The place of play in Higher Education is generating a distinct increase in interest at the moment- having been something of Cinderella to the ball for quite some time. Conference, projects and bids are suddenly emerging, as though the realisation is finally hitting home that play is not a dirty word in higher level study.
Chrissi Nerantzi and I have shared interests in play for a while and are now collaborating to create a global collection of our practices with play in HE. We would love to have proposals from colleagues all over the world and are keen to see how play is being interpreted in the early 21st century. To this end we can share with you our Call for contributions Power of Play in HE, with the first deadline for contributions being April 12th 2016. Please get in touch with us to share your practice!
On the evening of March 19th, 2014, I hosted a lecture for the London College of Fashion Pedagogic Research Hub, introducing Engaging Imagination and discussed my emerging ideas on how I want to take this work forward in future – by examining the differences (however subtle) between creative practice, pedagogies and reflection. (In my early post you can see how I define creative pedagogies here).
You can watch excerpts from the evening in the video below, covering the essence of the book, how we define creativity, imagination and play, and how these emerge through textual and non-written records of reflection. I take our model Polarities of Reflection, which displays some of the tensions and opposites present in curriculum-based reflection and overlay it with thoughts on how these reside within bigger issues of pedagogy and practice. If you feel like having a taste of examples from the book, I also discuss several of these, among them Duck Rabbit, Labyrinths and Lego Serious Play.
You’ll find that in the video I make a number of references to practice, largely because I this talk was aimed at an audience of creative arts students, teachers and practitioners. When I do so I am largely indicating craft, professional and industry practices within art, design and media domains. However in the book itself, we extend our thinking across much broader territories, so this should be taken as an illustration, rather than the whole story. So don’t let mention of practice put you off if it’s not your thing.
One of the catch-22 situations in education seems to be that if you don’t explain your terms and context enough you will be misunderstood, but if you DO and your audience is already way ahead of you, you sound patronising. Having struggled with the negative implications of both of these as I sat down to write (well, type) and having worked out that this is a lose-lose situation I am going to throw caution to the wind and set out our stall. And apologies in advance for using three metaphors in the last sentence and possibly stating the obvious in the next one.
In Engaging Imagination we refer to creativity, imagination and play throughout the text as scaffolding for thinking about creative reflection. Enabling the expression of this kind of reflection is through what we can call creative pedagogies, but such things are not purely about making things or framing content artistically or just about things how you learn and teach in the arts, design and media: they are applicable to the ways we interpret, explore and present things in all our disciplines. They are also about how we can take unusual or different approaches to looking at questions or challenging and supporting students in developing their metacognitive and subject capabilities. They may involve getting to grips with subjects, delivery and encounters in unusual ways instead of using the tried and tested techniques of the past (I just wrote ‘tired’ there – think that was a Freudian slip). So, students who are used to writing reflective self-assessments following a certain of structure may instead use movement, visualisation or any number of multisensory and kinaesthetic techniques to connect to their ideas. Similarly, when we talk about imagination we may mean flights of fancy or fantasy but rather intend harnessing a range of thinking techniques and dispositions to wake up a student’s potential and ability to envision. Having set that down, I’m conscious that it can sound regimented or mechanistic, but actually I mean something subtler, more varied and messier than that. Being deep in reading Guy Claxton’s Hare Brain Tortoise Mind (and probably the last person on the planet to pick up a copy – always late to the party) I do believe that his poetic descriptions of our diverse ways and paces of thinking and knowing do a much better job of evoking what I mean than this post can.
So, here we want to start conversations about what we, as a community of educators, understand to be creative pedagogies and what they look like across the scope and levels of our educational models – formal and informal. Our experiences are rooted in the post post-16 sector and particularly in university education, however we have lessons to learn from teachers in every domain. Along the way we also seek to explore related activities in other fields and movements, such as those of creative research methods and narratives of lifelong learning.