An examination of instructional strategies designed to enhance divergent thinking within a sixth-grade social studies class
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Creativity, when examined holistically, is a complex, multidimensional phenomenon. Only, during the latter part of the twentieth century, has research sought to unravel the mysteries of the creative realm and place emphasis towards its value in the goals and methods of the United States educational system (Kaufman, 1999). Cognitive studies have revealed that creative behavior can be learned yet in order to best capitalize on the benefits of creative personnel, individuals within both educational institutions and business organizations must develop a deeper understanding of this phenomenon so as to foster the growth and development of creative potential within its students/employees (Baker, Rudd, Pomeroy, 2001; Kvashny, 1982). The purpose of this study was to determine if pedagogical methods designed to promote ideation would impact levels of creative thought, student retention of subject matter, and determine students’ affective perceptions towards satisfaction of the units taught. A sixth-grade social studies creative problem-solving unit was taught to regular classroom of students who were randomly assigned to this treatment. Two additional randomly assigned regular classes of students were taught in a traditional, expository manner and served as the control groups. A fourth, purposefully selected class of gifted and talented students served as a second treatment group. Treatment effects were found in two of the five TTCT constructs (elaboration and resistance to closure). A gender effect was found in the TTCT construct of abstractness, with females being more abstract in their thoughts than males. There was no significant treatment effect found in the cumulative creativity measure. In addition, a significant main effect was found on end-of-unit exam scores. Students in the treatment groups scored significantly higher than those of the control group. A significant two-way interaction was also found in that white (non-Hispanic) students scored significantly higher. Out of three constructs measured by the satisfaction instrument, students were significantly more satisfied with the delivery of instruction in the classes using creative problem solving strategies. Based on these findings, the researcher recommends that creative problem solving be systematically incorporated into sixth grade social studies classes and that subsequent research be conducted to further examine the teaching/learning dynamic.