Enhancing Creativity: Strategies Implemented in the Senior Secondary Visual Art Classroom

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Sim, Cheryl

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Middleton, Howard

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This thesis examines issues involved in teaching for creativity in a senior secondary school Visual Art classroom. The study begins where professional knowledge is enacted within the classroom. Through a focus on this, my study represents a close examination of the role of the teacher as researcher. This approach is informed by a knowledge generated from reviewing literature in the fields of creativity, teacher pedagogy and strategies that enhance creativity and action research. Using the findings of the study, I argue that if teachers are to enhance their students' creativity, they must engage their students in strategies that centre on social interaction by creating an environment that encourages motivation and facilitates the creative process. I argue further that to teach for creativity, teachers need to embed strategies that offer a structure by which students can be guided through problem solving processes within the social interaction of the group, and therefore, generate enhanced creative ideas for their art works. Creativity is broad in its scope and difficult to define. Consequently, there is no single, clear indication of how it can be clearly understood, let alone improved. However, relevant theorists do propose models that could be applied in the Visual Art classroom. While a strong focus has been directed towards the importance of internal determinants on creativity, much less emphasis has been placed on external determinants; investigations have focused on research into creative persons, but there has been little appreciation for contextual situations or circumstances that influence creative behaviour. In more recent years, the study of the social psychology of creativity has endeavoured to understand and explain how particular social and environmental conditions influence the creative behaviour of individuals. The work of Amabile (1996) was significant in influencing the perspective of this study in relation to motivation and aspects affecting creativity. Amabile argued that there are certain influences that when associated together contribute to enhancing creative performance. Amabile identified the social environment, task motivation, domain related skills and creative related processes as being paramount in the enhancing of creativity. The concept that creativity can be taught and improved by the alliance of certain factors is the theoretical framework for this study (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988). Research into teaching strategies that specifically promoted positive social environment, that generated motivation and enhanced learners' creative thinking was undertaken. This study investigates the implementation of the strategy of cooperative learning and embedded within this context, the strategy of the Parnes Creative Problem Solving model (Parnes, 1967). These strategies combined, acted as the catalyst for adolescent senior secondary students to develop their creative abilities. Research also focused on teachers' pedagogy and the characteristics that make a 'good' teacher in the classroom. Extensive studies have identified the importance of the teacher and the role they play in enhancing a students' creativity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Torrance, 1995). Through self reflection of my own practice and analysis of the evidence collected and evidence brought to the study by critical friends, I was able to investigate the complexities that occur within the classroom while improving the students' creative thinking. This investigation includes an examination of assumptions upon which my practice is based. It was through examining the practice that resulted from certain assumptions I had held about teaching for creativity, that I was able to present significant findings that demonstrate the importance of a teacher's pedagogy in the process of enhancing creativity. The study involved an action research project of my practice over two and half years. Action research helps teachers improve the practice of teaching through the development of critical reasoning ability. This ability enables teachers to become more analytical about their practice, thus they can view their practice in a different light and develop different ways of improving it. In addition, action research lessens the gap between theory and practice. The participants were senior secondary Visual Art students from two different schools. Evidence was drawn from the teaching and learning of Visual Art in which there were twenty four students involved in the first spiral in 2000 and another fifteen students involved in the second spiral in 2001. A further eleven students were involved in the finalizing of spiral two in 2003. A spiral is defined in this thesis as the structural device that groups together the planning, the investigation and reflection of issues viewed by the teacher that require 'change' to enhance the students' creativity. While planning and teaching Visual Art to my senior secondary students over the duration of the two and half year study, I was constantly engaged in a reflection of my practice and its improvement. To ensure the reflection occurred I wrote a personal teacher's field log. Within this field log, photographs, lesson plans, personal reflections and evidence of students' problem solving and resolved artworks were collected. I audio-taped interviews held with both students and colleagues after each cycle in relation to their views about strategies implemented within the study. collected from all students at the end of each cycle their written responses to experiences in the study. I also video-taped classroom interactions as students engaged in the strategies that aimed at enhancing their creativity. Triangulating the points of view from the students, colleagues and teacher researcher, certain 'themes' were identified in relation to the implementation of the strategies and the enhancement of creativity. The understandings I gained through analyzing this evidence were reexamined in the last cycle of spiral 2 at Site 2. Through stimulated recall using video, I was able to compare 'themes' that were evident in spiral one with evidence from Site 2. The 'themes' identified from analysis of the data I collected on cooperative learning and the Parnes Creative Problem Solving model suggest the conditions necessary within a Visual Art classroom for adolescent creativity to be enhanced. The significance of this study lies in its ability to provide a rich case study of an experienced teacher's practice for creativity. The study does not offer any generalisations but, rather provides insights into the productive engagement of post compulsory Visual Art students productively in the creative learning process. The study does raise concerns that, for creativity to occur, teachers have to be willing to relinquish control in their classrooms and be more open to risking their established beliefs about effective teaching by introducing strategies aimed at enhancing their students' creativity, the outcomes of which may be as much about their own learning as that of their students. The study offers a methodology for the critical examination of teacher practice in the Visual Art classroom that may be useful to teachers from different subject areas of the curriculum who strive to enhance the problem solving of their students.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Vocational, Technology and Arts Education

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Visual art teaching

creative process

creative behaviour

visual art students

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