Approaches to teaching: opportunities for inquiry and creativity

Evidence was gathered from pre-school and school classrooms across the nine countries, involving 71 case studies. From each case episodes of creativity in science and mathematics teaching, learning and assessment were identified, resulting in 218 episodes. Multiple visits to classrooms over time resulted in a rich set of data.

Analysis indicated considerable potential for inquiry and creativity in the opportunities teachers provided for the generation and evaluation of ideas and strategies. This was identified in both preschool and primary settings. The generation of ideas was promoted by rich motivating contexts for play and exploration, and inquiry was linked to children’s everyday experiences. There was considerable scope for children’s decision making. Dialogue and collaboration, through group work and teacher questioning, played important roles in encouraging reflection and explanation, strengthening children’s evaluation.

The value of sensitive and responsive teacher scaffolding both to support independence and extend inquiry was evidenced. Particularly in relation to when to intervene and when to listen and build upon children’s creative engagement and the development of their ideas. Assessment approaches observed were generally informal and formative and were based on observation and teacher questioning.

Some differences between settings with different age phases were identified. The value of play and the use of outdoor or community resources were less recognised in primary than in pre-school. The importance of the process of representation in developing children’s thinking was under-appreciated, particularly in pre-school. There was greater scope for child-initiated activity and creative engagement in pre-school, whereas time and curriculum requirements tended to limit opportunities in primary settings.  

This resulted in the project calling for:

  • Approaches to planning at whole school and class levels to maximize scope and flexibility to foster children’s inquiries and to provide opportunities for play and exploration (across both preschool and primary phases of education).
  • Ways in which everyday learning activities can be opened up to allow space for children’s agency and creativity.
  • Use of the outdoor and wider school environment for learning in science and mathematics.
  • Understanding  the role of questioning in supporting inquiry and creativity, including different forms of teacher questioning, ways of supporting children’s questioning, recognising questions implicit in children’s explorations.
  • Valuing of the importance and roles of varied forms of representation, including the use of ICT, in supporting children’s learning processes.
  • Assessment strategies and forms of evidence that can be used to support learning and teaching in early science and mathematics, the roles of peer and self-assessment.

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