Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What is creativity, again?

Did a workshop at another event exploring creativity and innovation last week, at the Creativity Centre (part of the CETLD-C University of Sussex and Brighton collaboration) . Organised by the University of Brighton's Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) it brought together for sharing and debate some projects around creativity going at the university.

The day was introduced through a talk by Ray Land who, together with Eric Meyer, has written on 'threshold concepts' and 'troublesome knowledge' as a way of grasping and interrogating the complex processes through which students 'get' the key ideas and practices of their subject discipline - and the 'liminality' of learning spaces this implies.

He talked a lot about the relationships between learning and creativity, both of which he articulated as liminal spaces. However - sometimes - creativity seemed to be being defined within the popular commonsense as something outside of everyday learning, as a letting go/anything is possible/do what you want kind of activity. He often linked it to chaos and to transgressive acts "where normal rules are abandoned".

For me, this is a misunderstanding of creativity - as something separate to and more uncontrollable than, 'normal' learning. As we tried to show in the ADM-HEA YouTube video (mentioned in my last post which was appropriated (!) pretty directly from Fischli and Weiss's Der Lauf Der Dinge/The Ways Things Go) - the best creativity integrates the asking of unexpected questions with rigorous processes of experimentation and testing. It is not 'outside' or a different kind of learning, but central to how all learning takes place.

But I agree with Ray Land absolutely that such processes are anxiety-inducing and complex - liminal spaces - which need to be both protective ('holding environments' in Winnicott's phrase) and enable risk-taking. The work he and Eric Meyer (and others) have done in this field - particularly Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding - remains a very valuable resource in helping us re-think learning spaces.

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