Possibility thinking: culminative studies of an evidence-based concept driving creativity?

Craft, Anna; Cremin, Teresa; Burnard, Pamela; Dragovic, Tatjana and Chappell, Kerry (2012). Possibility thinking: culminative studies of an evidence-based concept driving creativity? Education 3-13, 41(5) pp. 538–556.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03004279.2012.656671


The authors have for some years studied the concept of ‘possibility thinking’, or ‘what if’ and as if thinking in children aged three to eleven, which generates novelty - and the pedagogical strategies which foster it. They have argued, on the basis of previous qualitative studies, that ‘possibility thinking’ (PT) is at the core of creativity in education.

Having begun as a conceptual study for seven years this team has undertaken empirical studies of PT in classrooms. This paper discusses findings from the third phase of empirical work focusing on nine to eleven year olds. The particular research question addressed here is ‘What characterises possibility thinking as manifest in the learning engagement of children aged 9-11?’

A small-scale qualitative study, involving co-participation with teachers, the paper features episode analysis of naturalistic video data featuring children aged 9--11 in two schools. It focuses on possibility thinking evidenced by children engaged in a range of classroom activities, some established as individual activities and others as group work.

The study reveals some features of PT in both sites (question-posing, question-responding, self-determination, intentional action, development, being imaginative, play/playfulness, immersion and innovation) to differing degrees of strength. Risk-taking was absent in both and a new feature, collaboration, evident in both. Differences were documented in how question-posing and question-responding manifest, compared with earlier studies with younger children.

This study seeks to make an evidence-based contribution to the characterisation of PT as driving creativity in the classroom, with implications for research and practice.

Key words: possibility thinking, theorising everyday creativity in education

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