Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Nicholas Cutforth

Third Advisor

Norma Hafenstein

Fourth Advisor

Kate Willink


Creativity, Elementary, Innovation, Practice of teaching, Public school


Limited resources in public education and a focus on the “basics” have resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum, which, in turn, has led to a dramatically minimized role for the arts and creativity (Mishook & Kornhaber, 2006). Our world and the ways in which we access and share knowledge continue to evolve at an alarming rate. With this, complex issues arise- issues that will need fresh, innovative eyes that can cultivate creative solutions. The success of our society is fueled by creative and flexible minds that can generate innovative and authentic solutions to some of our most complex problems (Craft, 2003; Parkhurst, 1999; Pink, 2005; Robinson, 2011). Through this study, I hope to reveal that today’s teachers, even with the many constraints and limitations they face, can still prepare our youth for the diverse world they will inherit by fostering student creativity through their approach to teaching. I propose that even the most mundane standards and learning objectives can be constructed into meaningful learning experiences when our imaginations are included in the conversation (Uhrmacher, Conrad, & Moroye 2013). This study seeks to ignite that conversation.

The purpose of this study is to examine the practice of teaching for four public elementary teachers who have been identified as teachers who work toward cultivating creativity and innovation in their students. Four questions guided this study: 1) What are the intentions of teachers who cultivate creativity and more specifically, creative habits of mind in students? 2) How does the classroom organization and structure of physical space help to foster creativity and creative habits of mind in students? 3) How does the teacher’s pedagogical approach help to cultivate creativity and creative habits of mind in students? 4) What is the educational significance of these ideas and practices for students, teachers, and administrators? Educational Connoisseurship and Criticism, an arts-based qualitative research method (Eisner, 1998) is used in this study. Data collection consisted of observations and interviews lasting approximately two to three weeks in each participating teachers’ classroom.

Several key findings emerged. At the intentional level, all teachers addressed the process of learning, stating that they strive to engage students in a rich process of learning and critical thinking. Similarly, all participating teachers referenced the importance of joyful discovery in the learning process. The last consistent theme among the four participating teachers was the desire to create a safe atmosphere in which students felt comfortable enough to be themselves and take risks in the learning process. There were many commonalities in the physical environments of the four classrooms including freedom of choice, flexibility, and full access to classroom materials. At the pedagogical level, the teachers exhibited the following pedagogically inspired traits: they viewed themselves as facilitators of learning, they sought to promote independence and autonomy through pedagogical choices, they took steps to ensure teaching for conceptual understanding, and they sought to encourage flexible thinking in students.

This study has a variety of implications for cultivating creativity in an elementary classroom setting. Perhaps most noteworthy, is that while the participating teachers demonstrated that cultivating creativity in today’s public school classrooms is feasible, they also expressed immense dissatisfaction with their careers. They emphasized that they were exhausted, frustrated, and feeling somewhat despondent about their futures in the classroom. This finding is significant for school and district administrators as job satisfaction and teacher retention are important elements to creating a successful, thriving school.

Publication Statement

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Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Karin M. Colley

File size

275 p.

File format