The mysteries of creative partnerships
Wolf, S. A. (2008). The mysteries of creative partnerships. Journal of Teacher Education, 59(1), 89.
Since 2002, Creative Partnerships, based at the Arts Council of England, has been investing time, energy, and resources to bring artists and schools together. Their goal is to “animate the national curriculum and to enrich school life by making the best use of the United Kingdom’s creative wealth.” This article concentrates on the partnership between two first-grade teachers and two dramatic artists as they planned and produced an innovative workshop based on a mystery-filled children’s picture book. The researcher studied the interface between the artists and teachers as they planned and implemented the workshop. She also examined the interactions between the collaborating adults and the children as the workshop unfolded. The partnership between artists and teachers exemplified the qualities of creativity, collaboration, compromise, and critique which led to children’s increased proficiency in literacy skills including language development, critical discourse, new vocabulary, emotional dialogue, and vivid imagery.
This article develops the argument that long-term collaboration between artists and teachers lead to expanded learning opportunities for children. This is illustrated by a case study of a professional development opportunity sponsored by Creative Partnerships that brought together two teachers with artists from a theatre company. The article provides examples of discourse from professional development that demonstrate how the adults emphasized collaboration, built on and affirmed each other’s ideas and allowed freedom to include children’s interests in the planning process. Vignettes and dialogue of classroom learning are drawn upon to demonstrate children’s heightened engagement, group thinking strategies, and sophisticated use of language. More specifically, four key findings that characterize the partnership are:
- Focus on the connections between teacher learning and student learning.
- Long-term collaboration that emphasized both practicality and intellectual revitalization.
- Artists and teachers actively sharing expertise.
- Children’s improved expression of ideas in both oral language and writing.
Artists and teachers learned from and were inspired by each other and the children. Through the partnerships, artists and teachers experienced mutual support, learned to take risks, reflected on decisions, and explored alternate possibilities for the work.