Creativity in English Language Teaching in Kuwait: A TESOL Study
AlKhars, Dalal Ali Mohammed Ali
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Abstract The aim of this study is to investigate English language teachers’ understanding of creativity in the context of primary education in Kuwait. The meaning of creativity, and the factors that support or suppress it, are investigated from the point of view of female English language teachers in the primary stage in Kuwait. Most research in the fields of both TESOL and creativity in education has been undertaken in the West, some in the East, but very little in the Middle East (Craft, 2001a) in a context similar to that of Kuwait. In the context of Kuwait, creativity is called for in policy, but there is a lack of research and clarification as to what creativity means to English language teachers in their own context. The main approach to data collection and analysis was grounded theory. In the first stage of data collection, fifteen in-depth interviews and ten non-participant observations were carried out, to provide both breadth of research and depth of understanding. In the second stage, to enlarge the data, a survey (of seventy-five participants) was designed based on the findings of the first stage of data collection and analysis, as well as on the findings of previous literature. The participants were female TESOL teachers and senior teachers in primary schools in Kuwait. Findings from interviews, observations and questionnaires were consistent in many ways regarding the meaning of creativity in TESOL in the context of the study. All three methods of data collection revealed that creativity was perceived as a multi-faceted concept. The creative English language teacher was viewed as confident and self-directed. Using new and successful teaching material and methods, establishing good relationships with learners and being able to meet their needs in English language were associated with creative English language teaching. However, some findings emerged from certain data collection methods but not others. For example, the salience of clarity and freedom (autonomy) emerged from the interviews but not from the observations or questionnaire. All three methods showed similar supporting and suppressing factors for creativity. Supporting factors were both internal and external, notably the availability of teaching material (resources) and self-motivation. Suppressing factors were the lack of teaching aids and a negative school environment. The current study contributes to knowledge by expanding the understanding of two areas of research which are TESOL and creativity within the context of Kuwait, focusing on the voice of the primary stage teacher. The current study agrees with previous studies that creativity is associated with newness and value (Cheng and Yeh, 2006; Forrester & Hui, 2007) and the current study explained that newness and value are relative. The current research suggests that TESOL teachers can be creative in one or many aspects (Rietzschel et al., 2009). The current study agrees with previous studies that creativity is context related because there are creativity elements which are unique to the cultural context (Craft, 2001a; Grigorenko & Tan, 2008), but at the same time the current study proposes that creativity can be universal in some ways because of some common findings of studies from different contexts. Other contributions to knowledge points are clarity and freedom and their relation to creativity in TESOL. Clarity is not mentioned much in the literature, but can be linked to knowledge (Sternberg & Lubart, 1991). Freedom can also be related to autonomy and creativity (Sternberg, 2006b). The current research views that the process, product, person and place of creativity in TESOL are interrelated (Wallace, 1926; Fryer, 1996; Runco, 1997; Craft, 2001; Rhodes, 1961). Unlike previous studies, the current research into creativity in TESOL was not associated with artistic language, literature (Mok et al., 2006), or errors and violating language rules (Tin et al., 2010; Brown, 2001). The current findings are also different from the literature in that creativity was not linked to imagination (Beetlestone, 1998; Craft, 2000; Craft, Jeffrey & Leibling, 2001; Fryers, 1996; Egan et al., 1988; Craft, 2002, 2003a) or aesthetics (Craft, 2001a). On the other hand, creativity in TESOL is linked to personal traits including confidence, which agrees with the literature (NACCCE, 1999; Craft, Jeffrey, & Leibling 2001; Burnard et al., 2006; Craft, 2002; Craft, 2001b; Claxton et al., 2006; Fryer, 1996). The current study suggests more detailed the written preparation notes of the participants the less confident participants seemed to be. This can be related to the negative effect of evaluation on creativity (Sternberg, 2006b). The literature associated intrinsic motivational factors with creativity (Jones & Wyse, 2004, Sternberg, 2006b), but the current study shows that extrinsic as well as intrinsic motivational factors support creativity in TESOL. The current study suggests belonging to field and workplace is a supporting factor for creativity. This can be related to collaboration which is suggested in previous studies (Craft et al., 2008; John-Steiner, 2000; Miell & Littleton). The literature suggests that creativity flourishes in collaboration; however some of the current research participants prefer to work individually, while others prefer to work collaboratively to be more creative. Teaching material is an important tangible side to the creativity of TESOL (Cheng & Yeh, 2006), and relationships are also linked to improving TESOL creativity according the current research. Implications for teachers’ reflection, teachers’ education and training courses as well as better communication with the teacher for teaching material design and a better school working environments are some of the recommendations of the current research. Future research can benefit from the findings and the recommendations of the current research.
PhD in Education