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Creativity in a Policy Vacuum: ‘ An Investigation into the Understanding and Implementation of State Guidance and Policy on Creativity in Education by Intending and Newly Qualified Teachers ’. Dr Sally Elton- Chalcraft Dr Sue Cronin , (presenting authors) Prof Jeff Adams

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Creativity in a Policy Vacuum: ‘An Investigation into the Understanding and Implementation of State Guidance and Policy on Creativity in Education by Intending and Newly Qualified Teachers’

Dr Sally Elton-Chalcraft

Dr Sue Cronin,

(presenting authors)

Prof Jeff Adams

Dr Sandra Hiett,

Dr Elizabeth Smears

Dr Grant Stanley

Dr Barbara Walsh

Aims of the Project

To investigate what trainee, newly (NQTs), and recently qualified teachers (RQTs) understand by the National policy and guidelines on creativity.

To understand if perceptions change over time, and if so in what ways.

To know how trainees, newly and recently qualified teachers enact creative practices in the classroom.

To identify institutional (schools and training providers) conditions necessary to ensure beginning teachers can be creative in their classroom teaching.

To know what steps schools and training colleges need to take to ensure creative practices are sustained.


A three year longitudinal project (2009-12) to investigate the inculcation of creativity in beginning teachers in the first three years of their career:

  • Five universities in the NW of England
  • Survey of 1105 trainee teachers
  • 507 of those secondary subject specialist
  • 36 volunteers for extended participation

This project was facilitated by ESRC funding for the Teacher Education Network (TERN) and funded directly by Esmee Fairbairn.

Scope of the project

research context
Research Context
  • Teacher Education in England is poised to undergo its most radical change in nearly 30 years.
  • A rapid shift from university led training to school led training is currently taking place.
  • The current draft National Curriculum seems to have moved away from creative approaches to more formal subject focus.
  • Many traditionally creative subjects are now under serious threat of being marginalised or withdrawn from the curriculum.
Methodology: An phenomenographic approach, designed to explore the participants perceptions and professional experience.

This posed a methodological question: how to creatively capture beginning teachers’ understanding of creativity?

a solution workshops using metaphors
A solution: workshops using metaphors
  • The research project used creative workshops and interventions to help elicit rich responses from the participants about their understanding of creativity.
  • Photographs, drawings and diagrammatic form were used as a catalyst to initiate discussion and discover key themes for further exploration, by foregrounding the students’ creative stories contained in their use of metaphors.
emerging themes from the survey
Emerging themes from the survey

Many respondents (all in the final phase of their ITE programme) chose to include a qualitative statement when completing the questionnaire. Through a process of open coding five themes emerged from this data as follows:

  • levels of confidence to deliver creativity within the curriculum.
  • prior experience shaping attitudes towards teaching for creativity
  • influence of University experience on teaching for creativity
  • effect of school placements on teaching for creativity
  • expectations of their first teaching post in relation to creativity.
example from the themes confidence
Example from the themes: ‘confidence’

“ I always try to approach teaching and learning from a creative point of view, but do sometimes feel that it’s difficult to apply it to all areas. I feel with more experience and the opportunity to teach more creativity I will gain more confidence in my own capabilities.” Primary PGCE

“I feel far more confident than I did at the beginning of my teaching, however, I still do not feel entirely confident coming up with appropriate levels of creativity to enrich my lessons”PGCE Secondary

“I feel confident to take risks and allow different opportunities for creative teaching and learning. I do feel that modules at university have helped with this particularly a module entitled 'ICT and Creativity’”


Many identified a strong connection between their subject specialist knowledge and experience and their preparedness to teach for creativity:

“My specialism at university of history has helped me teach cross-curricular and more topic-based [projects] allowing for creative sessions.” Primary PGCE

“I feel that my previous experience as an artist and having completed a BTEC in Art and Design and a Fine Art degree has prepared me with the tools and capabilities for teaching and learning through creativity” Secondary PGCE

early findings disillusionment
Early findings: disillusionment
  • “National guidelines are not necessarily promoting creativity in practice. They seem to be stifling it with the other policies that are obviously coming to the forefront.”
  • “But the government has just changed its policy so they have the ability to get rid of teaches they don’t like and ruin careers anyway with their new capability procedures.”
early findings the policy vacuum and its consequences
Early findings: the policy vacuum and its consequences
  • There is evidence from our study that this policy vacuum appears to be creating a deeply entrenched dislocation of teachers from policy.
  • Government policy is now seen as unreliable, transient, and overtly partisan – likely to change at any moment, so not worth bothering with.

Diligence and assiduous attention to guidance, formerly common amongst our participants, and been replaced by a cynicism and indifference to central policy in their responses.

  • Fear of failure appears to be in the ascendency, which does not bode well for creativity in schools, as far as some participants were concerned.
creativity in policy and theory but not in practice
Creativity in policy and theory – but not in practice?

“…seemed from university that they were teaching us all these wonderful ways – we’ve learned how children learn, we’ve learned how the brain develops, we’ve learned how to be creative… and then we’ve learned that in reality you have all the pressures of tests and performance, that put this out of the window.”

“you have a teacher who is saying ‘I know the answer; can you tell me the answer?’ then you are creating a group of children who are just dependent on pleasing the teacher.”


Discussion question:

  • What do other HEIs in Britain think about these issues?
  • Are there differences /similarities in within other countries in the UK or Europe?
  • Barnett, R. (2000) University Knowledge in an age of supercomplexity. Higher Education 40 (4), 409 - 422
  • Claxton, G. (1997) Hare Brain Tortoise Mind : Why intelligence increases when you think less London. Fourth Estate Limited. 
  • Craft, A. (2001) Analysis of research and literature on Creativity in education. NACCCE
  • Craft, A. (2003) The Limits to Creativity in Education: Dilemma for the Educator. British Journal of Educational Studies, 51 ( 2) ,113-127
  • Craft, A. (2006). Fostering Creativity with Wisdom. Cambridge Journal of Education 36 (3), 337 - 350
  • Crème, P. (2003): Why Can't We Allow Students to be More Creative?, Teaching in Higher Education, 8:2, 273-277.
  • DES ( Department for Education and Science) (1992) Initial Teacher Training (Secondary Phase) Circular 9/92) London .DES
  • DfEE (1997) Teaching: High Status, High Standards. Circular 10/97 (London, HMSO)
  • DfEE, 1999.'All our futures: Creativity, culture and education', the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCCE) report.
  • Gauntlett, D. and Holzwarth, P. (2006) 'Creative and visual methods for exploring identities' Visual Studies, 21 ( 1), 82-91
  • Jackson, N., Oliver, M., Shaw, M., and Wisdom, j. (2006) Developing Creativity in Higher Education. The Imaginative Curriculum. Routledge. Oxon.
  • Leitch, R. (2006). Limitations of language: developing arts-based creative narrative in stories of teachers’ identities. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice 12 (5), 549 – 569.
  • McWilliam (2008)Teaching for creativity: Towards sustainable and replicable pedagogical practice. Higher education 56 (6), 633
  • NACCCE (National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education). (1999). All our futures: Culture, creativity and education. Suffolk: DfES.

National Curriculum (England). Retrieved May 18, 2009 from

  • Newton, J.M. & Plummer, V. (2009). Using creativity to encourage reflection in undergraduate education. Reflective Practice, 10(1), 67-76.
  • QCDA guidance on Creativity in the National Curriculum (England). Retrieved May 18, 2009 from
  • Shallcross, D.J, (1981). Teaching Creative Behaviour: how to teach creativity in children of all ages, Prentice- Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ,
  • Simmons, R. and Thompson, R. (2008). ‘Creativity and performativity: the case of further education’British Educational Research Journal , 34 (5), 601-618.
  • Steers, J. (2010). A return to design in art and design: developing creativity and innovation, in Addison, N., Burgess, L., Steers, J. & Trowell, J. Understanding Art Education: Engaging in reflexivity with practice. Routledge. Oxon.
  • Torrance, H. (2007). Assessment as learning? How the use of explicit learning objectives, assessment criteria and feedback in post-secondary education and training can come to dominate learning. Assessment in Education 14 (3), 281-294.
  • UCET (2011). Educating the UK’s Educators. Annual Report 2011 . accessed February 2012