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Vicky Taway is originally from Thailand and joined Oxford Brookes in 2013. Her thesis title is 'A Mixed Method Study of the Impact of an Intervention Programme Designed to Enhance Creativity in a Context of Solving Problem in Thai Mid-adolescence (14-16 years old)'.
I heard about Oxford Brookes University while I was studying a pre-PhD course at EF International School in Cambridge. The academic adviser presented me with some information about Brookes and then I attended a Postgraduate Fair with some fellow EF students.
My first impression of Brookes was the warm and welcoming environment at the Postgraduate Fair. I did some research about the University and found that the research staff, along with previous works published by academics within the School of Education, were really interesting and suited my research proposal.
I was doing a pre-PhD course to prepare myself for PhD study in the UK. Prior to that, I was a Mathematics teacher at both government and privately run secondary schools in Thailand for 4 years. I also worked as a presenter on an educational TV programme. Therefore, I have been closely involved in education in various dimensions now for a number of years.
My Masters’ dissertation was entitled 'A Study of Mathematics Learning Achievement on 'Application' of 12 years old students with a Learning Activity Using Multi-Media'. This research explored students’ learning capabilities and is relevant to the research that I am currently conducting.
Initially it was quite difficult being an international student adapting to living and studying in the UK. However, after completing a University English course run by Oxford Brookes everything felt a lot easier and more fun. It was the right decision to complete this course prior to starting my PhD, as I acquired a large amount of knowledge around academic English and research, as well as establishing a social life within Oxford.
As a qualified teacher in Thailand for 4 years, I noticed the lack of creative thinking capability in my 14-16 year old students. This was particularly obvious during classes in which students were encouraged to think divergently but after which were unable to generate creative ideas. This lack of creativity has been found wanting in national tests also (Thai Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment (ONESQA), 2012). The traditional Thai teaching style tends not to promote creativity and it could be argued that it is somehow inhibited by the norms of Thai culture (Limcharoen, 2009). Reflection on the potential implications of failing to encourage creativity in Thai school children, and what that means for the future of the Thai education system, community and world standing has been critical in focusing my research interest in this area.
Creativity can be defined in a variety of ways (Sternberg 2003, Lipman 2003, McGregor 2007). For the purposes of this study, I have narrowed my interpretation of this concept to mean creative thinking within the context of problem solving (highlighted as an issue in the Thai Government report, OBEC, 2011). Problem solving is an essential skill for students to succeed in their everyday life (Bentley, 2000). Therefore, the purpose of this research is to assess the impact of a teaching intervention that endeavours to enhance creative thinking in the context of problem solving.
To judge the effects of the intervention programme, pre and post questionnaires (as well as a focus group) will be compared to determine any changes in students’ understanding and application of creative thinking skills after they have participated in the programme of lessons. The resources used to develop the problem solving process will be informed by Somerset Thinking Skills (STS) (Blagg et al, 1988), which includes the cognitive processes of gathering and organising information, recognising and defining the problem, generating possible solutions, and evaluating the quality of resolutions. The quality of solutions or outcomes developed in the problem solving tasks will also be assessed by the researcher.
I aim to recruit 30 participants (a typical class size number) aged between 14 and 16 years from a secondary school in Southern Thailand. The participants will be chosen from a corps of volunteers using random selection (there will be a 50:50 ratio of male to female students). The researcher has not previously been involved in any kind of role in the participating school. No influence is anticipated on the research process or findings.
Research aims and justification:
To investigate the impact of a teaching intervention programme designed to enhance the creative thinking skills in the context of solving problems a class of 14-16 year-old Thai students.
1. How do participants’ perceptions of creativity alter after engaging in a series of intervention lessons designed to enhance creativity through problem solving?
2. What is the nature and extent of enhanced creativity evident through the problem solving tasks in the intervention programme?
3. How much do the participants appear to improve their creative thinking after the intervention?
Creativity is, and will always be, fundamental to our society. Buzan (2001) and Lipman (2003) describe creativity as the capacity to generate new notions, have differing approaches to tackling problems, the confidence to engage in unlimited imagining, behaving independently, and having productive outcomes. In addition, De Bono (1993) suggests that anything new that someone might perceive or develop in a situation can indicate that they have been creative in their thinking. These views along with the STS approach will inform a range of problem solving activities the participant students will engage in.
In Thailand, the Summary of the Direction of the Eleventh National Development Plan (year 2012-2016) put an emphasis on requiring people to be more creative in order to develop the country in the future (The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board, 2010). Therefore creativity is required in the curriculum to support the national plan, and enhance students’ capacity to solve problems (the Office of Thai Basic Education Commission (OBEC), 2011). The aspiration of the Thai educational policy in promoting development of creativity in the education system in Thailand, is underscored by the assertion by ONESQA that the capacity of creative thinking, critical thinking, analytical thinking, synthetic thinking and solving-problem skills are below standard and require improvement (ONESQA, 2012).
In addition ONESQA (2012) also indicated that Thai pupils appear to lack confidence in classrooms when presenting their own ideas and thoughts. Traditional teaching styles in Thailand inculcate students to follow their teachers unquestioningly, accepting what they hear and being afraid to openly voice any disagreements they may have. This fear of failure obstructs creativity (Limcharoen, 2009). However, Buzan (2001, p.7) stated that ‘Your creative Intelligence can be taught and developed so that you can increase your creativity’. A study of CASE (Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education) has also shown that British schools using that intervention programme produced significant gains in academic achievement (Adey & Shayer, 1994). This is similar to Perkins’ work, which demonstrated the positive impact of a programme designed to promote creative capability (Perkins, 2009).
The capability to generate different approaches to tackling problems is one type of creative ability (Buzan, 2001 & Lipman, 2003). The significance of problem solving skills are emphasised by Bentley (2000) and Holroyd (1989). They argue that the capacity to problem solve is highly relevant to everyday life, and in a school, problem solving skills are very important for students’ learning experiences which can be applied to all subjects.
Therefore, this research will explore the impact of enhancing creative thinking through problem-solving. Many educators and psychologists agree that creative ability should begin to be nurtured in childhood to increase the ability of thinking to the ultimate potential (Kowasin, 1997, Bono, 1983 & Dirkes, 1985). However, since the inventive thinking is crucial for all ages, creativity should not be urged only at primary level but also given developed in adolescence. This should support a major change in cognitive aptitude that occurs from late childhood to mid-adolescence and help to prepare young people for university (Blakemore & Frith 2007). In order to enhance creativity for long term effects, augmentation of creativity should be nurtured during mid-adolescence (14-16 years old) to allow time to cultivate the skills of creativity before Higher Education after school. Thus the participants in this study will be 14-16 year-old students at a typical Thai secondary school.
I really enjoy being a research student at Brookes. It is really exciting to gain new perspectives in everything, despite it being challenging at times to study in a different educational system with a different academic style. I have been fascinated by all the university facilities, especially the library which provides great accessibility to all information sources. The environment within the university is perfect for being a researcher, it is peaceful and tranquil, which greatly aids my studies and ability to work.
The research training offered is very helpful and is greatly aiding me in becoming a better researcher while also preparing me for the next steps of the research process.
My future plan is to return to work in Thailand and use the knowledge I have gained at Oxford Brookes to develop the quality of education in Thailand and South East Asia. I also hope to continue my research in order to accelerate students’ potentiality of reaching an international standard.