The affectively constituted dimensions of creative interthinking

Eva Vass, Karen Littleton, Ann Jones, Dorothy Miell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The work presented here is situated within the field of collaborative learning research, which aims to conceptualise and promote effective ways of thinking and talking together in the classroom. Much of the existing literature on shared meaning-making places an emphasis on collective argumentation or joint reasoning through Exploratory or Accountable talk as the main discursive tools implicated in the learning process (e.g. Mercer, 2000, Mercer and Littleton., 2007, Resnick, 1999). We argue that there is a need to combine such explanations with explorations of the affective dimensions of collaborative learning, especially in creative contexts. Whilst an expansion of focus to incorporate the affective is well-documented in cognitive science research on individual thinking (e.g. Clark, 2008, Damasio, 1994, Gelernter, 1994; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999; Niedenthal, Barsalau, Winkielman, Krauth-Gruber, & Ric, 2005; Niedenthal, 2007, Phelps, 2005, just to name a few), and is also evident in research on artistic collaborations in music and theatre (Clayton, 2007, Sawyer, 2007, among others), there is a paucity of work exploring the salience of affect for the processes of collective ‘interthinking’ (how we use ‘language for thinking together, for collectively making sense of experience and solving problems’ (Mercer, 2000)). The work reported here offers a distinctive and timely contribution to the contemporary literature in the field of collaborative learning. It explores the nature of children's creative interthinking in vivo, as it unfolds during carefully scaffolded ongoing classroom activities. Working with observational data of collaborative creative writing sessions in UK primary schools, the research centres around the qualitative, contextualised analysis of collaborative discourse. The research revealed the sparsity and limited use of overt reasoning in talk and, in turn, the centrality of affect in the observed dialogues, reported elsewhere (Vass, 2004, Vass, 2007, Vass et al., 2008). This paper looks at various affectively constituted strategies for shared ideation and reflection which were found characteristic of the observed collaborations, instantiated in the dialogues. It explores the ways in which these strategies reflect emotional connectivity (or affect linking) and evidences how such affect-based interthinking permeates the joint creative process. Our analytic work validates conceptualisations of the affect-based nature of creativity and also highlights the urgent need to reformulate our expectations concerning what creative intersubjectivity entails and how it is achieved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)63-77
    JournalInternational Journal of Educational Research
    Early online date27 Mar 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • peer collaboration
    • affectively-constituted thinking
    • interthinking


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