Creativity in an Arts Integrated Third Space: A Case Study of Elementary School Students in an International Collaboration

Hyatt, S.M. (2014). Creativity in an arts integrated third space: A case study of elementary school students in an international collaboration. (Doctoral Dissertation).


This qualitative case study examines the impact of an arts-integrated international collaboration the creativity of elementary school students when students are communicating and creating exclusively through a technological third space. A technological third space creates a common online teaching environment combining technology and globalization irrespective of wealth or location. Two organizations, one in the United States and one in Mexico, serve as the sites for the case study. The study found that students engaged in international collaboration through a technological third space were more apt to engage in constructive criticism and were willing to modify their work to achieve better results.

Key Findings:

Seven findings emerged from the study focusing on what creativity looks like when students are engaging in arts-integrated international collaboration through a technological third space and what the impacts are on students’ creativity.

1. Students and teaching artists view creativity as a process that is reflexive and engaging. 2. When reflecting on their work, students and teaching artists see creativity as an interplay of ideas and are open to and capable of modifying their ideas to achieve creative results. 3. Creative work is relative to the individual and is directly correlated to both originality and effort. 4. Students and teaching artists value creativity as a means for both self-expression and communication. 5. A collaborative environment sets the stage for creative behavior in terms of inviting feedback, providing constructive criticism and sharing ideas. 6. Teaching and learning in the third space becomes circular for participants. 7. Students work in new modes of communication in order to bridge cultures.

Significance of the Findings:

Engaging children in the act of self-evaluation, providing them agency within the learning environment, and utilizing their ability to perform as co-teachers and co-learners allowed the students to flourish and develop both their academic and artistic skills. As students engage in collaboration and communication with students of a different culture, they are able to experience primary accounts of the culture and become amateur ambassadors for their respective cultures. By providing teachers the professional learning experiences and technology capable of carrying out such exchanges, school and district administrators can support these types of learning outcomes.


This qualitative case study was based on social contructivism, basing the research on the participants’ views of their personal experiences. Conducted at two sites, one in Mexico, Habla, and one in the United States, Blue Planet Writers’ Room, this ten-week study observed students and teaching artists in both sites independently and in collaboration with the other site. The researcher collected data in the form of interviews, observations, and student artifacts/writing from the two teaching artists and 26 student participants. Both teaching artists were selected based on their prior experience with international collaboration, all students were volunteers in an afterschool program at each respective site.

All communications between the two sites took place through Dropbox, YouTube, Skype video conferencing, and email. This allowed students and teaching artists to work collaboratively from the written word to visual literacy.

Limitations of the Research:

The researcher lacked Spanish language skills, which may have influenced the interviewing and member checking processes. Due to the ten week timeframe of this study, the final project of sharing of artwork and writing between the two sites via Skype conference was unable to be scheduled.

Questions to Guide New Research:

1. How does creativity grow over time when students are engaged in long-term arts-integrated international collaborations? 2. How can educators utilize technology as a virtual environment for children's creative growth and development? 3. How might the use of international collaborations across classrooms develop students' educational agency?