Teachers’ constructions of creativity in secondary English : who gets to be creative in class?

McCallum, Andrew F. (2018) Teachers’ constructions of creativity in secondary English : who gets to be creative in class? Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis examines English teachers’ constructions of creativity in three different schools. The investigation is of interest because of the importance given to creativity by English teachers and the contested, shifting role it plays in English teaching and education as a whole. It differs from similar work because it treats creativity as a material resource that teachers can draw on in different ways and measures. In this, it treats the enactment of creativity as a matter of social justice.

The thesis draws on a wide body of literature about creativity. Fundamental to this is an overview of the literature as it relates to creativity and language, with most significance given to Williams’ ideas about the centrality of "creativity and self-creation" to knowledge generation (1977: p.212), and to Freire’s about “problem posing” and “banking” forms of education (1970: pps.64-65). It also draws on recent research into the effect of accountability measures in schools. This research suggests that such measures have considerable influence on how education is enacted in schools, placing limits, for example, on creative practices.

The data is qualitative in nature and analysed using a framework of critical discourse theory, exploring patterns and omissions in teachers’ comments and interrogating them within the context of dominant policy, educational and institutional discourses.

The research itself gathered data from semi-structured interviews with individual English teachers in three different secondary schools, one private and two state comprehensives. The study found that teachers across all three schools constructed creativity in similar ways in the abstract, but in accounts of actual practice, considerable differences emerged across schools. The most pronounced differences were between responses by teachers in the two state schools compared to teachers in the private one. These differences clustered most significantly around constructions of creativity as it related to accountability measures in schools.

The findings are important because they suggest that teachers struggle to draw on creative practices, even as they see them as pedagogically important, because of the restrictive nature of accountability measures. They also suggest that some teachers feel more able than others to enact creative practices, depending on the institutional nature of their school.

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