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date: 15 December 2019

Summary and Keywords

In 1950, Erik Erickson introduced the concept of generativity in psychosocial development when referring to an individual’s desire to produce new knowledge that contributes to the guidance of the next generation. Nearly fifty years later, Epstein built on the term generativity in his research when referring to the generation of new or novel behavior in problem-solving. According to Epstein, generativity theory is a formal, predictive, empirically based theory of ongoing behavior in novel environments. Because it can be used to predict generative behavior and engineer new performances, it is also predictive of creativity and offers important contributions to the study of the transformative processes needed by teachers who desire to work effectively with students in culturally and linguistically complex classrooms. The evolution of theories of generativity can be traced from their use in studies of psychosocial development, to their use in studies of education, teacher education, and the preparation of teachers who work effectively in complex, 21st century classrooms. It should be noted that the theme that runs throughout the research literature on generativity over the last seventy years is a focus on using the term generativity theory to refer to a formal, predictive theory of creative behavior in individuals. When applied to education and the development of teachers to teach in culturally and linguistically complex classrooms, it is important to note that oftentimes teachers—many of whom have never worked with diverse student populations before—must develop the ability to translate their desire to teach into a conscious concern to serve the next generation—into a generative commitment to teach all students. They must make decisions to establish goals for generative behavior and then turn those decisions into generative actions and the creation of effective pedagogical solutions that meet the needs of their diverse students. One meaning of generative behavior is to generate things and people, to be creative, productive, and fruitful, to “give birth” to creative pedagogical problem-solving both figuratively and literally. The scholarship on generativity theory emphasizes the notion that generativity, unlike simple altruism or general prosocial behavior, involves the creation of a product or legacy. The qualities emphasized in generativity theory are the qualities needed by teachers who hope to be effective in their work with diverse populations. Generative behavior involves the conservation, restoration, preservation, cultivation, nurturance, or maintenance of that which is deemed worthy of such behavior, as in nurturing children and adapting traditions that link generations and assure continuity over time—through generative concern, action, and narration. Reflection is not enough. Rather, generative action that stems directly from teachers’ commitment, enhanced belief, and stimulated by concern, inner desire and cultural demand is needed. Generative action—which includes the behaviors of creating, maintaining, and offering to others—is the ultimate result of generativity. Narrations of generativity and the use of writing as a pedagogical tool for deep thinking are two means by which the complex relations among demand, desire, concern, belief, internalization, commitment, and action can be captured and analyzed.

Keywords: theories of generative change, generativity, teacher education, culturally and linguistically complex classrooms, model of generative change, diversity

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