Examining Creativity as an Individual Difference in Second Language Production
As our understanding of individual differences in second language acquisition continues to develop and expand, cognitive creativity is emerging as a promising area of research (Dörnyei & Ryan, 2015). Previous studies have exhibited evidence of relationships between creativity and various second language measures, e.g. course grades (Ottó, 1998), narrative structure (Albert & Kormos, 2004, 2011), and use of questions and coordination (McDonough, Crawford, & Mackey, 2015). This dissertation makes a novel contribution to such research by investigating whether communication strategies are associated with learners’ cognitive creativity.Seventy-eight university students in Turkey completed the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking as well as interactive and narrative speaking tasks in L2 English. The interactive speaking task prompted use of communication strategies by requiring each learner to elicit from their partner the name of a common object, person, or place by describing the item without using five prohibited words. For the narrative speaking task, participants used a comic strip to tell a simple story. Analyses revealed relationships between overall creativity, use of direct communication strategies, and use of indirect communication strategies in the interactive task. Several relationships between creativity and communication strategy use in the narrative task emerged as well, i.e. overall creativity and indirect appeals for help. Multiple regression analysis confirmed that creativity accounted for 13.6% of direct and indirect strategy use in the interactive speaking task, and that English proficiency was not a predictor of communication strategy use. Also of interest, in contrast to the findings of previous studies, the current research revealed no evidence of relationships between creativity and narrative structure or creativity and course grades.Results indicate that creative potential is primarily realized in interactive rather than monologic tasks, suggesting that further research should be careful to separate creativity from linguistic outcome measures. Findings from this research underscore the evidence that creativity is an important individual difference in second language acquisition. It will also be useful to language instructors as they consider how to manage the creative demands placed on students by activities and assessments in the currently popular and research-supported communicative and task-based approaches to L2 instruction.
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