• Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice - 10 Years on

    Title: Variation in the experience of teaching creative practices: the community of practice dimension

    Author(s): Linda Drew and Christina Williams
    Institution(s): University of Brighton UK
    Session: Research Paper  

    This paper explores conceptions of teaching held by academics in departments of art, design and communication and explores links between those conceptions and the communities of practice associated with the subject context.

    Ten years ago much of the work which has examined teachers' conceptions built on research frameworks that also explored students conceptions and approaches to learning. Studies of conceptions of teaching have ranged from the phenomenographic (e.g. Martin and Balla 1991; Prosser et al 1994) to those studies of belief orientations (e.g. Fox 1983; Kember 1997).

    There is also a significant literature which embraces the sociocultural perspective on practice, particularly emphasising learning to practice in various settings. Learning to practice, whether in workplace or simulated settings is seen as a move towards full participation in a community of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991; Lave 1993). These views emphasise social practice as a premise for learning and that 'knowing in practice' arises from participation in that social practice (Billett 1998). The community of practice has been further conceived as constituting smaller units or activity systems (Engeström 1987) which engage in practice through expansive learning, learning by extension and diversification of activity.

    This paper explores the qualitatively different ways that teachers of creative practices experience their teaching. The study focuses on teachers of practice based subjects in art, design or communication eg

    • Fine Art/Studio teachers: painting, sculpture, etc.
    • Design/Workshop teachers: fashion, textiles, graphics, etc.
    • Media and technology teachers: film, video, photography, multimedia, etc.

    The interviews were focussed on one particular aspect of their teaching e.g. a specific course, module, unit or project which is practice based (ie with an aim for the students to learn a practice).

    The data is from an interview study of 44 teachers from eight UK Universities and is explored with a phenomenographic approach. The analysis was grouped into three discrete sub-disciplines, fine art (11), design (18) and media (15), through which variation in the practice dimensions could also be discerned. The paper adopts a second-order perspective the experience of teaching a practice based subject in art, design and communication departments.

    This paper reports variation between the qualitatively different ways the teachers conceive of teaching in each of the sub-disciplines. The important feature of this analysis is the community of practice dimension, in particular how teaching is perceived as contributing to engaging with the social practices which constitute the particular creative practice.

    The community of practice dimension is further explored in relation to how teachers may enhance the experience of learning and the learning environment by developing strategies which address the application of knowledge in practice based settings as well as their activity systems.

    Billett, S. (1998) Situation, social systems and learning. Journal of Education and Work, 11 (3), 255-274

    Engeström, Y. (1987) Learning by Expanding. Helsinki.

    Lave, J. (1993) The practice of learning, in: S. Chaiklin & J. Lave (Eds) Understanding Practice, pp. 3-32. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Lave, J & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.