International Journal of Art & Design Education

What is the Relationship between Social Tact in Teacher–Pupil Exchanges and Creativity? Reconceptualising Functional Causes of Creativity in Artmaking

Volume 29.2   2010



Art teachers are renowned for their claims that the creative properties of their senior secondary pupils' artworks occur as a result of the realisation of a creative process. Drawing on my recent ethnographic studies in senior art classrooms in Sydney, Australia, and Illinois, USA, I uncover a sociological, rather than a psychological explanation of creativity, which ironically, appears to satisfy the creative process claims of teachers. This article reveals how social tact in teacher–pupil exchanges has a function in bolstering the quality of the pupils' performances and their artworks while repressing the teacher's pedagogical role. The design and methodologies of the studies are outlined and two grounded narratives characterise cases of social tact between art teachers and pupils. A brief account is provided on the socio-cultural framework of these studies, informed by Bourdieu's theories of the habitus, symbolic capital and misrecognition. Bourdieu's theories offer a robust conceptual apparatus which helps to explain how the sociality of classroom exchanges, with all of their ambiguities in practice, are a necessity in the realisation of creative ends.