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My Dissertation: CREATIVE STYLES AND PERSONALITY TRAITS OF MALAY LANGUAGE TEACHERS

Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Acknowledgements and Tables of Contents
Chapter 1 - Introduction
Chapter 2 - Literature Review
Chapter 3 - Research Methodology
Chapter 4 - Results
Chapter 5 - Discussion and Conclusion
References
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Chapter 1

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

1.1       Introduction

 

Large organizations, especially multinational corporations, are spending a lot of money to train their top executives to become skilled in creative problem solving. Such skills help the organizations stay ahead of the field, invent new products and save money. Training in creative problem solving can enable people to be skilled in finding the best solution quickly in unpredictable situations. According to Fryer (1996), to cope with the demand of the future, individuals will have to be quick-thinking, flexible and imaginative. They need to be competent in producing effective solutions to unfamiliar problems in unclear situations.

In education today, educators are adopting the pupil centered approaches with teachers acting as facilitators of learning. Information Technology has become increasingly important in the ever changing world scenarios with many unpredictable changes and challenges.  The Singapore education system has undergone many changes to meet the demands of today’s economy and new challenges. Rapid changes in the economic landscape have also meant that new skills and creative ways of solving problems are required to ensure our survival. There is a greater call for innovativeness and enterprise in schools today so as to prepare pupils with the new working environment and globalisation. Mr. Goh Chok Tong, the then Prime Minister of Singapore, noted in his opening address at the 7th International Conference on Thinking in 1998, a nation’s capacity to stay competitive in the “intensely global” future will depend on her people’s ability to “generate, share and apply new technology and ideas more quickly than others” (Goh, 1998). The emphasis on creativity is a necessary evolution and the capacity to be creative is intensely human. Creativity is essential for survival. In April 2000, Mr. Goh called for innovation to be “the new Singapore mindset”, warning that countries, corporations and even individuals who fails to innovate quickly will become outdated and irrelevant (Tan, 2000).

By being creative, it will not only enable the country to respond to challenges in new and creative ways, but it would also help them to be “nimble, quick to learn and adapt, and recognize and seize opportunities, to innovate and to create their own opportunities” (Teo, 1998). The challenge of the education system is thus to equip the future generations with the necessary problem solving and creative thinking skills.

At the end of 12 years of education, Ministry of Education (MOE) hopes to achieve the “Desired Outcomes of Education” whereby pupils should be resilient and resolute, have an entrepreneurial and creative spirit and able to think independently, among other things” (Ministry of Education, 1998). Attempt was made to reduce the content knowledge in the curriculum. Further, students are taught creative – thinking strategies in the thinking programme and project work.

The urge for Singaporeans to be more creative is not new. However, Singapore education system has been criticized for producing good citizens, too obedient and not creative. The Singaporeans are perceived to be too overly dependent on the government. Although effective, Singaporeans are at times labeled as not creative. The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) was used in several studies to assess Singaporean creative competence. Chang (1984) used the TTCT to measure creativity of 300 kindergarten children (age:5 years). The findings showed that fluency and flexibility scales of the measure did not correlate significantly with IQ tests. The TTCT was employed to evaluate local (Singaporean) (n=34, age 4-7 years) and non-local (expatriate) (n=35, age 4-7) young children’s creativity such as drawing. Parental attitudes towards children’s creativity such as risk-taking and spontaneity were also compared. Similar to the findings of the children, non-local parents scored significantly higher than their Singaporean counterparts in all attitudinal scales. Non-local participants in Kwan’s (1991) study comprised expatriates and locals showed similar findings. Local participants in general scored lower than their counterparts on the TTCT. Ng’s (1999) study with 158 Anglo-Saxon Australian (age: 19.1 years) and 165 Singaporean (age: 20.6 years) undergraduates supported this statement. However, the low scores of Singaporean participants in a test or in survey could be due to their attitude towards paper and pencil tests. Living in a competitive and an examination-oriented culture, Singaporean participants may not be as at ease as their counterparts from other countries in attempting a survey or test (see also Ng, 1999). Kamsiah (2002) in her findings discovered that there is a strong correlation between students’ critical thinking and English language as compared to Malay language. She suggested that Malay culture which is embedded in the Malay language does not actively promotes critical thinking as compared to Western culture through the English language. Although her research does not solely focus on creative thinking, her findings have implications on the study of creative thinking as a whole as creative thinking falls under the category of cognitive domain. Whether or not Singaporeans are less creative if compared to foreigners is yet to be determined further by future researches.

What is more pertinent is to ensure that teachers become role models and agents for creativity to flourish in the classrooms. The role of teachers in promoting creativity among pupils is paramount. According to researches like Amabile (1996) and Feldhusen (1995), the creative style of thinking and a productive style of working can, in part, be learned through association with great models:

“Contact with adults… in thinking and problem solving, and especially with excellent thinkers, seems to be particularly conducive to the development of creative thinking and problem solving skills as well as models who exhibit independence, a questioning attitude, ability to work long and hard, persistence, and capacity to work alone or in isolation” (Feldhusen 1995, p.255).

However, there seem to be a tendency to overlook the role of the Malay language teachers in developing creative thinking. The teaching of Malay language should also promote creativity in pupils. Teachers can act as role models and facilitate a creative approach to problems. On the other hand, the teaching of Malay language has been traditional and perceived to be conservative. There is a concern that pupils are not interested in the learning of Malay language and pupils are not as good as before in mastering the Malay language. Pupils tend to focus more on subjects they perceived as “important and relevant”. Teaching pupils on creative thinking will definitely motivate them in the learning of the language and pupils will learn skills that are relevant to their daily life. Activities involving creative thinking lessons are usually interesting and not monotonous. This can be achieved if we have more teachers who are active and creative in promoting creativity in schools.

Given the important part that teachers can potentially play in developing creativity in our school teachers and our pupils, it is worth researching the teachers’ creativity and problem-solving styles and whether their personality correlates with creativity styles which accompany them. Knowing their personality traits and creative styles, MOE can identify the suitable training for the teachers so that they can respond effectively to rapid changes happening in the world, and thus, enabled them to be relevant and nimble to unfamiliar situations.

Over a span of three decades, Singapore has achieved a relatively high living standard and literacy rate. Successful socio-cultural systems depend on the continuous availability of creative ideas and innovative actions. Any society has a rich repertoire of skills and concepts that enables its members to survive and prosper, and accordingly the cross-generation preservation and transmission of these adaptive features are a high priority. But without any provision for variation, for creativity, the socio-cultural system will eventually stagnate, lose adaptive advantages, and in the end be defeated in the competition with rival systems. (Simonton, 1988, pp. 4-5)

Therefore, to maintain its growth, as stated in the handbook of educational desired outcomes (Ministry of Education, 1998), Ministers’ (e.g., Lee, 1996; Teo, 1996), and Prime Minister’s speeches (e.g., Goh, 1996; Goh, 1999), enhancing creativity is a necessity for Singapore’s socio-economic, technological, and educational advancement.

 

1.2       Statements of the Problem

Some teachers are willing and able to make changes quickly but some need more time to do so. Teaching is no longer teacher-centered or chalk-and-talk method. The current trend in education system demands teaching and learning to be effective, engaging the learners, interesting and enjoyable. Change is inevitable. With that, all paraphernalia in teaching, which treat a teacher as the center of knowledge, need to be changed.

More and more pupils do not speak their mother tongue at home. Half of today’s Chinese pupils in Primary I speak English at home. Fifteen years ago, only a quarter of them did so. Back then, almost 70% of youngsters used Mandarin at home. As a result, there is a concern that pupils will not be able to master the Chinese language. This situation is also considered true to the Malay community in Singapore. The then Acting Minister of Education, Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam (2004) said, “Schools no longer expect all students to study the language (Mandarin) at the same level of difficulty, or by the same methods.” As a result, the MOE is setting up a committee to look into the matter. Twelve veteran educators will take a fresh look at how Chinese is taught in Singapore schools and will think up new ways to help students with differing aptitudes to master the language. Teaching mother tongue languages in Singapore, including Malay language, is tough and challenging. The profile of the students offering mother tongue language has changed. More students speak predominantly English language at homes.

Are the Malay language teachers creative enough to adapt to the new challenges and the unpredictable conditions? Are they willing to accept this change? How well are they coping with the new changes? What are their personality traits and creative styles? Knowing the answers to those questions, MOE officials and schools’ management will then be able to provide the necessary and timely assistance to teachers as well as pupils. Hence this will help teachers to achieve the desired outcome of educational goals.

This will also open up to ways and methods to encourage the change in attitude, learning to be and being creative in the teaching and learning of Malay language. Teachers can be either the most significant positive factor or the main hindrance to the development of creative culture in schools.

 

1.3       Related Issues in the Field of Creativity and Personality

Personality traits are characteristics or qualities used to describe differences in the behavior of individuals. They are assumed to describe consistencies in behavior exhibited by an individual in different situations, and are often construed as continua, where a trait and its opposite form a dimension, e.g. extraversion – introversion, neuroticism – emotional stability. Each opposite defines an end point on such a dimension. Different researchers found different number of traits. In 1961 Tupes and Christal (after Costa and McCrae, 1994) factored data from several different studies and concluded that five, major factors seemed to recur. Since 1980s it has been widely accepted that an optimal solution has the following five factors: extraversion defined a sociable, talkative, assertive and energetic; agreeableness defined as sympathetic, kind and appreciative; conscientiousness defined as organized, thorough, and methodical; neuroticism defined as impulsive, tense, anxious, nervous; openness to experience or intellect defined as wide interests, imaginative, and intelligent where each of these domains includes polar opposites. These five traits are sometimes called the Big Five and are thought to constitute an optimal trait description of a personality.

Many theorists (e.g. Taylor, 1976; Woodman, 1981) have attempted to incorporate an explanation for creative behavior within theoretical positions. Indeed, a major area of research within the personality framework has been the study of characteristics of creative persons and how they differ from their ‘less creative’ peers (e.g. Barron and Harrington, 1981; Martindale, 1989; King, Walker, and Boyles, 1996). Although these studies have attempted to catalogue a set of personality characteristics widely regarded as typing the creative personality, contradictions and ambiguities abound (Barron and Harrington, 1981; Isaken and Dorval, 1993).

The problem occurs due to the lack of consensus concerning the operational definition of creativity ( Barron and Harrington, 1981; Woodman and Schoenfeldt, 1990; Ford and Harris, 1992; Amabile, 1996) and its measurement (Wesberg 1996; Wakefield, 1997; Cooper, 1997). Although it is widely accepted that to be creative, a person or product must be both original and effective, in reality, creative ability is difficult to assess as it is subject to various interpretations.

            Another perspective to this issue of creativity is by looking at how and not how much creativity is expressed in Kirton’s adaptation-innovation. Individual’s style and tendency to approach problems whether through creative adaption or innovation is examined. Adaption is the characteristic behavior of individuals who create something by making incremental improvements in the existing paradigm or system. As for the adaptors, they typically solve problems in a disciplined, methodical and diligent manner, preferring to work on one or two practical ideas at a time. In contrast, innovators prefer to create change by an overhaul of the existing paradigm or system. On the other hand, innovators tend towards exploration and trial and often come up with many new and unusual ideas at the same time.

            Goldsmiths (1994) argues that because there is a certain consistency in the behavior of adaptors (i.e., wanting to do things better) and of innovators (i.e., wanting to do things differently), adaptation-innovation preferences are ‘trait-like’. He asserts that adaptation-innovation theory describes a cognitive style or preference for certain patterns of behavior, which are “traceable to broader traits and results from the combination or confluence of more than one underlying traits… whose interactions produce particular styles of behavior in particular situations” (Goldsmiths, 1994, p.42). Because of these suggestions, we might expect to find significant correlations between scores of KAI (Kirton Adaptation-Innovation Inventory) and scores on various personality instruments, as underlying personality factors that lead to the characteristic preferences for two creative problem-solving measures by KAI.

 

1.4       Objectives of the Study

            The present study seeks to investigate, empirically, the feasibility of IPIP (only three personality traits from the IPIP scales will be investigated) and KAI constructs in our local context, the Malay language teachers. The study will also investigate the personality correlates of adaptor-teachers and innovator-teachers. The study also intend to highlight the concerns of respondents on matters relating to the issue of creativity.

 

1.5       Significance of the Study

Knowing the creative styles and personality traits of Malay language teachers will enable MOE officials to understand, plan and conduct appropriate training for them. Study on teachers’ personality traits will provide useful insight and improvement. Through therapy or other measures can be recommended (Costa & McCrae, 1992); hence, more appropriate help can be given to teachers to enable them to function effectively in class. Understanding and knowing what are the creative styles or personality traits teachers belong to will enable them to work on their strengths and to improve on their weaknesses.  In the end, pupils will definitely benefit by having more teachers who are creative in their teaching.

CREATIVE STYLES AND PERSONALITY TRAITS OF MALAY LANGUAGE TEACHERS