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Creativity as a floating signifier Abstract
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Creativity is a buzz word that has gained enormous traction in recent years. The term has been widely circulated in different locations (e.g. the pedagogy literature, in the marketing blurb for language courses, in national curriculum plans) and yet the term does not have a fixed, transferrable meaning, but is rather a floating signifier which is attributed different values. In this paper we explore the meanings of the notion of ‘creativity in language teaching’ from the point of view of practising teachers. We report on a series of interviews in London conducted with EFL and K-12 foreign language teachers who were asked to tell us what creativity meant for them in their teaching contexts; in particular, we focus on how they negotiate varying contextual and institutional constraints while trying to ensure that their classrooms remain fresh and engaging. Creativity was interpreted as both a personal quality and a professional attribute, as a literary-artistic approach to pedagogy and as a learnable reflex denoting spontaneity and risk-taking. As well as considering creativity as an ideal model to aspire to in language teaching, student-comfort and customer satisfaction also provided constraining parameters of professional practice. In giving voice to differing learning and teaching experiences, we demonstrate the multiple meanings of creativity, and how creativity (as it is understood by our informants) underpins a range of situated practices and can manifest within apparently differing pedagogic traditions. We will conclude with some comments on the usefulness of the voices from the shop floor for conceptualising and theorising ‘creativity’.
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