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Teaching Creatively: A Symbiotic Process
by Elizabeth Adams & Halima Brewer
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Taking the example of an artist, we see how parallels emerge if we think of teaching as a creative and dynamic process. For the artist, as Eisner suggests, decisions and judgements are made as the work progresses. Not everything can be taken care of in advance. This applies to the teacher too, and part of this dynamic and ongoing process is nourished and nurtured by the feedback which we have collected from learners in a variety of ways and which we continue to reflect upon and draw on in future classes.
Artists do work within certain constraints, even if by comparison with teaching we see the artist's work as being free from constraints. Freedom from all constraints is not necessarily seen as liberating, rather it is from the challenge of working within some kind of limiting framework and being flexible within those constraints, that creativity will emerge. Most teachers feel restricted by the constraints imposed upon them and which usually they can do nothing about. Yet the challenge for teachers is in working creatively, innovatively and flexibly within those constraints.
Artists and teachers alike need to draw on a wide range of skills, techniques, bodies of knowledge and their own acquired knowledge and judgement in order to carry out their work. The greater their repertoire and experience, the more flexible and responsive they should be to what unfolds in the course of the action in teaching.
Truly creative processes are usually measured by the result of those processes, and sometimes but not always, there is a concrete end product. Whether one can be called creative if one's ideas do not result in some kind of visible result outside of the creator's mind is a controversial subject. In teaching we may occasionally be rewarded by a poem or a piece of prose which is creative, but in general the results of teaching creatively are not always easy to define. Yet the language learning process itself has been described as a creative one and, if we take that view, then we are implicated in that creative process.

'Learning a foreign language is a creative process. When we use techniques to stimulate creativity or activate the imagination, we simultaneously develop mental aptitudes and processes needed in language learning.' Dufeu

To be involved in language learning, in facilitating the learning of others, teachers need to be creative, flexible and responsive in their attitudes towards the people they work with. Perhaps we should see the outcomes of teaching creatively as seeds which are planted to blossom in the future? In nurturing and encouraging curiosity and love of learning for its own sake which goes beyond the collecting of certificates, diplomas and the passing of examinations. What do you feel the results or the outcomes of creative teaching might be?
A student on a pre-service teacher training course where we were discussing teaching creatively wrote 'the painter would be the teacher; the paintbrush, the knowledge of the teacher and the way she transmits it; the picture, how the teacher has been able to transmit the knowledge and how the students have understood it.'
We have emphasised the place of feedback in creative processes, and to finish we include some feedback from this workshop which has made us think, reconsider, reframe and more than anything learn from those who offered their thoughts, ideas and observations in response to ideas we aired in this workshop. We should remember that inviting feedback will generate a variety of responses, some we may feel more affinity with than others, but that in keeping an open mind we are more likely to grow and develop as teachers.

• 'I was reminded that being a teacher is a massive responsibility in terms of presenting creative lessons, day in, day out'

• 'I liked being compared to an artist'

• 'The artist teacher analogy was insightful'

• 'Sometimes we don't do what we want to do because we don't know what the consequences are going to be'

• 'Interesting if you are not time constrained'

• 'Could be a useful idea depending on the age and kind of student'

• 'Ideas like this need student support, some nationalities might find it difficult or sensitive'

• 'Just like good and bad artists, you get good and bad teachers'

Appel J (1995) Diary of a Language Teacher (Heinemann)
Dufeu B (1994) Teaching Myself (Oxford University Press)
Eisner E (1979) The Educational Imagination (Macmillan)


Halima Roxanne Brewer McoT. Dip, TEFLA
Freelance teacher and teacher trainer in Jaén, Spain, for the last 7years, previously with the British Council.
I am a member of several professional organisations, including IATEFL, TESOL and SEAL, member of the College of Teachers.
Published an article for HLT website,
Practitioner NLP, and am working on new and humanistic techniques in the teaching of English as a foreign language, and self-development as applied to language learning.

Elizabeth Adams, McoT, B.Ed Hons, Dip TEFLA. started teaching as a Teacher of Art and Design in Britain, then moved on to TEFL teaching in various countries, working for The Centre for British Teachers, the British Council and the Bell School.
For the last 10 years, Elizabeth has worked at the University of Jaén mainly involved in teacher training as well as teaching courses on language communication skills. She has given courses and published articles on various areas including; using poetry in the EFL class, humanistic teaching, creativity in teaching and learning, and teacher development.

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