Its Day 1 of the January 2017 #creativeHE course on creativity for learning in higher education and the task is to 'think back to a previous learning experience that you feel was particularly creative and inspiring; that engaged you and promoted your learning in some memorable way. Summarise your thoughts around this specific creative and inspiring teaching situation that you experienced as a learner by creating a promotional box for that situation. Design effective packaging highlighting your key take aways from this experience...What made this experience so special for you?
A few days ago I visited Southampton Solent University at the invitation of Osama Khan who is the Director of Learning and Teaching. Osama and I used to work together at the University of Surrey and we are friends as well as partners in promoting innovation in teaching and learning. So our starting point was not on this day but some 10 years ago and we shared a lot of history and knowledge in between. His invitation to participate in a conversation had grown out of a desire to become more involved in Creative Academic's 'Creative Pedagogies' project so I was quite motivated to discover how we might collaborate.
Over the course of about five hours Osama introduced me to several of his colleagues who he had connected to my own interests. He had sent me an agenda (series of topics for discussion) which was important because it enabled me to prepare and to take information relating to the ideas I wanted to discuss. All we did was talk, but the interactive conversations helped me gain a good understanding of the ideas and interests of the people I chatted to and I was able to share my own ideas with them in the process.
Osama also showed me the amazing new teaching and learning spaces that the university has created and the thinking behind the design of the spaces. I learnt much in this process of 'gentle unfolding' storytelling. Towards the end of the visit we sat down and I interviewed him for Creative Academic Magazine on his thoughts about creativity in higher education teaching and learning.
Perhaps you might think 'how could this be a situation that stimulated my creativity?' Well it did. The whole experience - my preparations and the thinking I did before my visit, the conversational interactions, my wanderings with intent through the wonderful teaching and learning spaces - provided me with an ecology that encouraged me to see new affordances for collaboration in the relationships I was developing and new ideas we discussed. My follow-up actions have been to try an capitalise on these.
Osama invited me in to his professional world and created an ecology that enabled us to connect our interests, purposes and needs in a search for something - but none of us knew what it was. The process he facilitated simply enabled relationships to develop, values to be shared through the stories we told, ideas and possibilities to be explored, and stuff to emerge in an organic and ad hoc way.
So how might I relate my experience to a pedagogy for learning and creativity? When viewed through a pedagogic lens the experience was organised and facilitated by Osama. It had a structure formed by the rough agenda Osama had prepared but it felt open, in the sense that, other than time, there were no real constraints on me. It was 'explorative' in the sense that everyone was involved in inquiry to gain as much understanding as possible in the time available. We were all interested and curious. Conversation was encouraged and people shared their experiences and ideas willingly in a thoughtful, respectful, friendly and enjoyable way. Much of the sharing took the form of narratives and stories. Throughout the process Osama acted as an enthusiastic 'guide by my side' (1) and I am also reminded of Giles and McCarty's (2:67) relational, caring and accompanying conception of pedagogy, ‘pedagogy…. is always relational in nature, and as such is central to our everyday teaching strategies’. It’s through these caring relationships and the teacher’s encouragement and demonstration that ‘we are making this journey together’, that a climate or culture of trust and respect emerges.'
On the train on the way home I formed an idea (an idea that I had not had before that had grown through this process) about how I might collaborate with Osama and his colleagues in a way that I hoped would be mutually beneficial. I put my idea in an email and sent it to them. I'm waiting to hear their response but the point is that the experience enabled me to see new affordance in the relationships and situations and I acted on the affordance which is an indicator of an effective teaching and learning process. If my idea leads to collaboration then for sure it will result in considerable affordance for creativity.
This reflective exercise has helped me see the involvement of a pedagogy in this type of professional scenario.
1 McWilliam, E. L. (2009) Teaching for creativity : from sage to guide to meddler. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 29(3). pp. 281-293. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/32389/1/c32389.pdf
2 Giles, D.L. and McCarty, C. (2016) Creating meaningful learning spaces through phenomenological strategies. In L.S. Watts & P. Blessinger, (eds) Creative Learning in Higher Education: International Perspectives and Approaches. New York, United States of America: Routledge, 65-80.
You can read my interview with Osama in the January update of Creative Academic Magazine to be published Jan 25th 2017