Post 6 of 30
While I am picking up literature again and exploring more recent developments in creativity in higher education, for the purpose of this writing challenge I am going back to the roots and take it from there. The concept of creative learning and teaching I have translated into HE over the last years is that developed by Jeffrey and Woods (2009). I have written about this before, so just a brief summary the elements of creative learning and teaching the authors define are relevance, ownership, control and innovation.
To me the most fundamental aspect within a teaching situation is relevance—or real life context if you want. When I taught on our postgraduate certificate I asked the colleagues if they had ever been asked: ‘Why are we doing that?’ there is usually laughter. While in a secondary classroom the lack of relevance might lead to behavioural issues, in higher education it might ‘simply’* lead to disengagement.
Last semester, when teaching on a course called Student Engagement, I asked the participants why they choose this particular course. They were honest. Seriously, I need to stop building trust, they were really, really honest. I mean it’s a good thing my course fit into their timetable right? We can surely find something in Jungian writing about synchronicity telling us why this was a really positive reason. Other arguments reminded me of East-German school sport sessions. The balance beam really was the lesser of all evils and even fun. I mean, in the end I managed to do the splits on it and even cartwheels.
Rise above it, sunshine! Rise above!
Just kidding. We all know the realities of our roles, and I very much like the meta-level. Sometimes the friction this causes, bruises my ego. Och well, so far the ego as survived and is still going strong. And a meaningful learning experience (both mine and the learners’) is worthwhile a bit of pain. The participants’ honesty enabled me to create relevance. Because when we (as emerging academics) undertake this certificate we go back to being students. And boy did I become a student! I think when I undertook this qualification I skipped undergraduate and went straight back to stroppy highschooler. Anyway, I was able to turn their responses around, initiating a reflection on why they thought their students chose the courses the participants were teaching: and here I was glad about the trust again.
Hail to the meta-level
Creating this relevance to their experience as students in this situation, enabled a really engaged in depth discussion about student motivation and engagement. Connecting the content of the session with the participants’ own experience of being a student again and then making a link to the perspectives of their own students created context relevance to this part of our session. This is a fairly unexciting example of how relevance can work, and make a learning situation more meaningful to the learners.
Now imagine the power of relevance in more complex situations!
*We can debate semantics later
PS: The quoted text is the unseen commentator