Gina Wisker

  • Nurturing and harnessing creativity in undergraduate and postgraduate study.

    Gina Wisker, University of Brighton, UK

    Gill Robinson, Anglia Ruskin University, UK

    Session 4c, Tuesday 16.00

    Research seminar

    Themes addressed:

    • Teaching methods
    • Course and programme design
    • Supporting learners

    “The creative individual is a fulfilled one; and one whose life is characterised by ‘agency’ – the capacity to take control and make something of it.” (Craft, 2003)

    This research-based seminar explores work in progress which uses experience and a research evidence base to consider ways in which we nurture and harness creativity among undergraduate and postgraduate students. In so doing, it considers the use of strategies to encourage creativity with:

    student teachers learning to teach art

    literature and creative writing students

    women’s studies students

    postgraduates engaged in MA and PhD research

    And so focuses on examples from three disciplinary contexts:

    • Art – the use of sketchbooks,
    • Literature and creative writing – drafts of creative and reflective writing.
    • Women’s studies – creative assessments.

    We will discuss and share good practice, considering the role played by

    the curriculum – learning teaching and assessment practices

    the tutor

    the individual student

    the supportive peer group

    Background and introduction

    In today’s fast moving, overloaded, knowledge economies, it is more important than ever before to recognise, encourage, harness and reward creativity. Creativity – commonly associated with the humanities, the arts and the sciences – is in danger of being lost if we concentrate merely on reproduction of established knowledge and formulae, on conformity and familiar practice. Instead, we need to encourage the release of imaginative new ideas and new metaphorical ways of thinking, identifying problems, issues and needs, and the innovations or reconceptualisations which could help solve the problems further and ensure benefit from the innovations.

    Without creativity there can be no movement forward in thought and action. Without imagination first left to roam then gradually harnessed and focused on issues, needs, problems and developments, developmental action then reflected upon and shared, all we can hope to do is repeat our old answers and our old mistakes. Without creative alternative thinking, we would not have had the wealth of strategies and products on which we now depend.

    We all have potential to be creative, in a variety of ways, in a variety of contexts. For our students, their learning, teaching, assessment and curriculum structures and activities can suppress it or nurture, harness and reward it. Creativity in students’ learning is considered to be undervalued, not recognised (Jackson 2003). ‘Successful intelligence depends on effectively exploring a combination of analytical, practical and creative abilities’ (Sternberg 1996). Organic approaches encourage independent creativity in individuals (Finke et al, 1992); psychoanalytical theories consider creativity to be the result of previous mental activity (Rigg, 1996); psychometrics identify creativity among general thinking and behaviour processes, and sociological and theoretical thinking is concerned with the results of the environment on creativity (Amabile and Simonton in Finke, 1992).

    Using theorised and practical ideas from the creativity agenda (Jackson, 2003 ) and examples from art and literature, creative writing and women’s studies in practice, this research- and practice-based seminar considers curriculum structures and learning, teaching and assessment practices which enable creativity and release energies, leading towards lateral, flexible thinking enabled by the use of imagination, metaphors, images and representations.

    Specifically we ask whether and how the strategies used by art sketchbooks and literature/creative writing drafts – among other strategies which enable and release creativity – can be transferable to a diversity of other subject areas and contexts as models.

    In this way the seminar invites colleagues to consider strategies to encourage and to assess creativity, in their own disciplines and contexts.

    “Creativity is an emotional, human ability and necessity. Without it, both society and the individual wither away.” (Craft, 2003)


    • Amabile T and Simonton DK (1992) in RA Finke et al (Eds) Creative Cognition: Theory, Research and Applications, London: The MIT Press.
    • Craft A (2003) ‘The Limits to Creativity in Education: Dilemmas for the Educator’, British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol 51, 2, June 2003, p113-127.
    • Finke RA, Ward TB, Smith SM (1992) Creative Cognition: Theory, Research and Applications, London: The MIT Press.
    • Jackson N (2003) ‘Imaginative Curriculum Nurturing Creativity Project’, Learning and Teaching Support Network, Generic Centre, p2.
    • National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCCE), Department for Education and Employment (DFEE), All our Futures, Creativity, Culture and Education (1999), p29.
    • Rigg K (1996) in RT Clemen (Ed) Making Hard Decisions: An Introduction to Decision Analysis, Pacific Grove, California: Duxbury Press.
    • Sternberg RJ and Lubart T (1992) in RA Finke et al (Eds) Creative Cognition: Theory, Research and Applications, London: The MIT Press.
    • Sternberg RJ (1996) Successful Intelligence. New York: Plume.