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Design and implementation of programs enhancing creative thinking

The role of school in adequately preparing students for the constantly changing conditions of modern life (social, professional, personal) has been a concern for many researchers, educators and parents (Frangos, 2006; Xanthakou & Kaila, 2002; Schirrmacher, 1998; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Torrance, 1987; Dellas & Gaier, 1970). The importance that is given or should be given in schools on the development of creative thinking has been studied with particular interest in the recent years. Although the need for creative thinking in modern society is theoretically supported, few are the extensive research approaches that have taken place in Greece. Research fields in Greece concern mainly: the design and implementation of programs enhancing creative thinking (Vitoulis, 2005; Xanthakou, 1998), the influence of external factors such as gender, geographic region and socio-economic level in the development of creativity (Marmarinos, 1978) and the connection between school performance and creative performance (Nima, 2002).

The current research originated from the need to broaden the limited research in kindergartens, to enhance children’s creative thinking ability and transform it into a skill. In international research level, definitions of creativity vary depending on the area of interest (art, science, social), the level, the style and the way it is expressed.

The level of creativity, ranges from the potentially creative competence of all people, it continues as manifestation in everyday activities, which Boden (1994) refers to as p-creativity (person-creativity), and reaches its manifestation as a special talent, h-creativity (history-creativity). Similarly to p-creativity, Craft (2001b) and Beghetto & Kaufman (2007) used the term c-creativity. In NACCCE Report (NACCCE, 1999; Craft, 2001a) the phrase "democratic creativity" was introduced to indicate the creativity of the ordinary person as it can be found in daily life's activities. Treffinger (2009) highlighted that is not only the level of creativity (how creative are you?) that varies but also the style of creativity (how are you creative?). Under this concept researchers attempted to distinguish creativity types. Taylor (1959) proposed the existence of five types for creativity: expressive, productive, inventive, innovative, and emerge native, whereas Unsworth (2001) refers to four types: responsive, expected, contributory and proactive. Referring to the ways creativity can be expressed, Treffinger et al. (2002: 13-15) suggest that it may either be demonstrated through a certain action that leads to a creative outcome, or it may simply exist but not yet be evident, as a creative potential.

Adopting a definition of creativity in current research initially led to the collection of findings from related studies. The review was based on creativity researchers such as Csikszentmihalyi (2009), Sawyer (2006), Craft (2000), Sternberg (1999), Amabile (1996), Torrance et al. (1990) and Guilford (1967) in the international arena, and Vitoulis (2005), Nima (2002) and Xanthakou (1998) in Greece. Investigating creativity most researchers mainly follow three different lines of approach referring to the:

creative person (Ganios, 2006; Nima 2002; Xanthakou, 1998; Kirton, 1994; Torrance 1966c; Csikszentmihalyi & Getzels, 1973),

creative product (Sawyer, 2006; Nima, 2002; Craft, 2000; Balkin, 1990; Clark, 1986; Besemer & Quin's, 1986; Amabile, 1982),

creative process (Wallas as quoted in Running, 2008: 42; Sabelli & Abouzeid, 2003; Kessler, 2000; Craft, 2000: 32-33; Gordon as quoted in Xanthakou, 1998: 99; Finke et al., 1992).

These different approaches demonstrate the interrelationships among the creative-person, the creative-product and the creative-process under certain social and culture context. Considering these interrelationships in this research, creativity is defined as the combination of the existing experiences with the skills, attitudes, interests and idiosyncrasy of people (all characteristics of creative people), who through this process (creative process) may lead to produce new and useful ideas (creative product). The creative process and creative product cannot be isolated from the characteristics of creative individuals and are unique to each person. Therefore, creativity refers to an innate tendency of a person, whose characteristics can be identified and its development is possible through proper procedures.

Seeking for a definition of creativity characteristics Torrance et al. (1990: 1) uses the term of "creative thinking abilities" as the constellation of generalized mental activities that may be commonly identified in creative achievements. Thus, throughout the current study, creativity will be described in terms of creative thinking. Guilford (1950) was the first to make a distinction between divergent and convergent thinking. Associating divergent thinking with creative thinking he provided a theoretical ground for the development of creativity evaluation. More specifically he emphasized in four basic characteristics of creative thinking, considering them as the basic assessment criteria for creative thinking. Depending on the lens through which other researchers investigate creative thinking a variety of different or additional criteria were used in their studies in order to assess creativity. Whitehead (as quoted in Sabelli & Abouzeid, 2003: 18) highlights that creative thinking is characterized by diversity, innovation and persistence. Howe et al. (2001: 5) argued that creative thinking contains a number of features, such as motivation, persistence, interest and competition. Poincare (as quoted in Sawyer, 1999: 449) notes that when trying to solve a problem creative thinking lies on applying flexible, unique and non-formalized combinations.

Even though different approaches generate different criteria for assessment of creative thinking, studies of Guilford (1967), Williams (1972) and Xanthakou (1998) show common points and are based on the use of same criteria which are:

fluency, the ability of generating a number of relative responses,

flexibility, the ability of finding alternative ideas and multidimensional approaches,

originality, the ability of generating infrequent ideas and unique responses,

elaboration, the ability of organizing and including details in a response.

"Everybody has the potential to be creative, but not everyone fulfills that potential" (Runco, 2007: 40). In light of the above statement many studies (Hosseini & Watt, 2010; Bidri, 2005; Sternberg, 2003) have been conducted in order to investigate how creativity potential can be taught and nurtured through education. In pre-school education researchers (Howard-Jones et al., 2002; Russ et al., 1999; Tarnowski, 1999) emphasized the link between play and creative thinking. Janjolo and Stamp (as quoted in Morin, 2001: 25) have also noted the similarities of play and music, indicating that both have symbolic and rule-governed nature, are meaningful and active. Furthermore researchers (Niland, 2009; Smithrim, 1997 & Littleton, 1991 as quoted in Morin, 2001) have suggested the educational value of music play in children's creative thinking. Considering all the above, this study endeavoured to answer the following research questions:

Can a program of educational interventions, which is based on music and movement activities, help develop creative thinking in preschool children?

Which behaviours or creative abilities have a higher level of improvement as a result of these educational interventions?

How could we reform the curriculum in kindergartens in order to create conditions that promote the development of children’s creative thinking and creative behaviours?

Purpose

Considering that activation and encouragement of creative thinking may be possible in a creative learning environment, the objective of this research was to establish in a research level, the relations between creative thinking of preschoolers and music and movement activities in order to determine whether and to what extent this kind of activities help to develop creativity.

Early childhood researchers acknowledge not only the importance of play in promoting children development (Slade & Wolf, 1994; Singer & Singer, 1990) but also in fostering children creativity (Russ et al., 1999; Balke, 1997). More specifically, applying the play theory to musical education Professor Swanwick (1988) suggested relations between major play aspects and musical activities. Play-based and child-centred approaches to music education are regarded as fundamental philosophical and methodological concepts of Karl Orff’s and Εmil Dalcroze’s process. Orff and Dalcroze emphasizes the connection of music with rhythm and movement, thus musical play and kinaesthetic play are used in their training programs (Niland, 2009). In our study the following techniques were used:

movement

song

the use of percussion instruments

active listening

creative expression

music reading and writing.

Then a comprehensive program of educational interventions for preschoolers was designed to explore the hypothesis that music and movement activities enhance the positive characteristics of creative thinking, such as fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration and also some indicative creative behaviour of children.

The behaviours were selected by reviewing relevant researches (Segal, 2001; Polland, 1994; Torrance, 1965), concerning the characteristics of creative individuals, based on the ability to detect and measure them by their kindergarten teachers and the researcher. These behaviours referred to: dedication to a goal, tendency for exploration and experimentation-curiosity, confidence, imagination, challenging the commonly accepted-non conventionality and freedom to express ideas, thoughts and feelings.

Method

To control the research questions we have applied the experimental method of research. At first a program of sixteen educational interventions was designed based on music and movement activities. The backbone was the creative thinking and the interventions program was considered as an effect factor. Next, two groups of kindergarten children were selected, the experimental group and the control group. The experimental group attended the assistance program for three months while the control group did not participate in it. To maintain internal validity, the control group shared common features with the experimental group (age, socio-economic background and geographic region). In addition, double evaluation was applied in both groups according to Campbell and Stanley (1963) (before and after the experiment), and the results were compared in order to extract the conclusions of the research.

Participants

The experiment was conducted in a public kindergarten in a suburban area of Greece. There were two classes operating in the kindergarten and the selection of the experimental team was random. The two groups showed several signs of homogeneity in terms of age and number and also in the percentage between the two sexes. More specifically, the control group was composed of 18 children (13 boys and 5 girls), while the experimental was composed of 15 children (11 boys and 4 girls). Children in both groups were 5 years old. It should be noted that the two classes were under the same roof, therefore the stimulus by the curriculum, such as educational programs, tours, celebrations and more, and the everyday conditions and habits, such as using common areas and games during intervals, were basically common. At the same time the fact that all children lived in the same area allowed us to consider that the differences due to socio-cultural factors between the two groups were minor.

Even if researchers agree that creativity is developed in a discontinuous, non-linear manner, either described as "peeks and slumps" by Runco (1999) or as "U-shaped" creativity by Gargen (as quoted in Baer, 1996: 927), most of them suggest that preschool children express high level of creativity as they haven’t yet entered the state of conformity (Claxton & Pannells, 2005). As creative thinking is a skill which needs time to be developed, it is better to reinforce it at an early stage and continue strengthening it regularly at older ages.

Procedure

The duration of the experimental program respected the operating capabilities of the kindergarten so that the curriculum and the activities would not be affected. The experiment began in January and completed in May. In particular, the first weeks were used to conduct all the pre-tests to assess the level of creativity in both groups. Afterwards, the educational interventions were applied twice a week for a three months period. A total of sixteen interventions were applied of 45-60 minutes each. Upon completion of the program both teams were evaluated with the post-test. The tests used in the second measurement were the same in concept, structure and nature of activities as the pre-tests, but differed in their content.

Development of data collection methods

Due to the complex and multidimensional nature of creativity the assessment cannot be considered reliable and efficient if it is based only on one measurement instrument (Treffinger et al., 2002). Subsequently, to increase the reliability and validity of the research it was decided to use different and complementary research tools in order to triangulate the results and explain them in holistic manner. Triangulation allows the combination of different levels of analysis (Cohen & Manion, 1994) for detailed control of the variables and identification of additional relations which occur dynamically during the experiment. Current research used the following research tools:

creativity tests,

observation plans, and

individual interviews

Creativity Tests

Torrance’s Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) are based on the coding and quantification of answers given by the students. They emerge as a result from Guilford’s model of intelligence as well as from that of Williams and do not refer to the measurement of creativity but to the estimation and diagnosis of the possibility to produce creative thinking not in a specific sector but in a wider context (Torrance, 1966c).

These are the most common standardized and balanced tests in which creative thinking is characterized by the fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration of ideas (Guilford, 1975: 37-43). The tests have been checked in different people, in terms of age, socio-cultural background and gender, for over a period of about 25 years, confirming the internal validity of the variables, the scoring method of the responses and the assessment of the results (Kyung-Hee, 2006; Kerr & Gagliardi, 2003). They provide a basis for creating other tests and are applicable in the preschool age. TTCT tests have also been adapted for the assessment of creative thinking in music and have been applied in Vaughan’s & Myers’ (1971) and Webster’s (1983, 1987) tests (as quoted in Kiehn, 2003).

There are two types of Torrance tests, TTCT-Figural and TTCT-Verbal and each of them has two parallel forms A and B. As the forms A and B contain similar activities, in the current study form A was used for the pre-test and form B was used for the post-test. Figural tests consist of three activities:

picture construction,

picture completion, and

repeated figures of lines or circles.

The activities of verbal tests refer to:

ask and guess,

product improvement,

unusual uses,

unusual questions, and

just suppose.

The variables used as criteria for rating the performance of children in the tests were the four characteristics of creative thinking. The method of scoring variables was based on proposals by Torrance (1966a, 1966b, 1974a, 1974b) and the performance results were recorded by the researcher on individual student record sheets.

Observation plan

The dynamic nature of creative thinking development and the supposition of creative person as an evolving entity highlight the need to collect information over time rather than individual moments. For this reason participative observation of children was chosen as a second research tool during the educational interventions in order to answer the first two research questions. An observation plan was structured that referred to both the characteristics of creative thinking and creative behaviours to be identified during the course of interventions. The assessment of behaviours was made using weighted rating scale (Treffinger et al., 2002: 59-62) to quantify the observations. The four subdivisions (non-evident yet, emerging, expressing, excelling) reflect the level of studied behaviour, indicating the degree of its acquisition or its maturity. The plan also included a field in which the researcher could record some additional observations to arrive to additional qualitative interpretations. The plan played a "retroactive" role, since the researcher’s additional comments were used as means of partial evaluation of educational interventions providing information on possible improvements.

Individual interviews

The need to compare the output results with the results from another research tool has led us to use the interviews at the beginning and at the end of the interventions, as a primary tool to collect the opinions of the kindergarten teachers. The interviews were semi-structured and consisted of open and closed questions, which were simple and specific (Oppenheim, 1992: 155) to ensure a high degree of reliability and accuracy of results and to minimize the expression of personal opinion of the participants. At first, the open questions detected how kindergarteners perceive:

creativity,

the creative nature of each child,

the creative process,

the supporting factors, and

the restrain factors on the expression of creative thought.

Then, through closed questions kindergarteners assessed creativity based on specific criteria, prioritised the creative behaviours and assessed the whole class on a weighted grading scale (non-evident yet, emerging, expressing, excelling), before and after the educational interventions. Aiming to produce comparable results, the choice of variables (creative behaviours) as well as the measurement scale was common with that of the observation plan. In this way the responses of kindergarten teachers were able to be collected in the form of quantitative data and to be further analyzed through comparison with the corresponding quantitative results of the observation plan.

Development of educational programme

The design of educational interventions was based on fundamentals and principles used in other educational programs that have been developed to promote creativity (Xanthakou & Kaila, 2002; Santanen et al., 1999; Xanthakou, 1998). To be effective, the teaching interventions targeting creativity took place in an environment that encouraged freedom of expression, provided opportunities for development of personal initiative and psychological safety (Leonidou, 2005: 55). In addition, recommendations, orientation of thought, premature criticism and evaluation of children ideas, were prevented (Xanthakou, 1998). As highlighted by Amabile (1982), in educational interventions we should seek to activate the inner motivation as well as the need to grant sufficient time to children to be able to express all their ideas. Harrington (1990) regards all these conditions that encourage and stimulate creative ideas under the term of "Creative Ecosystem".

All the above can be achieved, as suggested by Torrance (as quoted in Ogletree, 1996: 3), when during the creative teaching:

all questions and ideas of children have value and are treated with respect,

the expression of any unusual ideas is encouraged,

time is given for leisure activities,

the automatic evaluation is absent

The structure of educational interventions was developed into four thematic areas:

1st area: Sound (tone colour, silence, pitch, dynamics, execution mode);

2nd area: Rhythm (rhythmic values, rhythmic sense of closure, identification, composition, improvisation and performance of different rhythmic patterns);

3rd area: Melody (upward and downward movement of the melody, structure and form of a melody);

4th area: Combination (melody quality characteristics, rhythmic and melodic variations, aesthetic approach to the rhythm, sound and melodic patterns-energy);

and moved in three axes:

the activation of knowledge skills (musical concepts),

the activation of emotional skills through identifying and expressing personal ideas, children’s feelings and mood, and

the ban of usual ways of thinking.

More specifically, in the first axe, activities were used to enhance heuristic path to knowledge, to the process of problem solving, the spontaneous production of many ideas, the free association fluency, the analytical and synthetic ability, the recall of prior knowledge, data processing and operation to achieve a goal. In the second axe, the expression of emotional skills and attitudes was fostered through the process of role-playing, improvisation, imitation, debate and generally through the emotional behaviour in the classroom. The third axe, which is inherent in the two previous ones, provided activities that were based on defeating conventional thinking and stimulated the production of spontaneous and emotional moods that are beyond the ordinary.

The structure of the interventions, as regards the form of some activities and the way they are organized over the course of time, has repeatability and general uniformity. This aims to create an environment of security for the child where it can easily externalize ideas and feelings. More specifically, each intervention began either with introductory activities during which indirect references to the issue of intervention were made or with a short repetition of some previous experience that could be used. The last ten minutes of the activities were devoted to choreographies or movement improvisations and also to discussions in a circle with the technique of brainstorming. In this way already obtained skills could come to perfection, the generalization of experience was allowed and the retention of memory was facilitated. These interventions were concluded with several minutes of relaxation.

Although the program followed some specific strategies, its structure and application were carried out under a flexible framework that allowed dynamic adjustment and deviation from the original design. While the thematic axe was specific in each intervention, the development of some activities was adjusted in accordance with children ideas and initiatives that had a regulator role in the learning process.

Results

Results of schematic tests

Following Torrance’s schematic test manuals (1966a, 1974a), in the results of the pre-test (see Table 1) the variable with the highest average for the experimental group (ΕG) and control group (CG) was the elaboration. Furthermore, in both groups the highest maximum value was observed in elaboration, while the lower minimum value was recorded in flexibility. Generally, both groups showed a similarity as regards the variables in question, which was found with the use of t-test for independent samples. The pre-test did not reveal statistically significant differences when comparing the mean value of originality (t=-1.266), elaboration (t=-1.717), fluency (t=-1.974) and flexibility (t=-0.959) between the two groups. In particular, since p>0.05, we accept the null hypothesis that the two groups demonstrated almost equal level of creative thinking in the pre-test.

Upon completion of interventions the results of the post-test for both groups were the following (see Table 2):

According to Table 2 the performance of students in the experimental group improved as compared with those of the control group students and with their own performance before the interventions. Specifically, the parametric paired Samples t-test showed a statistically significant difference in the mean value of fluency (t=-2.28; p<0.05), flexibility (t=-7.33; p<0.05), originality (t=-6.041; p<0.05) and elaboration (t=-3.145; p<0.05) for the experimental group before and after the researcher’s interventions. So we can adopt the alternative assumption that the mean value of these variables is different (and bigger) after the interventions. On the contrary, there was no statistically significant difference in the values of fluency (t=-1.808; p>0.05), flexibility (t=-1.991; p>0.05) and elaboration (t=-1.495; p>0.05) in the pre-and post-test control group, except from the values of originality (t=-5.992; p<0.05), a result that leads to the assumption that interventions can lead to the improvement of originality but not identified as necessary.

Regarding the equality of the variable’s mean values between the two groups, although before the interventions they were at the same level, at the end of the experiment statistically significant differences were found in the mean values of fluency (t=-2.763), flexibility (t=-3380), originality (t=-2.247) and elaboration (t=-2.134). Therefore, the interventions contributed to the diversification of initially same levels of variables between the two groups.

Seeking a deeper analysis of the results, for the overall assessment of the change of creativity, we explored, using the Pearson correlation coefficient, the relationship between the four characteristics of creative thinking (see Table 3).

Overall correlation coefficients between changes in variables are not statistically significant (p>0.05). For example, increasing the elaboration is not associated with an increase of originality, fluency and flexibility. The only statistically significant correlation coefficient comes out for the variables fluency and flexibility in the control group. Specifically, an increase in fluency is accompanied by an increase in flexibility in the control group

Results of oral tests

The assessment manuals of Torrance verbal tests (1966b and 1974b) provide a balanced way of assessing children responses regarding the four variables. We investigated whether there is statistically significant difference in these variables using the statistical function t-test for paired samples. The results showed statistically significant difference in the mean value of fluency (t=-3.704; p<0.05) at the end of interventions for the experimental group. Thus successive interventions helped improve the performance of fluency.

Also, the results of statistical analysis in the experimental group revealed improved flexibility regarding the alternative uses and the possible interpretations of objects and situations and the ideas for dealing with hypothetical/imaginary situations. However, there was no improvement in flexibility concerning the assumption of causes and the assumption of effects/results.

Significant difference between pre-test and post-test was found also for originality (t=-5.8; p<0.05) and elaboration (t=-9.32; p<0.05) in the experimental group. On the contrary, these respective measurements in the control group indicated no statistically significant difference between pre-test and post-test.

Results of the observation plan

Upon completion of the observation plan the volume of data recorded was quite large because they were referring to the state of each variable in each intervention. The processing of the observation plan records focused on the percentage change of each level (not yet evident, emerging, expressing and excelling) during the interventions for each observed variable. Such a processing allowed observation plan records to be used effectively without leading to chaotic results.

More specifically, although the percentage change of fluency for each level is not linear, the overall change underlines a very significant increase in fluency in the experimental group. During the interventions the high proportion of students (67%) not showing fluency characteristics (not yet evident) was minimized (7%). At the same time, the maximum level of fluency (excellent) in the first intervention is found only in the 8% of the children, while in the last one it occurs in the 58% of the students, i.e. in the largest part of the team.

The horizontal axis of Graph 1 shows the educational interventions, while the vertical shows the percentage of students in the experimental group related to fluency.

In the same way, Graph 2, 3 and 4 show the percentage change of the other characteristics of creative thinking (flexibility, originality and elaboration) for each level and each intervention. In Graph 2 we distinguish that flexibility was gradually increasing during the interventions in a lower rate than fluency. It should be noted the increase in the percentage of students whose flexibility was assessed as apparent.

Graph 3 shows a lower degree of stability compared to the previous variables in the level and the way in which students expressed with originality. In all, originality is increased, giving different rates of students without linear continuity for each level/stage and intervention.

Graph 4 shows the percentage change of students in terms of elaboration in all levels. Generally there is an increase in the percentage of students in higher levels, more evident in the third one, in which the elaboration is apparent.

In the same respect, recording, scoring, display and analysis of charts was also produced for the following three creative behaviours:

freedom of expression,

tendency for exploration and experimentation,

challenging the commonly accepted.

These behaviours were selected following the interviews with kindergarten teachers, who ranked the most important creative behaviours. Specifically, during the intervention a significant increase was observed in freedom of expression, from 8% to 68% for the experimental group. Moreover, the percentage of students whose freedom of expression was characterized as not yet evident, was decreased from 72% to 28%.

In the experimental group, students’ willingness to participate in experimentation and exploration activities increased during the interventions, and the percentage of the "not yet evident" level was set to zero.

Finally, to challenge the commonly accepted significant percentage change was found in the "emerging" level from 8% to 40%.

Results from the interviews with kindergarten teachers

As shown in Table 4, comparative analysis of the kindergarten teachers’ responses after the educational interventions in both groups produce better results for the experimental group. The behaviours in which the experimental group shows superiority are:

freedom of expression,

self confidence, and

fantasy.

The assessment of open questions points out a general sense in dealing with creativity by the kindergarten teachers, which seems to be influenced by the personality of the teacher and the lack of training in the field of creativity. Because of these influences, the characteristics that are rewarded and reinforced during the creative teaching are different depending on the teacher. At this point comes out the detailed exploration of the need for kindergarten teachers’ training on strategies and ways of assessing creative thinking and behaviours.

The fact that none of the kindergarten teachers indicates the importance of the educational process in the development of creative thinking is particularly interesting. On the contrary, results of Hosseini & Watt (2010) provided basic evidence that teacher professional development programs associated with the improved understanding of creativity-oriented techniques can make a positive contribution to the development of students' creativity. Thus, kindergarten teachers’ view on whether creative teaching is a goal of educational practice should be investigated in a larger population, and be taken into account in the implementation of educational programs aimed at enhancing creativity.

Finally, it is typical the way that kindergarteners manage the child's tendency to act not according to the norm, treating it as a threat to the educational process and not as a sign of initiative and creativity.

Discussion

Conclusions on the characteristics of creative thinking

The comparison of pre and post test of Torrance (schematic and verbal), highlights the positive impact of interventions on the performance of students in the experimental group. The control group starting from the same level of creativity with the experimental group, with the exception of originality, did not show a statistically significant increase of the characteristics of creative thinking.

Concerning the fluency, the results of both Torrance’s tests and of the observation plan agree that fluency level increases at the end of the experiment. But the rate of the increase seems to vary according to the research measurement tool. More specifically, the analysis of the schematic tests indicates a limited increase in fluency, possibly due to the predetermined number of drawings children are asked to design during the test (the structure of pre-and post tests is limited to ten drawings and does not allow the recording of more ideas in order to observe a potential increase in fluency). This interpretation is verified by the respective performances of children in the verbal test, where there is no predetermined number of responses. Moreover, the increase in fluency is more evident in the analysis of the observation plans, due to the fact that children seem to be more willing and find it easier to produce many ideas during their participation in educational interventions than during the test. In this context, the supporting role of the group, the conditions and educational techniques (for example, the brainstorming technique) in generating ideas could arise as a hypothetical correlation, but needs verification.

Therefore, the change of fluency seems to vary depending on the nature of the research tool used for assessment. This was also revealed in the findings of Han et al. (2003) study where low correlation between TTCT test and NSNO (Nebraska Starry Night Observation) observation tool was demonstrated on the assessment of fluency.

Concerning flexibility, the results of schematic tests show the positive impact of educational interventions. The same conclusion emerges from the results of verbal tests, with the exception of the activity focused on the search for possible causes and effects of a situation, where the increase in flexibility was not statistically significant. Instead, an increasing flexibility was observed in the verbal tests that refer to alternative solutions and dealing with a situation. This increase is probably due to the educational interventions that were implemented which referred to alternative uses of everyday objects, musical concepts, musical instruments etc. Thus, although flexibility was increased, it seems to be affected, as much as fluency by the use of appropriate training techniques.

Seeking a more detailed analysis of the above results, we investigated the correlation between the creativity variables because the individual analysis of each variable could lead to misleading or superficial conclusions. In particular, Torrance (1966c) when referring to fluency, which has been considered as the most important factor of creative thinking (Han et al., 2003; Runco, 1991), notes that the increase of fluency does not always lead to creativity, since it could result from spontaneous thoughts or responses of children and therefore it has to be associated with the other variables. Moreover, regarding flexibility, he indicates that its "real" increase is shown mainly by the flexibility/discretion ratio (1966c). In this research this is validated by the schematic tests where flexibility is increased while the increase in fluency is limited.

The opposite results are extracted by the observation plans where there is an increase of both variables with a notable increase in fluency. These different findings may reveal children’s tendency to easily express their creativity during the educational process through a large number of thoughts and responses, and also the fact that fluency is more easily identifiable and measurable in a context of participatory observation than flexibility.

About originality, a statistically significant increase is indicated by the tests in both groups. It is therefore inferred that originality increases as a result of the overall maturity and experience of the child. Therefore, our research assumption about the positive contribution of educational interventions to increasing originality is not initially verified. However, the fact that the originality/fluency ratio in the control group varies significantly, while the corresponding ratio in the experimental group is stable, indicates that the real originality is increased in the experimental group.

The results of the observation plan show an overall development of originality in the experimental group. There is also an unstable change in the percentage of students in various levels of originality, which does not appear so strongly in the previous variables (fluency, flexibility). This instability is likely to indicate that the degree and way of expression of originality does not increase in a linear way, but is strongly influenced by exogenous factors (probably the type of interventions or teacher’s mood) and endogenous factors (such as children’s mood).

About elaboration, test results showed a statistically significant increase in the experimental group but not in the control group. There were students in the experimental group who increased their elaboration and fluency by demonstrating their competence to quickly produce and complete ideas and also their ability to focus on a goal. Yet, there were students whose performance on elaboration was reduced while their fluency was increased. This was demonstrated as difficulty in staying concentrated and dedicated to a goal or as increased willingness to try anything different or as low willingness to participate in this test, by trying to complete their drawings as quickly and simply as possible.

However, the simultaneous increase in fluency and elaboration is not a sufficient indicator of creative thought and needs to be accompanied by a corresponding increase in the other variables as well. According to the researcher’s additional records during the participative observation, students who had difficulty in producing original ideas insisted on perfecting their own idea. For example, trying to make their drawing "to be special" they were using many complementary elements by increasing in this way their performance in elaboration.

Finally, attempts to interpret the lack of correlations between the characteristics of creative thinking, leads to a variety of combinations each of which could have more than one interpretation. These interpretations are multiplied if we consider the titles given by children to the activity related to the completion of a drawing (schematic test), which although they were initially considered as additional information of low research value, at the end they revealed interesting features, such as:

a child’s idea is not always evident in the design (especially in this age), and therefore, the child’s verbal description is necessary to evaluate the project;

the interpretation of a title is open to multiple approaches and therefore it should be combined with other elements identified about the child.

Consequently, increased creativity is not evident in the same way in all people. As observed, other children express it easier verbally and other schematically. In this context, Rose and Lin (1984: 5-50) refer to the dual nature of creativity as a consequence of the different ways it is expressed. Therefore, unilateral interpretation of the relationships among the characteristics of creative thinking does not give us the possibility of generalized interpretations unless the specific characteristics of each student are considered.

Conclusions on the creative behaviours

Creative behaviours do not ensure creativity, but they are an indication of potential creative thinking. The conclusions of creative behaviours concern the following three behaviours, as selected based on the degree of importance provided by the kindergarteners (during the interviews):

freedom of expression;

tendency for exploration and experimentation;

challenging the commonly accepted.

According to the results of participative observation, there was an increase of children’s freedom of expression during the interventions. Noteworthy is the increase found in the highest level (excelling), suggesting the effortless, self-sustained child's need for expression. This observation is verified by the kindergarten teachers’ view in the experimental group at the end of the interventions. Freedom of expression seems to be reinforced through activities of movement improvisation, free movement and discussions in the circle. Overall, the reinforcement of group dynamics, communication and emotional interaction with their classmates, creates an atmosphere of joy and confidence in children which enhance the spontaneous and free expression. In addition, several students who were initially reluctant either to take up roles in the group (such as to be the leaders or conductors) or to present their work (one of their drawings) to their classmates, during the interventions they overcame this hesitation and began to seek roles and generally opportunities to express themselves.

Comparing the responses of kindergarten teachers about the range of freedom of expression before and after the interventions, it was noted that it was increased in both groups but in different scales. The increase was bigger in the experimental group as a result of the educational interventions implemented in it.

The tendency of students to explore and experiment was also increased during the interventions. During the last three interventions, there was no student in the experimental group whose will for experimentation and exploration was marked by the investigator as not apparent. This trend came as a consequence of children’s familiarity with exploration activities, which were often used in the program of educational interventions. This behaviour, if analyzed in depth, may imply an increase in other behaviours such as:

students’ tolerance in unfamiliar situations,

their willingness to risk, and

curiosity.

The data of the interviews for the experimental group do not comply with those of the observation plan. This discrepancy may indicate a subjective evaluation by the researcher or the fact that due to the absence in the kindergarten curriculum of activities/games based on exploration, students are deprived of adequate stimulus to develop this specific behaviour and the kindergarten teachers are not able to recognise it.

The questioning of what is commonly accepted shows less pronounced changes in percentage levels compared to previous behaviours. According to the results of the interviews, the predisposition of the students in the experimental group to challenge the commonly accepted from "not yet evident" became emerging, while the students predisposition in the control group remained not yet evident at the end of the experiment.

The limited appearance or even the lack of questioning the commonly accepted that was noted, could be interpreted based on the stage of moral realism as described by Piaget for children of 4 years and over (as quoted in Woodhead et al., 1999: 199). Specifically for children of this age, rules are considered inviolable and their violation is punished. Also, research data reflect the cultural structure of western society, which most of the times rewards obedience and condemns the questioning of society’s structures.

The selection of three research tools helped to increase the range and possibly the complexity of the research. It was preferred because satisfactory evidence came to sight through triangulation. The survey’s reliability was increased due to the way the results were analyzed, i.e. through the variables’ correlations. More specifically, it was observed that results are not safe when analyzed separately for each variable and their correlations can give different conclusions, complementary, overlapping or even contradictory.

Evaluating the methodology in this research we observe that the independent and dependent variables are not incompatible and independent but they increase while feeding one another. The philosophy of educational interventions (which are the independent variable) was directed to the development of creativity (which is the dependent variable). The relationship of these variables affect the conclusions, so although the original hypothesis concerned the influence of music and movement activities in children's creative thinking, the research verified part of this hypothesis and in particular highlighted the positive impact of games targeting creativity, to the creative minds of preschool age children.

Evaluating the possibility of exploiting this specific research we conclude that the use of specific strategies for designing educational programs that support children's creativity is really important. In addition, an education proposal oriented towards creativity is not considered sufficient for the development of creativity, but requires also the teacher’s interest on this matter.

Implications for Practice

The basic proposal of this research involves the identification of strategies and principles that are proposed as complementary to the development of creativity. In the design of music and movement activities, playing is proposed as a suitable tool for developing children's creativity, based on the following techniques:

the use of brainstorming;

the use of imaginary/hypothetical stories;

the alternative use of objects;

the alternative approach to situations;

experimenting and searching;

dealing with problematic situations;

predicting causes and effects of a situation;

and is structured according to the following principles:

encourages the expression of emotion;

promotes the child’s unique view;

strengthens the child’s initiative;

encourages the formulation of unusual ideas and relationships;

provides psychological security and freedom of expression.

However the correct design based on the philosophy and principles of creativity is not sufficient to promote creative thinking and to foster creative behaviours. The general philosophy behind the organisation and the flow of the educational process which creates the atmosphere in which this process takes place is very important. Consequently, these strategies in order to work efficiently must, as stated by John (2006) and Morin (2001), be accompanied by the teacher’s competence to:

distinguish the elements for which the variation or even the deviation from an activity is appropriate;

operate as a co-investigator and not as a mentor;

avoid premature criticism;

broaden the scope for creativity expression and originality;

promote each child’s individuality through an individualized approach to teaching.

In this context, as suggested by Treffinger (1993: 8-27), increased creativity, results from the discovery and the enhancement of each child’s special skills. It is suggested, therefore, to encourage the discovery of each child’s personal skills so that the increase of child’s creativity would be accomplished with his own way and not that of the kindergarten teacher.

As regards the implementation level of these tests it is suggested to use questions about children’s construction games to determine more accurately the level of creativity and limit the possibility for misinterpretation. Most importantly, the structure, content and the assessment process should not isolate the socio-cultural factor. The proposal for such a verification process of how to assess Torrance’s tests can reveal information and effective ways about evaluation, tailored to each situation, or even indicate the need for the overall redefinition of the tests.

Generally, any attempt to study creativity requires taking into account a variety of factors and a critical approach to the use of tests in order to produce scientific results rather than simplistic.

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