Pre-Kindergarten Teachers’ Perspectives, Strategies, and Difficulties in Fostering Children’s Creativity
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Along with the rapid accumulation of information and unpredictable changes in technology, creativity has been commonly recognized as a core competency and a most desirable skill for both individual success and society prosperity of the 21st century (Craft, 2010; Sawyer, 2011). Since creativity is in high demand for society, all levels of education carry the mission of fostering more creative thinkers in the classroom (Baldwin, 2010; Craft, 2010; Ewing & Tuthill, 2012). Early childhood, from birth to eight years old, has been identified as an essential period of the lifespan for brain and cognitive development (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). The facilitation of creativity relates to children’s physical, social and cognitive skills and it is crucial for a child’s development as a whole child. Previous studies have demonstrated that every child has the potential of being creative and it is the teacher’s job to support such enrichment (Cheung, 2012; Esquivel, 1995; Ewing & Tuthill, 2012). However, how to drive children’s creativity is still a salient topic in early childhood classrooms. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how pre-K teachers defined and valued creativity in young children, the types of teaching strategies they implemented or considered necessary in supporting children’s creativity, and the difficulties they faced when pursuing creative enrichment in the classroom. To answer these questions, three full-time pre-K teachers, who had received a minimum of two years training with the United Way Bright Beginnings Program (UWBB), were recruited to participate in the study. The methodology of the study followed Carspecken’s (1996) first three stages of critical qualitative research, starting by observing each participant’s classroom instruction. Based on this, the interview protocol was designed to guide subsequent face-to-face, individual interviews. The audio-recorded interview data were transcribed and coded to generate the results. The findings suggested that pre-K teachers valued creativity and possessed a basic understanding of creativity in young children, yet their comprehension was neither adequate nor clear. Some teachers used strategies for children’s creativity facilitation, however they were unaware of the methodologies and struggled to describe the rationale behind the usage of such strategies. While some teachers faced difficulties and were unable to intentionally integrate creativity into lesson plans, this study added a useful resource and illuminated best practices in the field while prompting teachers to pursue a more suitable definition of creativity in young children, and to explore more useful teaching strategies aimed at children’s creativity. The findings also provided teacher educators and professional trainers with information regarding pre-K teachers’ current status, concerns and difficulties in teaching for creativity. Further, the study suggested to teacher educators and professional trainers of a need to incorporate more specific lessons and targeted topic trainings on creativity. If these specific trainings were put into practice, they would assist teachers in translating knowledge and ideas into action and positively impact children’s creativity.