Dr Tamas Kiss, associate professor in the Department of English at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, has co-authored a book with renowned expert Alan Maley about creativity in the field of English Language Teaching.

The book, entitled Creativity and English Language Teaching: From Inspiration to Implementation, was published this year by Palgrave MacMillan.

In the introduction, Maley & Kiss write: ‘We believe passionately in the centrality of creativity in language education,’ and further emphasise that ‘creativity is not simply an optional add-on to what we do but is its very essence.’

Dr Kiss explained that creativity has been the subject of investigation in several fields including psychology and business, as well as language teaching, and is one of the ‘core skills’ of most 21st century educational frameworks:

“People have realised that traditional knowledge transfer systems are not necessarily preparing students for 21st century jobs,” said Tamas, “New educational frameworks, for example those developed by the Council of Europe, emphasize cross-cultural communication, problem-solving, and creativity.”

The book opens with a general introduction to creativity, summarising work on creativity theory from the 1960s to the present day, followed by chapters on creativity and education, and creativity and applied linguistics.

“We look at how creativity is applied at the classroom level,” said Tamas. “For instance, how it translates into methodologies, materials, resources. We try to define what a ‘creative teacher’ is, and how you can become one.”

There are also chapters on creativity research, with data visualisations to show the most important research papers in that area.

In October last year, Tamas was invited by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research, Sarawak to speak at the first Sarawak English Language Education Symposium (pictured below). He also conducted a panel discussion on the Future of English Language Teaching in Sarawak, and a workshop at a local teacher training college.

“One of the things we discussed at the conference was the importance of linguistic creativity and language play,” said Tamas. “It’s essential for teachers to teach creativity, particularly teachers of foreign languages. Although students may not have extensive vocabularies and linguistic knowledge, through creative language play they can supplement what they do know.

“Many teachers complain they don’t have time to do so because of the need to prepare students for tests,” he continued. “But the best teachers turn a ‘straightjacket’ into an advantage. Creativity actually needs boundaries, and there are many ways to stimulate creativity and language play within an exam-focussed context, which we explore in the book.”

Dr Tamas Kiss teaches on the MA TESOL programme at XJTLU. To find out more information about the Department of English and other programmes available visit their website.

by Danny Abbasi; photos by Liping Tian; additional photos provided by Tamas Kiss

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