The Creative Visual Arts Experience: A Phenomenology of Artistic Adolescents and Their Teachers
It is necessary to understand creativity in order to support it in educational settings. This is complicated by the fact that there are many theories and definitions of creativity. Even when the support of creativity in schools is overt, it is often not defined or the definition is not unitary. In this study, a program in the visual arts was examined where creativity is valued, but is not explicitly defined. The goals of this study were to explore students’ and teachers’ creative experiences in order to identify themes that together define creativity in this context and to provide evidence supporting the choice of instruments that would be valid for measuring creativity and evaluating the program and students’ artwork. Through individual interviews, freshman and senior students and their teachers shared their life experiences that led to their participation in the visual arts program, as well as their experiences during the program. They also explored their understanding of the elements of creativity that are supported by creativity theory. Qualitative analyses of the responses, by coding responses into categories and comparing them by using matrices, indicated that all of the teachers considered themselves to be creative, but fewer than half of the students did. Many students were not sure if they were creative and four said they were not. Their descriptions of creativity showed an emphasis on creative thinking and idea development, so there was some support of the appropriateness of measures of creative thinking with this group. However, there was some confusion and disagreement about the difference between creativity and originality, as well as the difference between creativity and artistic ability. There was also disagreement about the definition of originality. This made finding a common understanding of creativity for the group problematic. The results suggest that further discussion among the teachers and students is necessary in order to broaden their understanding of creativity and clarify its relation to originality and artistic ability. It may then be possible for the students and teachers to develop an explicit definition of creativity for this program that will support the choice of appropriate measures of creativity.