Developing Creativity in Higher Education
Developing Students' Creativity through a Higher Education
PRESENTATION TO BE POSTED 09/12/14
Jackson, N J. (2014) Developing students' creativity through a higher education. In A Xie & L Lei (Eds) International Symposium on 'The Cultivation of Creativity in University Students' 8-28 Macao: Macao Polytechnic Institute
Some aids to thinking about creativity
Sir Ken Robinson on teaching creatively and teaching for creativity
Dewitt Jones - a story about being creative. Note the way he creates an ecology to learn how to be creative in the particular context
Example of a student engaged in lifewide learning and personal development - note the organic way she makes connections between different parts of her life and apapreciate the opportunities she has created for herself to be creative in many different contexts
Students engaged in challenging lifewide learning and personal development experiences volunteering in Uganda. What does creativity mean in the challenging cultural contexts these students put themselves into?
John Seely Brown - on learning for and in the future
Developing Students' Creativity through a Higher Education
The world needs people who can combine their thinking, knowledge, capabilities and values in imaginative ways to work with complexity, create wealth and prosperity, tackle intractable social and environmental problems, enrich cultures, and enhance their own wellbeing. Universities have a vital role to play in creating more creative societies but all too often the creative development of learners as an outcome of higher education is more by accident than design. So how might we design a university that is more capable and willing to support the creative development of students? (1)
Leadership and a culture that values and supports the creativity of all staff involved in the teaching, learning and student development enterprise must lie at the heart of such a university. Studies of the conditions that encourage people to be creative in everyday work identify a dozen factors and nourishers that are likely to foster a climate where creativity will flourish (2). A culture that values the professional creativity of teachers is essential because the creative development of learners is largely facilitated or hindered by their teachers. Here are four aspects of higher education practice that should be considered in any project for students' creative development.
1 Drawing inspiration from the discipline: What does it mean to be a creative engineer, doctor, historian, teacher or any other practitioner in a discipline? For many academics, creativity in higher education only has meaning when it is contextualised in disciplinary problems. Surveys of eight disciplines(3) show that teachers share similar perceptions of what being creative means in their discipline and sites for creative thinking that relate to these characteristics appear to be available in most aspects of disciplinary practice. Growing understanding and making explicit what creativity means in the academy is the first step in engaging the academy with this challenge. Q what does it mean to be creative in your discipline or professional area of practice?
2 Pedagogies for creative development: The beliefs that higher education teachers hold influences how they design and teach their courses. Growing understanding of what creativity means to teachers in their teaching and learning contexts, is an important first step in understanding how students' creative development might be further encouraged and supported. Pedagogies and activities (including co-curricular experiences) that engage learners with the unfamiliar, perplexing, complex and unpredictable, that encourage them to take risks and not be penalised if they do not succeed, and involve them in challenges that demand new understandings, meanings and capabilities, are more likely to require them to use their creativity than activities that only require them to replicate what they already know and can do. Strategies that support metacognitive development by encouraging learners to think about and articulate their own creativity and its effects, will encourage students to see creativity as a valuable capability and asset. As will assessment strategies that value effort to be creative - even if students are not successful as long as they reveal how they have learnt through the process.
The approaches used by higher education teachers to promote student development can be categorised into one of three basic types (4) - 'sage on the stage' (knowledge transmitter), 'guide on the side' (facilitator), and 'meddler-in-the-middle' (an involved co-learner/co-producer in the learning process. All of these approaches are relevant and can be used to aid student learning and development but the promotion of students' creativity is best served by teachers who are 'meddlers‘ and 'facilitators'. Q What are the teaching and learning contexts in which you are able to meddle or facilitate? Are there more opportunities for meddling?
3 A curriculum for creative development - importance of personal learning ecologies To prepare students for learning in the real world outside the 'comfortable', low risk environments of higher education we need a form of education that also exposes learners to the risks and challenges of unfamiliar contexts and problems, of incomplete, ambiguous or conflicting information and messy rapidly evolving situations (5). We need to design or appropriate into our practice learning environments that offer challenges for which there are no single right answers but which do not penalise them if they are not successful in finding a possible answer. Perhaps also we need to encourage learners, as part of their higher education experience, to develop their own ecologies for learning (6) rather than always imposing our own learning outcomes, content and process on them. This after all, is what we do in the informal world of learning and problem solving that constitutes our working lives. Our learning ecologies, 'the process(es) we create in a particular context for a particular purpose that provide us with opportunities, relationships and resources for learning, development and achievement' are an important expression of creativity that is put into the service of learning. Q to what extent does the curriculum engage with these perspectives? Is there scope for further development?
4 Recognising learners' own creative lives: Outside the university, our creativity emerges in the situations we encounter or create in our daily life. It is in our responses to challenges and opportunities that our creativity is required, applied and revealed. By adopting a lifewide concept of education (a lifewide curriculum) to embrace all the spaces and places for learning, personal development and self-actualisation in a person's life, higher education can do much more to recognise and value the creative development of the learners it serves (7). Q how does the curriculum accommodate students' lifewide experiences and recognise their creativity in those experiences? Is there scope for developing this aspect of the curriculum?
The universal wicked problem that unites everyone who works in higher education is captured in the question 'how do we prepare learners for an increasingly complex, rapidly changing and at times disruptive world?' If the moral purpose of higher education is to enable people to prepare themselves for the complexities and challenges of their future life, and to enable them to flourish in whatever pathways they choose through life, then surely enabling learners' to develop their creative potential must be an important part of this purpose.
Sources of information
(1) Jackson, N J. (2014) Developing students' creativity through a higher education. In A Xie & L Lei (Eds) International Symposium on 'The Cultivation of Creativity in University Students' 8-28 Macao: Macao Polytechnic Institute
(2) Baker, P., Jackson, N.J, and Longmore, J. (2014) ‘Tackling the Wicked Challenge of Strategic Change: The story of how a university changed itself' Authorhouse. http://www.authorhouse.co.uk/
(3) Jackson, N.J. and Shaw, M. (2006) Developing subject perspectives on creativity in higher education, in N.J. Jackson et al (eds) Developing Creativity in Higher Education: an imaginative curriculum, London and New York: Routledge 89-108 Available at: http://www.normanjackson.co.uk/creativity.html
(4) McWilliam, E (2009) Teaching for creativity: from sage to guide to meddler. Asia Pacific Journal of Education v29, 3, 281-293 http://www.vcu.edu/cte/workshops/teaching_learning/2011_resources/sagetoguidetomeddler.pdf
(5) Jackson, N.J. (2011) An imaginative lifewide curriculum, in N. J. Jackson (ed) Learning for a Complex World: A lifewide concept of learning, education and personal development. Authorhouse. http://www.normanjackson.co.uk/creativity.html
(6) Jackson, N. J. (2013) The Concept of Learning Ecologies in N. J. Jackson and G.B. Cooper (eds) Lifewide Learning, Education and Personal Development e-book Chapter A5 available on-line at http://www.lifewideebook.co.uk/conceptual.html
(7) Jackson, N. J. (2010) Developing Creativity through Lifewide Education. Available online at http://www.normanjackson.co.uk/creativity.html