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Creative Thinking and Teaching for Creativity in Elementary School Science

Newton, L.D.; Newton, D.P.



While it is important to nurture creativity in young children, it is popularly associated more with the arts than the sciences. This paper reports on a series of studies designed to explore teachers’ conceptions of creative thinking in primary school science. Study #1 examines pre-service primary teachers’ ideas of what constitutes creativity in science lessons, using a phenomenographic analysis. The study found that their conceptions tend to be narrow, focusing on practical investigations of fact and are prone to misconceptions. Although teachers are often encouraged to support creativity, their notions of how to accomplish this within specific school subjects may be inadequate. Study #2 involves asking primary school teachers to rate lessons according to the opportunity offered to children to think creatively in science. This study found that teachers generally distinguish between creative and reproductive (as in mimetic) activities, but tend to promote narrow conceptions of creativity in school science, where fact-finding and practical activities are prominent. Some teachers identify creativity in reproductive activities as well as on the basis of what simply stimulates student interest and generates on-task discussion. Study #3 is designed to check pre-service teachers’ conceptions of scientific creativity through an assessment of creative elements in children’s explanations of simple scientific events. This study found little agreement in teachers’ personal assessments of creativity. Implications of the findings for teacher training are discussed. Since teachers’ conceptions of creativity may be inadequate, they are unlikely to recognise significant opportunities for creativity involving, for example, students’ imaginative processing of scientific information, the construction and testing of explanations, and the assessment of quality solutions. As conceptions may be shaped by one’s experiences of creativity in the arts, it is suggested that teacher trainers and science educators introduce their students to the broader term of “productive thought,” that is, a combination of creative and critical thought, which is particularly relevant in science.


Newton, L., & Newton, D. (2010). Creative Thinking and Teaching for Creativity in Elementary School Science. Gifted and Talented International, 25(2), 111-124

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 1, 2010
Deposit Date Feb 1, 2011
Journal Gifted and talented international
Print ISSN 1533-2276
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 2
Pages 111-124
Keywords Creativity, Creative thinking, Scientifically gifted children, Teachers’ conceptions, Elementary- or primary-school, Science teaching.
Publisher URL