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Fostering of creativity within an imaginative curriculum in higher education

01 Aug 2004-Curriculum Journal (Taylor & Francis Ltd)-Vol. 15, Iss: 2, pp 155-166

Abstract: Psychology is frequently used as a foundation discipline in the training of adult educators because it addresses those questions which naturally emerge from an engagement with adult learning and teaching (Tennant, 1997). The professional context which forms the focus of this article is no different. By providing academic support for lecturers in a higher education institution in Ireland, there is a desire to develop a sustainable curriculum model whereby by working with them on designing and developing creative curricula in their various subject disciplines in the arts and sciences they, in turn, pass the benefits of this on to their students.
Topics: Curriculum development (60%), Adult education (58%), Curriculum (57%), Higher education (56%), Creativity (52%)

Summary (3 min read)

Introduction

  • Dublin Articles Learning,Teaching & Technology Centre 2004 Fostering of Creativity Within an Imaginative Curriculum in Higher Education Roisin Donnelly Technological University Dublin, roisin.donnelly@tudublin.ie.
  • Follow this and additional works at: https://arrow.tudublin.ie/ltcart.
  • Part of the Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Commons Recommended Citation Donnelly, R.: Fostering of Creativity Within an Imaginative Curriculum in Higher Education.
  • This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Learning,Teaching & Technology Centre at ARROW@TU Dublin.
  • This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

The Curriculum Journal, Vol. 15, No. 2, Summer 2004

  • ISSN 0958-5176 /ISSN 1469-3704 /04/020000-00 © 2004 British Curriculum Foundation DOI: 10.1080/0958517042000226810.
  • Fostering of creativity within an imaginative curriculum in higher education Roisin Donnelly* Course Co-ordinator, Learning and Teaching Centre, Dublin Institute of Technology Psychology is frequently used as a foundation discipline in the training of adult educators because it addresses those questions which naturally emerge from an engagement with adult learning and teaching (Tennant, 1997).
  • The professional context which forms the focus of this article is no different.
  • By providing academic support for lecturers in a higher education institution in Ireland, there is a desire to develop a sustainable curriculum model whereby by working with them on designing and developing creative curricula in their various subject disciplines in the arts and sciences they, in turn, pass the benefits of this on to their students.
  • Keywords: creativity; adult learning; curriculum design; higher education.

Background

  • This reflective investigation recognizes that the psychological literature has a significant bearing on the evolution and fostering of creativity within the imaginative curriculum in higher education.
  • Creativity has emerged as a complex concept, and questions abound within this.
  • Boekaerts and Boscolo (2002) discussed how experimental psychologists had assumed from the beginning that mental faculties such as cognition, memory, perception and learning could be studied in isolation, and how this had been the dominant view in psychology.
  • The LTC supports the learning, teaching and assessment activities, including integrating learning technologies, of all academic staff at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

Aims

  • The main aim of this research, therefore, is to support the paradigm shift through the introduction of creativity to the curriculum design process generally within the institute, and specifically foster what may be coined ‘the imaginative curriculum’ within module two of the postgraduate certificate in Third Level Learning and Teaching.
  • Designing curricula to include creativity Ongoing evaluation of the module ‘Designing curricula and assessment strategies’ has, in the past two years of its operation, shown to have had a profound effect on the learning strategies adopted by lecturers.
  • Effective curriculum design can ensure that their programmes meet identified educational needs and that teaching methods and assessment strategies are selected to achieve programme objectives.
  • As stated, it will be vital for the course tutors to support, encourage and enhance the lecturers’ creativity on the module.

Creativity in the HE disciplines

  • There have been arguments put forward that in certain subject disciplines in higher education, lecturers are unclear about how to structure instruction to enhance creativity and encourage creative thinking on the part of their students (Baker et al ., Fostering creativity 161 2002).
  • The educational experiences of many young people conditions them to take a passive approach to the learning process.
  • This literature on creativity has made two assumptions: that the authors can learn about creativity by focusing on the work of others and that creativity is the preserve of the arts rather than the concern of the curriculum as a whole (Craft et al ., 2001).
  • Examples from various subject disciples in higher education abound, which can be drawn upon for the lecturers in the module.
  • On a larger scale, the study by Niu and Sternberg (2001) of Chinese and American students’ rated creativity of artworks seems to support their hypothesis that an independent self-oriented culture is more encouraging of the development of artistic creativity than is an interdependent self-oriented culture.

Fostering creativity in HE

  • Again linking to the work of Csikszentmihalyi, research into the environment that nurtures creativity states that it can occur when individuals feel free from pressure, safe and positive (Claxton, 1998); this is important for the climate established for the postgraduate certificate module.
  • Diversity in these groups is necessary to ensure there is sufficient difference and richness of input to encourage creative and innovative outputs; in their case the product will be the design and development of a real-life creative, imaginative curriculum in higher education.
  • The curriculum design group project that the lecturers undertake in the module is based on these conditions.
  • Building on this, Freire and Macedo stated that ‘in part the exclusion of social, cultural and political dimensions from learning and practices gives rise to an ideology of cultural reproduction that produces teachers who are de-skilled and acritical, without much independent thought’.
  • If higher education is to promote creativity it must reflect upon the realities of its students, discuss how these realities can be utilized to enhance creativity, as well as engage in activities that encourage creativity.

Inherent problems to be overcome

  • If one examines Csikszentmihalyi’s (1997) requirements for creativity, there are many ways for a person to fail the creativity test that have little to do with the individual or their work.
  • If someone dislikes teaching, for example, it is highly unlikely that the individual will be creative in that domain.
  • Thus far in this article, creativity has been considered as a mental trait and as a systematic process.
  • The challenge for my professional practice and my own thinking, then, is how to introduce creative experiences into this module, with associated activities, and validate the creative process.
  • Creativity in the imaginative curriculum I like to think of higher education teachers as being creative people, with imagination and creativity underpinning values to their work, also known as Impact on professional practice.

Evaluation of the module’s impact

  • From October to December 2003, qualitative research was conducted to measure retrospectively the impact of change in teaching practice for lecturers who have graduated from the postgraduate certificate in Third Level Learning and Teaching over a period extending from 2000–3.
  • Essentially it was to establish the difference that the completed course, and its emphasis on creativity in the curriculum, has made on these lecturers’ professional practice.
  • I also believe that moral purpose needs an engine, and that engine is individual, skilled agents pushing for changes around them, intersecting with other like-minded individuals and groups to form the critical mass necessary to bring about continuous improvements (Fullan, 1993, p. 40).
  • Throughout the next academic year (2004–5), I intend conducting a series of focus groups with the participants to take these results further and probe deeper into what specific outcomes they can see occurring in their practice as a result of having successfully completed the course.
  • This new frontier in creativity research has already produced a number of positive outcomes for both individuals and institutions interested in creativity (Gryskiewicz, 1982).

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Technological University Dublin Technological University Dublin
ARROW@TU Dublin ARROW@TU Dublin
Articles Learning,Teaching & Technology Centre
2004
Fostering of Creativity Within an Imaginative Curriculum in Higher Fostering of Creativity Within an Imaginative Curriculum in Higher
Education Education
Roisin Donnelly
Technological University Dublin
, roisin.donnelly@tudublin.ie
Follow this and additional works at: https://arrow.tudublin.ie/ltcart
Part of the Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Commons
Recommended Citation Recommended Citation
Donnelly, R.: Fostering of Creativity Within an Imaginative Curriculum in Higher Education.
The Curriculum
Journal
, Vol.15, no. 2, 2004, pp. 155-166.
This Article is brought to you for free and open access by
the Learning,Teaching & Technology Centre at
ARROW@TU Dublin. It has been accepted for inclusion in
Articles by an authorized administrator of ARROW@TU
Dublin. For more information, please contact
arrow.admin@tudublin.ie, aisling.coyne@tudublin.ie.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License

The Curriculum Journal, Vol. 15, No. 2, Summer 2004
ISSN 0958-5176 (print)/ISSN 1469-3704 (online)/04/020000-00
© 2004 British Curriculum Foundation
DOI: 10.1080/0958517042000226810
Fostering of creativity within an imaginative
curriculum in higher education
Roisin Donnelly*
Course Co-ordinator, Learning and Teaching Centre, Dublin Institute of Technology
Psychology is frequently used as a foundation discipline in the training of adult educators because
it addresses those questions which naturally emerge from an engagement with adult learning and
teaching (Tennant, 1997). The professional context which forms the focus of this article is no
different. By providing academic support for lecturers in a higher education institution in Ireland,
there is a desire to develop a sustainable curriculum model whereby by working with them on
designing and developing creative curricula in their various subject disciplines in the arts and
sciences they, in turn, pass the benefits of this on to their students.
Keywords:
creativity; adult learning; curriculum design; higher education
Background
This reflective investigation recognizes that the psychological literature has a signifi-
cant bearing on the evolution and fostering of creativity within the imaginative
curriculum in higher education. This article will attempt to make advances into how
the practitioner can proceed to apply the output of the relevant psychological litera-
ture to the activity of teaching lecturers the importance of creativity in the higher
education curriculum, and passing this on to their students.
Henri Bergson, the French philosopher, once wrote, ‘I believe I experience crea-
tivity at
every moment of my life!’ (Prigogine, 1989). Creativity research suggests that
this is humanly possible, yet many questions still exist and are debated and discussed
at length in academic circles. The focus of this work is to explore creativity research
in higher education in order for it to inform the curriculum design process.
It is important to explore the implications of creativity research for learning and
teaching in higher education. It could be argued that the relative lack of cross-
fertilization in the past is not surprising given the relative youth of the creativity field.
Joy Paul Guilford directed the American Psychological Association in his 1950
presidential address to focus on this important but hitherto neglected area.
*Learning and Teaching Centre, Dublin Institute of Technology, 14 Upper Mount Street, Dublin
2, Ireland. Email: roisin.donnelly@dit.ie
Donnelly.fm Page 155 Tuesday, June 1, 2004 10:46 AM

156
R. Donnelly
Many attribute the neglect of creativity to a number of reasons: the Platonic notion
that creativity is a mystical phenomenon; the persistent belief that creativity is a
spiritual process that does not lend itself to scholarly scrutiny; or the fact that early
twentieth-century schools of psychology, for example, structuralism, functionalism
and behaviorism, ignored creativity. There has also been a proliferation of ‘pragma-
tists’, evangelists who popularize and promote creative thinking without testing the
validity of their ideas.
From an analysis of research conducted in the area of creativity, I was aware of
how scholars in the field have in the past and are currently defining the phenomenon.
It was also useful to have a working definition of what creativity meant for my own
professional context. I have a number of adjectives which for me add to this definition
of what is meant by creativity in the higher education curriculum: putting things that
are already together in a different way by being generative, innovative, expressive and
imaginative. This is based on the belief that the lecturers are already being creative
within their own disciplines, and need an open, free and safe forum in which to
express their creativity. Human beings use cognition creatively, by continually modi-
fying and using concepts to try to deal with everyday life problems. Creativity also
arises from tacit, intuitive knowing. Bohart (1999) argues that the creative process is
one of articulating tacit or experiential knowing in words or symbols.
Alongside this, it was very insightful to explore the various approaches to creativity
research and measurement of creativity. There is still no consensus within the litera-
ture as to whether creativity is located in a person, a product or a process. There is
agreement, however, that creative work is both novel and valuable (Mayer, 1999).
People tend to think of creativity as a trait—a single attribute with which we are born
that is relatively fixed in quantity. Many regard creativity as something that only very
gifted people possess. There are multiple kinds of creativity, and one of the arguments
in psychology today is that everyone can develop at least some of these (Sternberg,
2002). Boden (2000) believes there are three forms of creativity: combinational,
exploratory and transformational; like Gardner (1984), she concludes that creativity
is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon. Other researchers exploring whether the
computer stifles creativity conclude with a call for enlightened discourse by
researchers in this area rather than polemical stance-taking (Abbott
et al
., 2001).
There is a lesson for everyone in that.
The most common kind of creativity is conceptual replication, whereby someone
produces a minor variant of work that has been produced before. This kind of
creativity is a ‘limiting case’ of creative thought. Most successful inventions and
scientific discoveries represent ‘forward incrementation’ which basically takes existing
ideas and moves them to the next step in the direction the field is already going. Often
more radical approaches take a field in a new direction, and include reinitiations,
which represent essentially a ‘starting over’ of how people think about a problem.
Such a complex phenomenon as creativity has generated a wide variety of research
approaches; with each of the methodologies of psychometric, experimental and
contextual contributing unique insights to our understanding. Psychometricians,
such as Guildford and Torrance, assume that creativity is a measurable trait, and focus
Donnelly.fm Page 156 Tuesday, June 1, 2004 10:46 AM

Fostering creativity
157
on developing tests which measure divergent thinking. Psychometricians have long
tried to sort out the relationship between creativity and intelligence. They have also
studied the personality traits of creative individuals and, for the purpose of designing
imaginative, creative curricula, have found interesting patterns. Positive traits include
curiosity, high levels of personal energy, being attracted to complexity and novelty,
tolerance for ambiguity, open-mindedness and persistence in the face of adversity
(Feist, 1999).
Creativity has emerged as a complex concept, and questions abound within this.
For many years in psychology the most fundamental question has been: what is
creativity? However, the simplest question of all, which comes before the other
controversials of definitions, measurements or attempts at enhancement is: where is
creativity? It is important to look at the role of the environment and then of the
individual, both from a psychomotive and a cognitive perspective, and how they
interact (Sternberg, 1998). Csikszentmihalyi (1998), best known for his systems
model of creativity, concurs, stating that what we call creative is never the result of
individual action alone (in Sternberg, 1998).
The study of classroom learning has had similar developments. Boekaerts and
Boscolo (2002) discussed how experimental psychologists had assumed from the
beginning that mental faculties such as cognition, memory, perception and learning
could be studied in isolation, and how this had been the dominant view in psychology.
It was not until the last two decades that situational interest (interest generated in the
situation) has been shown to improve student learning through better strategy use.
Linked to this, Sternberg and Lubart (1991) stressed that ‘if we want students to be
creative, we have to model creativity for them, and we will not be able to do that if
we seek to turn students’ minds
into safe-deposit boxes in which to store our assorted
and often indigestible bits of knowledge’. Therefore, learner construction of knowl-
edge is an important element for the development of creativity, and creating the right
motivational climate for learning is part and parcel of this. The literature provides an
excellent stepping stone from which to explore further the concept of creativity for
my professional practice.
Practical implications for professional context
I am an academic tutor in the Learning and Teaching Centre (LTC), based in the
Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). The research outlined in this article is
emerging from the curriculum design process within a postgraduate lecturer training
course, the postgraduate certificate in Third Level Learning and Teaching, the first
such course designed specifically for lecturers in the sector in the Republic of Ireland.
The LTC supports the learning, teaching and assessment activities, including
integrating learning technologies, of all academic staff at the Dublin Institute of
Technology. This is supplemented by increasing awareness of current national and
international research and strategies related to learning and teaching in higher educa-
tion. The goal of the LTC is to offer resources, consultation and a forum for discussion
to help lecturers in turn provide a valuable learning experience to all DIT students.
Donnelly.fm Page 157 Tuesday, June 1, 2004 10:46 AM

158
R. Donnelly
Changing paradigms: learning and teaching in higher education
It has been argued by Siegler (2002) that with the cognitive revolution in adult
experimental psychology and the rise of Piaget’s theory within developmental
psychology, the emphasis has shifted from learning to thinking. Within the context
of higher education, some researchers have taken the view that if psychology is to
have an educational impact then it is at least as important to study teachers and
teaching as it is to study learners and learning (Desforges & Fox, 2003).
Certainly, in this context, within the last two years, there have been moves to
understand what is meant by the paradigm shift, from teaching to learning. The
rationale for the paradigm shift is based on current awareness that the institution here
had been founded, and was in the past judged, on the quantity of resources and the
provision of instruction rather than the attainment of quality of their students’
learning and success. The proposed model of the learning paradigm aims to provide
a practical and realistic alternative that addresses the needs of learners within an
evolving and changing external community. This necessitates a move away from an
institution that functions as a provider of instruction to one that becomes a centre
for excellence in learning.
Aims
The main aim of this research, therefore, is to support the paradigm shift through
the introduction of creativity to the curriculum design process generally within the
institute, and specifically foster what may be coined ‘the imaginative curriculum’
within module two of the postgraduate certificate in Third Level Learning and
Teaching. It will be important to link the thinking behind the paradigm shift in order
to ultimately develop students’ critical and creative thinking. There has been signifi-
cant work conducted in the area of critical thinking and there is a growing body of
research on the importance of the creative climate in the workplace, but there has
been little venture made to translate creative thinking dimensions into the higher
education classroom. From the existing research base in the psychology of creativity
I have focused on a number of opportunities for the development of an aspect of my
professional practice within a module entitled ‘Designing curricula and assessment
strategies’ on the postgraduate certificate.
First, grow opportunities for thinking and acting creatively to design a curriculum
project for the lecturers to develop within the module. Second, allow lecturers on the
module to experience a social, creative process of educational group work in order
to critique/adopt/replicate these processes with their own students. Third, explore
and play with specific ways of fostering creativity with lecturers on their discipline-
specific courses. Fourth, provide open, free learning spaces for the lecturers to
express their own creative thinking and, whenever possible, provide opportunities for
lecturer choice and discovery. Finally, it is important for the tutors teaching on the
module to be a role model by promoting supportable beliefs about creativity, and
teaching techniques and strategies for creative performance. All these are vital to
Donnelly.fm Page 158 Tuesday, June 1, 2004 10:46 AM

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