Group Creativity

This symposium is open to anyone. No registration required, we are looking forward to meeting you.

26 January 2017

Symposium: Group Creativity and Education

Thursday 26th January, 9:30am – 4pm
Presented by Cognovo and Art and Sound
Link Building, Third Floor Cognovo Seminar Space, Plymouth University

This symposium brings together Psychologists, Creative Artists and Educationalists to share common practice and explore new ideas in education and group creativity. In an educational landscape in the UK which increasingly seems to surge towards the conservative, towards an emphasis of individual achievement in maths and science rather than considering the importance of group creativity in dance, music, film, art and theatre (as well as science!), we will be asking questions about what happens between people in groups, what the importance of inter-subjectivity between group members might be and considering the application of ideas such as ‘flow’ within a group carrying out a creative task. Many talks will focus on the application of creative thinking and making within a group educational context including the treatment of school children themselves as artists and asking students to abandon what they might consider to be traditional artistic ideas.

Time Title Presenter
09:30–09:55 Coffee
09:55–10:00 Introduction John Matthias
10:00–10:30 The Psychological effects of being in a creative group Jon May
10:30–11:00 The power of the arts Penny Hay
11:00–11:15 Coffee
11:30–12:00 Information sharing in groups Michaela Gummerum
12:00–12:30 Are we allowed to choose what we write about? Jon Merrison
12:30–13:00 Lunch
13:00–13:15 Social Robotics Severin Lemaignan
13:15–13:45 Creativity, dialogue and other conundrums Kerry Chappell
13:45–14:15 The role of Flow Experience in Creative Dance Practice Klara Łucznik
14:15–14:30 Coffee
14:30–15:00 Resistance isn't futile! Newspaper Reading Machines and other scores John Matthias
15:00–15:30 Beyond Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Decolonizing teacher education Fatima Pirbhai-Illich; Fran Martin
15:30–16:00 Once upon a time: A study of collaborative creativity of children and adolescents Pinar Oztop

The Psychological effects of being in a creative group

Jon May (Professor in Psychology, Plymouth University)

Many approaches to understanding individual creativity centre on divergent thinking, or looking at common objects or functions in new ways. Creativity can be enhanced by encouraging people to put aside the most common interpretations of aspects of their environment, and wilfully thinking of things in unusual ways. We have found that encouraging dancers to attend to and manipulate their mental imagery while creating novel movement pieces also enhances their scores on non-movement related pencil and paper tests of creative thinking. Improvisational dance often takes place in a group context, and we have been exploring the role that the presence of other group members has on the perception of ‘flow’ experiences which have been linked to creative thought. Being in the flow allows people to accept ideas in a non-judgemental way, perhaps becoming more inclusive in their moment-to-moment decisions. Working in a group may provide both novel input to one’s own thinking and enhance a frame of mind conducive to the acceptance of unusual ideas.

Jon May completed his PhD on ‘A cognitive analysis of flexible thinking’ in 1987 at Exeter University, and then did nothing on creativity for twenty-five years, until the Cognovo programme reminded him that it was what he’d always been interested in before he got distracted by emotional disorders, human computer interaction, addiction and motivation. In the meantime he had become convinced that understanding the role that our mental representations of the world play in our decision making was crucial in influencing behaviour change. He currently leads the Leverhulme Trust funded project ‘In the Dancer’s Mind’ which has been developing and evaluating imagery-based enhancements for movement creation, and has helped develop an imagery based motivational technique, Functional Imagery Training, which is being applied to clinical psychology for substance dependence, eating disorders; weight loss; adherence to medical regimes; increasing engagement in physical exercise; and improving resilience in high-achieving athletes.

The power of the arts

Penny Hay (Director of Research 5x5x5=creativity and Senior Lecturer in Arts Education, Bath Spa University)

The arts have the power to be transformational in our lives. Children are entitled to a creative education that involves all the arts. Learning in, through and about the arts is part of being human, they enrich our lives, deepen our understanding of who we are and how we relate to each other. This presentation will share innovative pedagogical approaches to creative learning in groups with the arts at the heart of the process.

5x5x5=creativity is an arts-based research organisation with charitable status that supports children and young people in their exploration and expression of ideas, helping them develop creative skills for life. 5x5x5=creativity’s methodology supports children and adults in the creative exploration of their ideas in ‘100 languages’ (Loris Malaguzzi in Edwards et al 1998), in all art forms. Signature projects include Schools Without Walls and Forest of Imagination.

Penny Hay is an artist, educator, mentor and researcher. Penny is Director of Research for 5x5x5=creativity, an arts research charity and part-time Senior Lecturer in Arts Education at Bath Spa University. Previously Penny was a primary teacher, advisory teacher for the arts and lecturer in arts education at Goldsmiths College, the Institute of Education, University of London, Roehampton Institute and the University of the West of England. Penny has worked extensively in arts education across the UK with international links. She also co-hosts the SW Research hub for Cambridge Primary Review Trust. Her doctoral research is focused on how, as adults, we support children’s identity as artists. Penny is a parent governor and active in supporting children’s rights. She is an elected Fellow of the RSA and has an award from Action for Children’s Arts for her contribution to arts education.

Information sharing in groups

Michaela Gummerum (Associate Professor (Reader) in Psychology, Plymouth University)

Working in groups is an important aspect of everyday life, both in educational and professional settings. But why is group collaboration beneficial? In my presentation I will focus on one positive aspect of group collaboration, namely the role of information sharing. Group collaboration can be particularly useful when group members share their unique knowledge. Because group members pool their individual knowledge, a group can theoretically arrive at a better solution than each individual group member alone. I will discuss the role of information sharing for different tasks and particularly creative tasks. Furthermore, I will shortly present empirical research on how children (and adults) share information during group collaboration and what factors improve or hamper groups’ information sharing. Hopefully, this can inspire researchers and practitioners interested in group collaboration to plan group work more effectively in different age groups.

Dr. Michaela Gummerum is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Plymouth. She investigates the social, emotional, and cognitive factors underpinning children’s and adolescents’ decision-making. Michaela was a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development/International Max Planck Research School Life and received her PhD from the Free University, Berlin in 2005. She then worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the Human Early Learning Partnership, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Since 2007 she has been working at the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth, UK.

Are we allowed to choose what we write about?

Jon Merrison (Woodlands Park Primary School, Ivybridge, Devon)

Deux dangers ne cessent de menacer le monde: l'ordre et le désordre. Claude Simon used Paul Valéry's words as the epigraph for his 1957 novel, Le Vent. Replace le monde with l'éducation and the phrase describes perfectly the tension that should underscore every decision made by the educator. And yet, with the standards agenda currently in the ascendancy and increasingly so, disorder is at risk of losing the fight against order. This paper, which refers the personal experience of a practising primary classroom teacher to the wider educational discourse, seeks to shed light upon and raise questions about the challenges of promoting a creative pedagogy within an increasingly coercive education system.

Jon Merrison is an academic and an educator. Currently working as a class teacher in a primary school in Devon, Jon has sought every opportunity, during his teaching career, to promote creative pedagogies. He has been involved in multiple research projects, including a collaboration with the Cambridge Primary Review Trust focused on immersive learning. In 2005, he defended his doctoral thesis on mise-en-abyme (a form of self-reflexivity) in the novels of nobel prize-winning author, Claude Simon, via a maitrise in modern literature from the Université de Provence. His first degree was in French and Politics.

Robots in the classroom: to be or not to be social?

Séverin Lemaignan (CRNS, Plymouth University)

I'll take a brief glimpse at robots in a classroom: should they be passive tools? or should they be on the contrary active social agents? Taking two very recent examples, we might see that both options bring tons of new teaching and learning ideas!

Dr Séverin Lemaignan is currently Research Fellow in Human-Robot Interaction at Plymouth University. Previously, he obtained his PhD in Cognitive Robotics from the CNRS/LAAS (France) and the Technical University of Munich (Germany), and then conducted his research as Research Fellow at EPFL (Switzerland). His research interests primarily concern the socio-cognitive aspects of human-robot interaction, both from the perspective of the human cognition and the design of cognitive architectures for the robots. He focuses his experimental work on child-robot interactions in educative settings, exploring how robots can support teachers and therapists to develop effective and engaging novel learning paradigms. He currently works on Theory of Mind modelling for social robots in the EU H2020 Marie-Sklodowska Curie DoRoThy project.

Creativity, dialogue and other conundrums

Kerry Chappell (Senior Lecturer, Exeter University)

Kerry’s presentation will offer insight into how creativity in education has been conceptualised as embodied dialogue. This means acknowledging the individual, collaborative and communal context of a process which is driven by the inter-relationship between the inside and the outside, with creativity generated in the ensuing space of possibilities, and reciprocally intertwined with individual and group identity development. The presentation will draw on the body of work which was initially begun around 2007 in Exeter Graduate School of Education’s CREATE Research Centre, and which now continues within the Centre for Creativity, Sustainability and Educational Futures (CenCSE). It will offer examples of embodied dialogic creativity from the Centre’s empirical research into dance, early years, technology and science education. Kerry will also offer insight into the CenCSE team’s recurrent questioning of the ethical impact of dialogic creativity and whether considering this can contribute to a more humanising approach to educational futures. This will include the team’s current conundrum as to how this might be possible in a world increasingly characterised as post-human.

Kerry Chappell (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer at Exeter University, where she is MA Education: Creative Arts Pathway leader and Secondary Dance PGCE Deputy Programme Leader. As part of co-leading the Centre for Creativity, Sustainability and Educational Futures, her research focuses on creativity in education, specifically in the arts (prioritising dance), and how creativity contributes to educational futures debates e.g. in digital environments and science education (e.g. Kerry is PI for the EU-funded H2020 CREATIONs project). Kerry is also interested in the development of methodologies for participatory research. Kerry is also a Trustee of the regional organisation Dance in Devon. Her work is informed by her ongoing practice as a dance artist with Devon-based Dancelab Collective and past experience as an education manager, and Aikido practitioner (Ni-Dan).

The role of Flow Experience in Creative Dance Practice

Klara Łucznik (Marie Curie Research Fellow, Plymouth University)

Flow (Csikszentmihályi, 1990) is commonly associated with a highly creative state. However, there is limited research into flow in dance creative practice, especially in a group setting. This talk describes some preliminary results of a pilot study examining the importance of flow in group dance improvisation. In this study, absorption with activity and enjoyment seemed to be the most predominant factors whilst describing individual flow experience in dance. Further, two main themes emerged referring to properties of a group that support a participant’s flow experience: ‘becoming one with the group’ and the importance of trust between group members and trust in the activity. Finally, dancers commonly commented that being in flow was a highly creative state which they seem to find surprising, very ‘organic and natural’ movement solutions. Moreover, in a group improvisation, the presence of others during creative exploration facilitated flow and the creativity of individuals though maintaining a desired creative focus for longer time span, lowering self-judgment and inspiring novel solutions.

Klara Łucznik is a research fellow at CogNovo, a multinational doctoral training network based at Plymouth University, offering research training in cognitive innovation. She holds MSc. in Psychology (2009, University of Warsaw) and MA in Choreography and Dance Theory (2015, The F. Chopin University of Music). Her research focuses on dance improvisation as a collaborative practice that provides an opportunity to understand how people collaborate while creating and to observe how new ideas appear from interaction with others’ bodies and the environment. In a PhD project she investigates the role of flow in group dance improvisation. Her creative practice explores improvisation as a strategy for creativity, performance and interactive, participatory events.

Resistance isn’t futile! Newspaper Reading Machines and other scores

John Matthias (Associate Professor (Reader) in Sonic Arts, Plymouth University)

One of the challenges in teaching undergraduate film students about writing and recording sound and music is that many of them feel that they ‘aren’t musical’ because they haven’t formally learned how to play a musical instrument. One of the teaching methods I use begins with a selection of the day’s newspapers as source material to create pieces and scores with the students in a group. Students quickly realise that they can compose original scores, critically explore the qualities of a musical instrument and think about what musicality might be, partly enabled by Aden Evens’ ideas about the resistance of interfaces and the exploration of novel forms. In this talk, I will demonstrate some of these ideas and use them to begin to interrogate how the framing of an educational context can enable groups to create new work and ideas together.

John Matthias is a musician and composer. In 2008, he won the UK PRS Foundation New Music Award (The 'Turner Prize' for music) with Jane Grant and Nick Ryan for the development of a huge sonic installation entitled 'The Fragmented Orchestra' which won an honorary mention at the Prix Ars Electronica 2009. He has released five albums and collaborated with many recording artists including Radiohead and Coldcut and has performed extensively internationally including at the Ecstatic Music Festival in New York, The Pompidou Centre in Paris and at the Royal Opera House in London. He has recently been involved in collaborations with the Rambert Dance Company in London, artist, Stanley Donwood in San Francisco and artist, Jane Grant in their large scale sound work, ‘Fathom’. He is Associate Professor in Sonic Arts at Plymouth University, has a Ph.D in Theoretical Physics from Exeter University and is Co-Director of the Art and Sound Research Cluster at Plymouth University.

Beyond Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Decolonizing teacher education

Fatima Pirbhai-Illich (University of Regina, Canada); Fran Martin ( University of Exeter, England)

Keywords: Decolonization, Indigeneity, education, critical interculturalism, difference

Question. What decolonizing processes are needed for education systems and practices to move beyond abyssal thinking?

Objectives. Our work aims to address what we see as two fundamental concerns in current practices of culturally responsive education.

  1. Culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP), as taken up by white educators, often focuses on surface features and the needs of the "Other", on narrow understandings of culture, on deficit dispositions towards difference, and on the teacher self as the agent in changing the Other.
  2. Our attempts to connect CRP to the more fundamental issue of white privilege, as a means of decolonizing what we perceive to be the key barriers to successful implementation of CRP, is often met with resistance.

Methodology/theory. We have worked together with colleagues from six countries on a critical project: culturally responsive pedagogies: working towards decolonization, Indigeneity and interculturalism. This papers reports on the conceptual aspects of the project. We draw on decolonizing, Indigenous and intercultural theories to conduct a critical discourse analysis of current policies and practices as evidenced through our own work and that of our collaborators.

Conclusions. We propose that Culturally Responsive Pedagogy will never be effective in the ways in which Ladson-Billings (1995) and Gay (2002) originally intended because it does not speak to mainstream educators in ways that are intelligible to them. We put forward an agenda for radical change: change that works at macro and micro levels from policies to practices, and whole systems to classroom relationships.

Dr. Fatima Pirbhai-Illich: is a Canadian citizen who was born in Tanganyika. She has worked in teacher education for over 20 years. She is an Associate Professor and current Chair of Language and Literacy Education, University of Regina (UoR). At the UoR she has conducted a longitudinal study into cultural responsive pedagogy.

Dr. Fran Martin: is a white British citizen who was born and raised in the South-East of England. She has worked in pre-service teacher education for 23 years. She is currently Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter. Her research focuses on global education and critical interculturality.

Once upon a time: A study of collaborative creativity of children and adolescents

Pinar Oztop (Marie Curie Research Fellow, Plymouth University)

Although there is research on how peers collaborate in scientific contexts, children’s collaboration in other domains (e.g.; arts, creative writing) and collaborative creativity has received less attention. The current study explored age differences in children’s collaborative creativity with a special focus on interpersonal understanding skills. The first study was conducted in England with 93 students (10-14 years old) from primary and secondary schools. We assessed age differences in collaborative creativity in a collaborative story writing task and how perspective taking skills and intrinsic motivation affected collaborative creativity. The second study was conducted in Turkey with 162 students (10-14 years old) from a secondary school. Groups were randomly assigned to either experimental condition, in which task cohesion was manipulated, or control a condition. We again assessed the role of perspective taking, intrinsic motivation and age differences in collaborative creativity. In this talk, findings of these two studies along with their implications in how we can advance creativity and collaborative work in education will be discussed.

Pinar Oztop is a PhD candidate and Marie Curie Fellow in CogNovo, multidisciplinary doctoral training program funded by EU Mari Curie Initiative, at Plymouth University. She has an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Middle East Technical University and she completed her Master of Art degree in developmental psychology at Koc University. Before she started her PhD position in CogNovo, she worked as a lecturer in psychology department at Abant Izzet Baysal University, Turkey. She also has experience in working with children and adolescents as a counsellor. She is currently researching about how collaborative creativity occurs in different art domains, the role of interpersonal processes in collaborative creativity, how collaborative creativity develops with age and how it is observed in different cultures. Her research interests are group processes, creativity, collaborative learning, development of interpersonal skills, inter-group interventions, training creativity and child technology interaction.