Creativity in Artmaking as a Function of Misrecognition in Teacher-Student Relations in the Final Year of Schooling

By Thomas, Kerry | Studies in Art Education, October 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Creativity in Artmaking as a Function of Misrecognition in Teacher-Student Relations in the Final Year of Schooling


Thomas, Kerry, Studies in Art Education


After what might be described as years of institutional neglect, creativity is again in the spotlight.

Recent initiatives and reports, commissioned by state and federal governments, educational systems, Industry, and arts and Inter-governmental agencies, are underlining the benefits of creativity for post-Industrial economies (Freedman, 2007, p. 205). Within this contemporary context, creativity is viewed as a catalyst for innovation, collaboration, international competitive economic advantage, and Intercultural understanding (Robinson, 2001; UNESCO, 2005; Roberts, 2006; Huckabee, 2006; Davis, 2008). This emphasis has a particular resonance for creativity in the arts, Including art education.

The Problem of the Study

This study focuses on two interconnected practical problems that have been of long term Interest to art education. The first problem asks, "How do students overcome the Inherent contradiction of "learning" to be creative?" The second asks, "How do teachers "teach" creativity?"

On the one hand, art students are obliged by their own beliefs about art, and those of their teachers, to find creative authenticity inside their own psychological and intentional resources In artmaking. This obligation intensifies under the pressures of performance in high stakes final year school assessments and examinations, the competition for selection in prestigious annual exhibitions, and university and scholarship opportunities. On the other hand, art teachers are professionally obliged to have their students satisfy the instructional outcomes of syllabi as well as assessment and examination standards.

Ironically, final year students begin to realize, with increasing maturity and social awareness, that the originality of their artworks is rewarded in assessment and examination when it conforms to the prevailing conventions In art education (Hausman, 1981, p. 80; Brown & Thomas, 1999, p. I).1 At the same time, art teachers often claim their agency in stimulating students with new ideas through their programming. But paradoxically, they tend to euphemize their Interventions In artmaking while students take the credit.

The author argues that in seeking a resolution to these interconnected problems of learning and teaching creativity, art teachers and their students engage in profoundly tactful forms of social reasoning that entail the mastery of a cultural tradition in the art classroom.

This article reports on evidence of the ways in which an art teacher and final year art students bring social understandings to their classroom relations. These social understandings enable the class to "mis recognize" the teacher's actions in preventing what is undesirable while facilitating better options in the students' artmaking. As a consequence the teacher and students tactfully sidestep the problem posed in this study. These findings are timely given the resurgence of interest In creativity.

Background to the Study

This qualitative study of creativity Is set within the cultural context of a final year art classroom In a Sydney suburban school in the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The study examines previously under-investigated relations between art students and their art teacher, and how creative origination takes place In the performances of students and in the artworks they make.

Theories of Creativity and Art Education

Historically, the concept of creativity is linked to modernist values in art, and to philosophical and psychological theories that cluster around ideas of individualism, talent, genius (Kant, 1 976; Nietzsche, 1968), experience (Dewey, 1980), original thinking and the creative process (Wallas, 1926; Tomas, 1979), intelligence, problem solving and personality (Guilford, 1966; Torrance; 1974; Barron, 1976), visual thinking (Arnheim, 1962), and problem finding (Getzels & Cslkszentmihalyl, 1976).

Concepts that stem from the Romantic tradition are appropriated by art education, along with selected scientific and psychological advances in the study of creativity by the mid-20th century. …

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