Time Pressure, Positivity, and Creativity in Elementary School Classrooms

Time Pressure, Positivity, and Creativity in Elementary School Classrooms


“Excessive emphasis on time pressure can result in learners striving to complete their work with a lack of originality” (61).

For decades, educational researchers have noted the benefits of creative thinking. Arguably, in today’s competitive and globalized society, creativity is more important than ever. In their paper, “Learning under time pressure: Learners who think positively achieve superior learning outcomes from creative teaching methods using picture books,” authors Chih-Yung Tsai et al. examine how teachers can boost student creativity in the classroom. In particular, they argue that by creating an environment in which students demonstrate positive emotions and by also exerting moderate time pressure, teachers can help develop students’ creative thinking (61).

To reach their conclusions, Tsai et al. carried out a curricular experiment with 44 public elementary school students over a 12 week period. In this experiment, students had the ultimate goal of creating picture books. The authors remark that, “creative picture books stimulate learners’ imaginations to recombine and redefine a variety of plain graphic images, and thereby create the required characters in the story” (57). The curriculum was divided into 12 themes: cover design, style, environment, clothing, food, housing, transportation, school, pets, amusement parks, out of nowhere, and life (59). For each theme, instructors presented the students with different “scenario” questions, topical information, brainstorming activities, writing exercises, and images related to entrepreneurial activities (59). For scoring, assessors evaluated “future imagination tests” and “picture book creation ability assessment sheets” before the experiment and after. (These methods of evaluation were adopted from a study by C.Y. Juan in 2004.)

The students were then divided into four groups: (1) Positive Emotion group, (2) Time Pressure group, (3) Positive Emotion AND Time Pressure group, and (4) Control group. The authors note that numerous previous studies have revealed the academic and creative benefits of positive emotions: “Even in the face of adversity, positive emotions can help individuals respond calmly to negative thoughts or situations, and subsequently remain passionate about their goals. The well-known broaden-and-build theory suggests that positive emotions or extended-thinking abilities stimulate broader personal memory data and create cognitive changes, thus promoting creative thinking” (57). In order to create environments in which students demonstrated positive emotions, instructors used game-based teaching methods. In implementing time pressure, instructors reminded students of their remaining time every two minutes, and frequently urged the students to “hurry!” (58).

The Findings

“The findings of this study indicate the effectiveness of combining positive emotions and time pressure to improve the outcomes of creative-thinking-based teaching” (61).

  • Every student’s creativity score improved after the picture book experiment
  • The PE*TP (Positive Emotion and Time Pressure) group had the most significant improvement in creativity scores
  • The Positive Emotion group (with NO time pressure) had the second highest levels of improvement in creativity scores
  • Time pressure had a positive impact on creativity scores when combined with positive emotions. Time pressure alone did not create substantial increases in creativity scores.
  • Time pressure was found to be an effective method to refocus students.
  • In the time pressure only group, students attempted to write down their thoughts as quickly as possible, but “neglecting the originality and sophistication of such thoughts caused them to produce work that was cliché and unexceptional” (61).
  • The authors recommend that teachers first allow plenty of time for students to understand the basic concepts of the curriculum, and then use time pressure during students’ work time.
  • Lively atmospheres created by game-based teaching can produce environments in which students demonstrate positive emotions.
  • The research team observed that positive emotions enabled students to feel more confident and to have trust in the instructors.

“If a teacher is devoted to inducing positive emotions, the learners will be more confident regarding their creative thinking results because of the positive support (61).


Paper Title: “Learning under time pressure: Learners who think positively achieve superior learning outcomes from creative teaching methods using picture books”

Authors: Chih-Yung Tsai (University of Taipei), Ya-Han Chang (University of Taipei), and Chia-Lun Lo (Fooyin University, Taiwan)

Full Paperhttps://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871187116301080

Published: Thinking Skills and Creativity, Volume 27, March 2018, Pages 55-63

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