Gardiner, Paul. “Playwriting and Flow: The Interconnection Between Creativity, Engagement and Skill Development.” International Journal of Education & the Arts 18, no. 6 (February 18, 2017).


The article outlines the research findings and examines them through a playwriting pedagogy context. It explores the conceptual assumptions that surround teaching and learning for creativity and how these ideas influence teacher practice and student experience. It argues that student engagement and creativity are fundamentally and reciprocally linked. To better understand how to teach and foster creativity in a classroom, the study explored teachers’ views on creativity and creative processes through Csikszentmihalyi’s (2008) flow theory and the lessons this provides for understanding engagement. The article argues that the teachers’ views of creativity and creative processes are of fundamental importance to understanding the teaching and learning experience and that student disengagement can be addressed by increasing student’s skills and knowledge both in creativity processes and playwriting proficiency.

Key Findings:

The author finds that teachers’ views of creativity and the creative process are key components in understanding the teaching experience and students’ engagement. The case study exposes that student engagement, interest and enthusiasm were at a high level at the beginning of the process but decreased over time. Some of the waning engagement and enthusiasm can be attributed to the increasing challenge of writing a play. Students re-engaged when they felt able to accomplish the task and had the necessary skills to accomplish the task.

Significance of the Findings:

This research examines how beliefs about creativity play out in instruction and learning, and how that affects the experiences of both teachers and learners in arts education. The article instead proposes to view arts learning experiences through the lens of Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory and finds the importance of skill development in helping maintain an appropriate balance with the challenge of the learning task. The article is likely to be of greatest relevance to educators who design and facilitate learning experiences in the arts.


Data was collected through semi-structured interviews, student log books, observation of teaching and learning sessions, and workshops of the students’ scripts. Both teachers and students were interviewed during the writing process and after the plays were completed. The majority of the analysis in the case study was based on the data gathered from teacher and student interviews. Data from the student log books and observed sessions was used to corroborate the interview data. The data was analyzed in a way that looked for connections across sites and for insight into the experience of playwrighting pedagogy.

Limitations of the Research:

No information is provided about how the five study sites were selected, with the exception that teachers and students were all participating in the high school certificate drama examination.

The case study focuses on a single course design (independent study) offered in a single discipline at a single grade level and within the context of a single assessment program. While the narrowed focus can be useful from the perspective of the case study, the degree to which the findings can be generalized to other settings is extremely limited.

The author effectively applies flow theory to provide insights about much of the teaching and learning process, but the analysis and interpretation of the role of extrinsic motivators — such as project deadlines and grades — feels less robust. The analysis might benefit from the introduction of additional motivational theories, especially ones with greater emphasis on the influence of extrinsic motivators.

Questions to Guide New Research:

How does the relationship between creativity, engagement and skill development play out in arts learning within other contexts — especially in group classroom settings and out-of-school environments?