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Contemporary Perspectives on Research in Creativity in Early Childhood Education

reviewed by Jane Katch - January 25, 2013

coverTitle: Contemporary Perspectives on Research in Creativity in Early Childhood Education
Author(s): Olivia N. Saracho
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1617357405, Pages: 438, Year: 2012
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High stakes testing is having a huge impact on the curriculum for young children today.  What used to be a time of play, learning to share toys and crackers, and listening to the rich literature of childhood stories is now often a time for worksheets on letters and their sounds, even before many children are developmentally ready for them.  This change has taken place in a short time; when I began teaching kindergarten in 1979, 5-year-olds were expected to master upper-case letters by the end of the year, while they spent most of their school day building with blocks, playing in the doll corner, listening to stories, and playing in the playground. Now many three- and four-year-olds spend much of their school day at a table with worksheets, preparing for a kindergarten in which they will be expected to read and spell correctly.

At the same time, researchers tell us that creativity is essential for the education of children in the 21st century.  We hear that information and technology are changing at such a rapid rate that the most important skill to teach is problem solving, since the “facts,” as we know them today, are unlikely to be the critical facts of tomorrow.  We are told that divergent thinking and creativity will be the qualities our children need to succeed.

How can early childhood educators put these two disparate worlds together?  How can they help children gain the skills they need to succeed in school while at the same time helping them to be creative problem-solvers?

Olivia Saracho has collected a group of articles on a wide range of topics about creativity in the early childhood classroom, ranging from the historical development of the theories that have influenced writers and researchers on children’s creativity to the importance of teaching creative thinking in the sciences.

After an introductory chapter summarizing the scope of the book, the second section of the book is called “Theoretical Foundations of Creativity.”  There has been a wide range of research showing that creative thinking is important in our society, not only to have an occasional creative genius who will produce extraordinary art or inventions that will change history, but also to have problem-solvers and creative thinkers in every field of study.  The chapters in this section describe the theories of personal creativity by Piaget and Vygotsky and describe the research showing that creativity is domain-specific -- that children can be creative in some domains of learning while not in others.

Part III contains articles about children’s creative processes.  This section reviews the research on creative thought processes in young children and roles for teachers who want to foster creative thought.  These chapters discuss themes such as the relationship between creativity and intelligence, the relationship between skills and creativity, and the relationship of culture to theories of creativity.  

Part IV, Children’s Artistic and Creative Experiences, includes articles on specific aspects of creativity in early childhood: the benefit of movement programs in the classroom, the value of the arts in early schooling, and the development of private speech, the language children use when they talk to themselves about drawing.

Part V, Perspectives on Play and Creativity, includes three articles that highlight research showing the value that can be gained by incorporating creativity and play into the classroom.  These articles show ways to address common tensions that parents and educators face between wanting to encourage creativity while also wanting children to succeed in school.  They discuss how creativity and play can help children with socioemotional development, and how creativity relates to play and problem solving.

Part VI, Implications for Teaching, describes some of the ways classroom practices, teachers’ perception, and styles of teaching can affect creativity.  It also contains an article on the importance of developing creative thinking in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in early childhood education.  

The conclusion includes a brief summary of some of the important developments in research about creativity and some recommendations for further work in the field.

Contemporary Perspectives on Research in Creativity in Early Childhood Education presents a wide range of theories in the study of creativity.  It can be a valuable reference for researchers and academics who want an overview of important areas of study in this significant field.  Extensive bibliographies in each article should be a valuable resource for academics looking for further information in each of these areas of study.

Although it purports to be a reference for teachers and general educators, with the exception of a chapter on movement education, the articles are theoretical discussions and do not contain specific curricula to enhance creativity in the early childhood classroom.  However, the articles may be useful for teachers and administrators who are looking for language that will help them clearly and convincingly explain the value of play, creativity, and divergent thinking in the early childhood classroom and thus the need for setting aside time for play.

It is worth noting that further editing in order to clarify confusing or grammatically incorrect sentences and to correct spelling would make this book easier to read.  The following passages exemplify the problem. “Then it extensively acknowledges it as exemplary practices to the fundamentally child-centered approaches to art in early childhood education.” (p. 16)  “Thus, the young children’s speech-drawings are the stories that they tell those stories while they are drawing, which are considered creative experiences.” (p. 17) “In educational context, artifacts are good learning devises…” (p. 386)  These types of constructions leave the reader puzzling over their meanings rather than digesting the thought provoking ideas.

However, this overview of the current research on creativity provides an important resource for scholars and academics.  The children in early childhood programs need their support to restore the balance between the development of needed skills and the growth of play and creativity, so vital to contemporary society.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: January 25, 2013
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17003, Date Accessed: 5/25/2022 12:57:15 PM

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About the Author
  • Jane Katch

    E-mail Author
    JANE KATCH is a kindergarten teacher in Grafton, Massachusetts. Her third book is Far Away from the Tigers: A Year in the Classroom With Internationally Adopted Children (University of Chicago Press.) Her articles have appeared in The Harvard Educational Review and Educational Leadership, Her classroom was featured in the PBS documentary, Raising Cain.
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