Creativity in the Ontario Elementary Curriculum 1853–2018: A Historically Situated Document Analysis

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Strong, Trevor
Creativity , Curriculum , Curriculum theory , Document analysis , Ontario Education
The purpose of this study is to provide descriptions of conceptions related to creativity in the context of public elementary education in Ontario through an examination of Ontario curriculum documents from 1853 until 2018. Analysis of these documents was informed by a historical understanding of conceptions of creativity as well as the use of an interpretive framework with regards to the ideological purposes behind the curricula. It proposes that there are five conceptions of creativity that have been dominant during different periods in the history of the Ontario elementary curriculum. The first is Divine Creation (1853–1884), where creativity was viewed as property of God alone, and students, therefore, were not encouraged to be creative. The second is Froebelian Creativeness (1885–1936), in which students were seen as having an inner essence which needed to unfold according to its own nature in accordance with “the great Froebelian doctrine of creativeness.” The third is Creative Experience (1937–1974), where students were viewed as being actively engaged in creative activities as a means of self-expression and in solving social problems. The fourth is Creative Thinking Skills (1975–2002), where students were to develop creative skills to help them compete in the global marketplace. The most recent period is that of Critical and Creative Thinking Skills and/or Processes (2003–2018), in which creativity continued to be primarily conceived as a skill for students to develop for economic reasons, but which also emphasized the importance of being critical of the creations of others. At the policy level, this research hopes to provide a basis for curriculum developers and ministry officials to understand differences in conceptions of creativity and to help generate curricula with greater conceptual consistency according to the curriculum ideology behind them. For teachers, this research will provide tools that will help them understand and incorporate conceptions of creativity in their classrooms.
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