THE PARADOX OF PROMOTING CREATIVITY IN THE CLASSROOM
 
Ng, A.K., Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Smith, I., University of Sydney, Australia
 
This study investigates the paradox of promoting creativity in the classroom. It consists of three parts. In Study 1A, we examined the differences between two types of student behaviours. One type of student behavior is desirable but not creative (e.g., being skeptical of what the teacher says). Another type of student behavior is creative but not desirable (e.g., doing work obediently without grumbling). To make an empirical distinction between these two types of student behaviours, we asked 63 students from a teacher-training institute in Singapore to respond to a short survey consisting of twelve items. Six items measured the first type of student behaviour, while the other six items measured the second type of student behaviour. The respondent's task was to gauge how typical each behavior was of the creative student. Principal factor analysis revealed a clear factor structure consisting of two factors. One factor was labeled as 'student behaviours which are creative but not desirable'. The other factor was labeled as 'student behaviours which are desirable but not creative'. We presented the twelve student behaviours to another group of trainee-teachers from the same institute (n=70). This time, however, we asked our respondents to gauge to what extent they would encourage these student behaviors in the classroom. Using a paired-sample t-test, we found that our respondents encouraged those student behaviours which loaded onto the 'desirable but not creative' factor more strongly than those student behaviours which loaded onto the 'creative but not desirable' factor. In Study 1B, we looked at how teachers' attitudes towards students would influence these two types of student behaviours. Specifically, we predicted that teachers with a conservative-autocratic attitude would encourage those student behaviours which were desirable but not creative. In contrast, teachers with a liberal-democratic attitude would encourage those student behaviours which were creative but not desirable. To test our hypotheses, we conducted a survey among 61 experienced teachers and 46 trainee teachers in Singapore, which consisted of two scales. The first scale measured the strength of the two teaching attitudes in our respondents. The second scale measured the tendency of our respondents to encourage the twelve student behaviours. The conservative-autocratic teaching attitude was found to be significantly and positively correlated with the tendency to encourage those student behaviours which were desirable but not creative. It was found to be significantly and negatively correlated with the tendency to encourage those student behaviours which were creative but not desirable. In contrast, the liberal- democratic teaching attitude was found to be significantly and positively correlated with the tendency to encourage those student behaviours which were creative but not desirable. Finally, in Study 1C, we looked at the cultural context of promoting creativity in the classroom. Specifically, it was predicted that teachers from individualistic cultures would tend to be more liberal and democratic in their attitudes towards students. As a result, they would tend to encourage those student behaviours which were creative but not desirable. In contrast, it was predicted that teachers from collectivistic cultures would tend to be more conservative and autocratic in their attitudes towards students. As a result, they would tend to encourage those student behaviours which were desirable but not creative. These hypotheses could be tested via structural equation modeling. To do so, we first conducted a survey amongst two groups of trainee teachers from Singapore (n=76) and Australia (n=59). The survey consisted of two scales. The first scale measured the strength of the two teaching attitudes in our respondents. The second scale measured the tendency of our respondents to encourage the twelve student behaviours. We assessed the model fit and tested the causal paths using LISREL 8.0. The model was found to fit the data; all the causal paths were found to be significant. Our findings indicate that there is a paradox in promoting creativity in the classroom. This paradox stems from the antipathy between creative and desirable student behaviours. Teachers who adopt a conservative and autocratic attitude towards students are more likely to encounter this paradox; such teachers are more likely to be found in a collectivistic culture. In contrast, teachers who adopt a liberal and democratic attitude towards students are less likely to encounter this paradox; such teachers are more likely to be found in an individualistic culture. We discuss the implications of these findings for promoting creativity in the Asian classroom.