‘Creativity itself is not confined to special
people or to the subjects we call ‘the arts’ (Grainger and Barnes, 2006). The
aim of this essay is to construct a critical discussion which reflects upon
different effective and creative teaching approaches to learning in primary
science and how these approaches look in the classroom.

 

An important thing to think about first is what
is creativity and how does it link with science? From using the NACCCE report
(1999), Ofsted states that, ‘Creative processes have four characteristics. First,
they involve thinking or behaving imaginatively. Second, this imaginative
activity is purposeful; that it is directed to achieve an objective. Third,
these processes must generate something original. Fourth, the outcome must be
of value in relation to the objective. (Ofsted, 2003)’. This creativity that
Ofsted talks about is in science and is broken down into two parts; teaching
creatively and teaching for creativity. Teaching creatively is defined by using
interactive and engaging approaches that fire children’s interests and
motivates their learning (Jeffrey and Craft, 2004), whereas teaching for
creativity is all about encouraging children to believe in their own creative
identity and identifying their creative ability (NACCCE 1999, cited in Jeffrey
and Craft, 2004).

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Creativity comes in several different ways and
‘creativity is possible whenever human intelligence is engaged’
(Csukszentmihalyi, 1996). Although, some may feel and think that science cannot
be creative or its only relevant for those that want to go into jobs in
science, study has shown, which coincided with the Big Bang Science and
Education Fair in Birmingham, found 49.4% of
children thought science was too difficult or boring while 15% thought it was only
relevant to jobs in medicine (cited in The Telegraph).
‘The correct way to consider science is to recognize that it is not a body of
facts but a body of theories (Johnson, 2008:43). A theory is a way of
explaining something, but if new evidence and facts arise, this theory could
change. Therefore, science is a way of being creative through testing and
challenging these theories to find out new evidence for ourselves to deepen our
current ideas. Through these investigations, it challenges children’s ideas and
because of this, keeps them engaged and wanting to know more.  Although, to carry this all out, it relies on
the teacher and because of this, there are many barriers to teaching
creatively.

 

One main barrier for teachers to teach
creatively is a lack of confidence in themselves and their teaching ability
(Cross and Board, 2014). Teachers may feel they do not have sufficient subject
knowledge to be able to make a lesson creative and therefore stick to teaching
the learners simply what they’ll need to know for their tests in a non-creative
way.  This is another barrier for
teachers, they may feel too under pressure to receive good grades from their
students that they simply play it safe to get the good grades (Davies, 2011).  Time is another barrier, teachers may feel that
they do not have enough time to plan and teach lessons in a creative way so
again, they play it safe to get the good grades. Starbuck (2006) explains,
‘Creative teaching done right, will move you beyond such comfort zones into
areas of teaching that are far more rewarding for you and your pupils alike. It
requires a certain amount of trust … and is not possible, without a clear and
well enforced discipline structure in place’. Therefore because of this, if the
teacher does not feel confident with the class and their discipline strategies
to get their attention back on the task, they may refrain from doing creative activities
in the classroom.

 

An important aspect of ensuring creativity in
primary science is through the Social Constructivist approach. The Social Constructivist
approach to teaching emphasises the importance of elicitation of children’s
ideas before any teaching has taken part in the learning. This is important as
we can see where the children are in their learning but also, ‘studying the
characteristics and limitations of children’s ideas give us clues as to how to
help children change their ideas to come closer to the scientific ones’
(Harlen, 2007, p.14.). When teaching a science lesson on placement about
plants, I first carried out a series of different concept cartoons about how
plants eat, grow and absorb their nutrients. Naylor and Keogh (2000) addressed
the importance of elicitation of children’s ideas through creating concept
cartoons. They work by having different people’s statements in the cartoon of
which the learners can then discuss them and see what statement they believe is
true. I found this method extremely useful as whilst they were discussing on
their tables, I was able to go around and hear them discussing their ideas and
challenging their peer’s ideas of the statements. A barrier to this method I
found was that the more confident learners on the table would drown out any
conversations from the less confident learners making them not want to
contribute to discussion at all. Another barrier would be for EAL students,
they mind find it difficult to contribute to class discussions and because of
this, they may not want to at all in fright, that they will say something
‘wrong’.

 

By using concept cartoons at the start of a
science lesson, teachers can see what the children currently understand about
the topic and where their ideas need developing further. Through this, teachers
can plan future activities and provide opportunities for this understanding to
become clearer to take away any misconceptions that they currently have. Using
concept cartoons at the end of the lesson as AFL will provide the teacher with immediate
feedback as to what the children now understand. It will also show the teacher
any gaps in their learning which can then be assessed and filled in when and
where appropriate. This links in with Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal
Development, “the distance between the actual developmental level as
determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential
development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance, or in
collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). Through
using concept cartoons at the start and end of the lesson, the teacher is first
seeing what the learners currently know but also what they can do to support
and guide the learners to help them with knowledge they currently do not understand
or know. This can be through scaffolding or by sitting this pupil next to
someone who is further ahead, so the pupil can learn from their classmate.

 

Working scientifically is another key aspect
that ensures teaching and learning in a creative way. Working scientifically is
all about scientific enquiry which develops and challenges children’s understanding
of scientific procedures, concepts and their own knowledge and skills. ‘Science
enquiry is what children do in order to answer the scientific questions about
the world around them’ (Turner et al, 2011). 
Whilst on placement, I carried out scientific enquiry through the
experiment on plants. Plants was a new topic for the class so at the start of
the lesson I asked them what would they like to find out from this topic, “how
does light affect the plant?” and “can a plant have too much water?” were the two
questions that kept repeating. As a result of this, in that lesson we carried
out an observing over time enquiry to answer the class’ question of “how does
light affect the plant?” The class decided to place one plant pot in the teacher’s
cupboard, one outside and one under the teacher’s desk. Keeping the water
amount the same, we predicted as a class what plant we thought would grow the most
and why. The Association for Science Education recognises the benefits of science
enquiry with one of them being, “Rich opportunities are provided where children
explore their own ideas, develop and deepen conceptual understanding”. The
scientific enquiry was very successful with the class being engaged and motivated
throughout the lesson but also though out the week watching their plants grow. This
engagement and motivation was because of myself picking an enquiry they were fascinated
with.

 

Working scientifically also links in with the
creative approach of providing a meaningful context. In one on my science
lectures, we were given a medium-term plan and were told to improve it linking
it with the key terms. In one of the sessions, we focussed on using ‘The Three
Little Pigs’ as a meaningful context to get them to explore, compare and group
different kinds of rocks based upon their appearance and properties. We used a meaningful
well-known context as this is important as it gives them something to base
their enquiry on and gives them a purpose for carrying this enquiry out (Turner
et al, 2011). Using role play, the pupils had to re-enact the story by building
the houses with the different materials they chose and explain why these
materials are/are not effective. They would need to use scientific terminology
to demonstrate this; strong, rough, hard, flexible etc. This creative approach
is effective because it encourages autonomy and choice, as the learners must
decide which materials are appropriate. Ward (2011) talks about how science can
result in learners becoming observers and because of this, it’s important to
use these creative approaches in lessons as it makes the lesson more enjoyable
for both teacher and learner. Through the role play, it is also a great
opportunity for AFL as the teacher will be able to see whether the pupils have
achieved the learning objectives and highlight any misconceptions present. As
the groups are performing, the teacher would be recording each performance to
send back to ‘The Three Little Pigs’, carrying this creative context on, giving
them a purpose. Although this is a creative approach which enables the teacher
to highlight whether the learners have understood, there are also limitations
to this. The learners could focus too much on the story than the enquiry itself
and lose focus and miss the objective of the lesson. Also, it will be difficult
to manage time effectively as it will take more than one lesson to plan and
perform.

 

Outdoor
learning is another great creative approach that supports teaching and
learning. By taking the learning beyond the classroom teachers will find
multiple opportunities to make the learning more engageable and motivating. Taking
the learning outside gives the class a meaningful context for the scientific enquiries
and learning therefore enhancing the class’ engagement (Briten, 1991). In one
of my science lectures, looking at working scientifically, we were learning
about the different types of enquiry and how we could use enquiry on placement.
We looked further into pattern seeking relating to minibeasts and where they
like to live. We were split into three groups and went outside for 15minitues
to count how many minibeasts we could find in our chosen area. Whilst outside, our
teacher was coming around explaining and showing us different ways we could
find minibeasts, and once the 15minutes was up, we went back inside. On our
arrival back to the classroom, we discussed our answers as a class and thought
about why there were more minibeasts in one area then the others. From the
small 15 minutes outside we completely immersed ourselves into the activity and
found ourselves more engaged and motivated throughout the rest of the lesson. Although
outdoor learning does have its positives, there is also limitations to this
type of learning. The class can become over excited with being in a new learning
environment then their usual classroom that they become hyperactive and not pay
attention to the tasks they’re meant to be carrying out.

 

To
conclude, using creative approaches for lessons benefit both the teacher and student.
The more engaging and creative the lessons are, the more likely the students
will remember the lesson content which will mean they’re more likely to receive
higher grades. The higher the creativity, the higher the effectiveness of the
lesson.  Creativity in the classroom
should involve both teacher and students with the teacher modelling the importance
of; that it’s okay to make a mistake, no creative opinion is a wrong opinion
and the freedom of choice.

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