                                              Ability to solve
                                              problems in
                                              different ways.

                       Expressive             Children's ability
                                              to personally
                                              express themselves
                                              in areas they like,
                                              to show something
                                              that is important to

                                              Ability to express
                                              your feelings in art
                                              or some other
                                              personal ways.

                       Unspecified            Ability.

                                              Ability to cope with
                                              different life

Motivation             Need to create         Wanting to know
                                              something new,
                                              having a need to

                                              The essence of
                                              creativity is the
                                              desire for
                                              something--i.e. to
                                              express your desire
                                              through creativity.

Table 3
Characteristics of the Creative Process.

Process         Example

Cognitive       Generating and proposing ideas.
                Analyzing, comparing.

Expressive      Creativity is a form of expression.
                Expressing your opinion or viewpoint
                  in your own way.

Practical       Finding the best way of achieving
                  the best results.
                Using all available tools and

Imaginative     Using imagination to solve problems.
                Approaching a problem in an
                  imaginative way.

Uncategorized   When children develop their own
                  abilities during problem solving.
                Letting go of the school tradition.

Table 4
Combinations of the Four P's.

Combination   Example

Person--      Developed mental and physical ability for some
process       activity and leaving a trace, expressing something
              personal in the activity.

              The basis of creativity is intelligence, ability,
              making combinations, analyzing.

Person--      There is no creativity without intelligence,
press/        motivation to express it and support from the
environment   students' environment.

              Motivation, nature, rewards, financial security,
              support from the family.

Process--     Original solutions, new, unexpected, to some
product       extent outside the dominant frame, so-called
              "impossible combinations", abandoning the dominant

              Generating new ideas in the context of teaching,
              applying new ideas in teaching.

Person--      Imaginativeness, interests, creating a game.
              Intelligence, interests, humor, new ways of
              presenting a topic to students.
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Author:Pavlovic, Jelena; Maksic, Slavica; Bodroza, Bojana
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Date:Apr 1, 2013
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