In 2006, at the start of our SCEPTrE project at the University of Surrey, I commissioned an artist (Julian Burton) to draw a picture on our wall to provide us with a vision of the world we were trying to prepare students for. The picture is the product of his talent and imagination as he interpreted the conversations we had with him. It took me another 18 months to realise that in order to meet the aspirations in this vision we had to embrace the idea of not only lifelong learning but also lifewide learning. To prepare ourselves for the complexities and uncertainties of our future life we needed to draw on the learning, development and achievements we gain from all the experiences in our lives - the lives we have lived and the lives we are living. This epiphany led me to the idea of a lifewide curriculum to embrace educational designs that seek to empower and enable learners to create and integrate their learning and development from any aspect of their life and gain recognition within their higher education experience. In this article written for Lifewide Magazine I reflect on why a lifewide curriculum is essential for the future learning.
DOWNLOAD & SHARE THIS ARTICLE
I love working with the talented illustrator Kiboko Hachiyon to try and turn abstract ideas into images that convey meanings in different and often more powerful ways than the written word alone. I wanted to create an image for my talk that embodied the ideas of creative thought, development and production which results in innovation. I had a some scenes that Kiboko had produced that I wanted to re-use so I made a mock up (prototype?) of the narrative on a powerpoint slide with suggestions for additional pictures to complete the narrative.
The result is shown above and it tells the story of a young man listening to his ipod and looking at some cakes and having the idea of creating a cake that when you eat it plays the tunes you like to hear. He knew that this was the first time he had ever had the idea so it was new to him and when he mentioned it to other people he could see it was also novel for them. The more he thought about it the more he could see the potential and the more he became motivated to make such a cake. His passion drove him to sit at his computer for hours working out what he had to do and finding out waht he needed to know in order to achieve his ambition. He began experimenting making cakes and also building the electronics mindful of costs and health and safety issues.
Notwithstanding the complexity and difficulty of the challenge he is successful and one day he produces a musical cake at a price that people are willing buy. He also manages to persuade a local bakery to produce the cakes for him. He has
created a new product that is valued and judged to be new and different to any other cake by the people who want to buy it and a business would like to sell it.
We can apply this narrative to any process in which creativity is involved - including this narrative picture, in which a someone imagines something for the first time and is inspired to try to turn their idea into something tangible. They spend time and effort researching and developing their idea, perhaps drawing in other people to help them and if necessary raising money to fund their experiments. Eventually they are able to realise their idea in a form that can be enjoyed or utilised by other people.
This week I spoke at the SEDA conference in Bristol on the theme of Creativity in Educational Development. I was very grateful for the opportunity as it gave me a reason to discover how educational developers perceived creativity and how they used their creativity in their work. The idea of development is also close to me as I consider my life is a process of continuous development some of which I intentionally orchestrate and some of which is more accidental or opportunistic.
Furthermore, all the roles I have performed in my career have a strong developmental basis and many have involved me in explicitly developmental roles for the organisations I have worked for.
As I see it, the wicked problem facing all universities, is fundamentally a developmental challenge focused on the question of 'how we prepare learners for the challenges they will face in their future lives'. Nested in this challenge is the developmental problem of how teachers and other professionals directly involved in student development develop themselves so that they can support and enable students to develop themselves so that they can act effectively in the future worlds they will inhabit. For institutional leaders the developmental challenge is concerned with the continual process of change so that the people who work in the organisation are able to engage effectively with this challenge. People who work in a developmental role fulfil a unique role in enabling the institution to meet this challenge. Fundamentally this is a story of development - at personal, professional, curriculum, infrastructure and whole institution levels and what I want to discover is how personal creativity contributes to this process.
To prepare for my talk I created, over about four months, an ecology that is represented in the illustration. It involved conducting two surveys to try and discover the beliefs of educational developers. I am very grateful for everyone who took the time and effort to get involved and I have identified people who gave me particular support and encouragement and te sort of feedback we need to progress our thinking. It is lonely life being a developer and we need the emotional and intellectual support of others to sustain and expand our learning projects.
I have documented the results of the surveys which are consistent with other studies I have made relating to perceptions of creativity in higher education. My hope is that my presentation will lead to the involvement of more developers in the process and to new as yet unimagined possibilities and opportunities.
In his book CREATIVITY Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention which greatly influenced my thinking when I was trying to understand what creativity meant in academic disciplines, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi argues that creativity cannot be understood by looking only at the people who appear to make it happen. Creative ideas need a receptive audience to receive and use them. And without the acceptance and judgements of competent others, we cannot decide whether someone's claims for creativity are valid.
Csikszentmihalyi developed a 'systems' model for creativity which contains three components. The first of these is the domain, which consists of a set of symbolic rules and procedures. The second component of creativity is the field, which includes all the individuals who contribute to the field who act as the gatekeepers to the domain. They decide whether a new idea or product can be accepted. These people decide what new contributions are relevant and what should be recognised, preserved and remembered. The third component is the individual, who using symbols of a given domain, comes up with a new idea or sees a new pattern or contributes a performance that adds value to the field. It is the thoughts and actions of individuals or co-creating groups of people whose thoughts or actions change a domain, or establish a new domain.
My own research into higher education practices aligns with this well established conceptual framework but how does it relate to my own learning ecology. The domain I am contributing my thinking and writing too is the domain of education/higher education and the field I am trying to influence is the field of educational practice - particularly people who have a developmental role within universities (educational, professional, curriculum, student development and organisational development). Looking back I can see that I have tried to engage with and influence the field of practitioners in four ways.
Firstly, I tried to grow the knowledge from the field itself by involving practitioners in the study. It is their knowledge and perspectives that provide the new and original contribution
in the e-book. The act of feeding back the views of other members of the field and inviting comment was a way of testing whether the products have value to the field and ultimately the domain. I did not receive any negative feedback and the positive feedback gave me confidence that what I had produced was of value.
Secondly, I tried to engage other practitioners through an on-line survey. While very few members of the field accepted the invitation to complete the survey the notice was circulated by email to many hundreds of practitioners on the specialist mail lists or postings in on-line special interest groups. The small numbers of respondents might suggest that what I was doing was of no interest to them or it might indicate that culturally most practitioners do not get involved in on-line surveys.
Thirdly, thanks to two invitations to speak on the subject of creativity in higher education I will be able to present and discuss my ideas at two conferences in November.
Fourthly, my consolidated learning has been made explicit in an e-book which provides me with the vehicle for recording my contribution to the domain and I will publish it on a website under a creative commons license so that practitioners can access it with no financial cost to themselves. This means that the ideas will be publicly accessible in a global sense.
Finally, when the work is complete I will make it freely available and disseminate information about its availability to the field via email networks. In this way I anticipate that those who are interested and willing to spend the time reading, will access my ideas and take from them those aspects that they find useful and meaningful.
Only time will tell whether the ideas contained in my e-book will be seen by the domain as being relevant and significant enough to warrant citation and adoption by practitioners in the field. By putting a stat counter on the web page I can monitor how many people access it so that will give me an indication of the interest in the field. If further invitations to speak arise from this work that will be another indication that the ideas have value to people who are practising in the field.
But there is another very important dimension to the field and that is the way people in the field contribute to the creative work. In my learning ecology two people stand out in the extent to which they contributed materially to the creative product through the insightful feedback they provided, the way they challenged ideas or perspectives, and the encouragement they gave me to persist. In the world of sharing and shaping academic ideas it is the unseen hand of collegiality that shapes the creative work and makes it more acceptable to the field.
Csikszentmihalyi's cultural domain-field model has much relevance to my learning ecology and the creative work that emerged from the ecological process.
To develop my understandings of how I learn and develop through all parts of my life by recording and reflecting on my own life as it happens.
I have a rough plan but most of what I do emerges from the circumstances of my life