McIntosh P and Warren D (2013) Creativity in the Classroom, Bristol: Intellect
ISBN 978 1 84150 516 9
The book consists of five parts, covering a range of teaching methods from several creative arts subject areas, including drama, film, music, poetry, photography, fine arts. What is unique is that the teaching techniques described, and analysed relate to teaching and learning in very different subject areas, such as medicine, health related programmes, teacher education, social work, and Business Studies. What is fascinating is that the case studies do reveal the real value of the teaching and learning activities in terms of how they help students to understand themselves, their values and beliefs, which they then feel able to apply in their ‘professional’ worlds. An examination of the self, affective factors which assist in human interactions, the release of creative talents and learning through discovery are all elements of higher Education level pedagogies that are essential to students.
The writers of seventeen chapters do manage to escape the trap of self-indulgence, which is so often the case when reading a series of case studies. The illustrative examples of successful teaching and learning are analysed, and the reader is able to identify some key principles which underpin, as opposed to simply spotting some descriptive features, of teaching. The text really shows how learning can be enhanced and personalised, and provide learners with tangible outcomes of which they are very proud. Sensitive issues can be addressed, and reflections on the artistic outcomes promotes meta-learning, which in turn, it is claimed, enhances learning – both the ‘what and the ‘how’.
Although in combination the chapters provide great ideas for teachers to enliven their sessions and modules, the aim of the text is more to transform teaching and to close the gap in terms of approaches between creative arts subjects, humanities and scientific study. By aiming to close the gap between academic learning and professional application the writers have shown how an imaginative approach has real, practical and lasting value.
Across the board, a key to success is the implementation of creative arts strategies across the curriculum as a means of promoting creativity, and the writers’ ideas are dependent upon reflective learning. The chapters on developing learning journals and ‘The labyrinth: A journey of discovery’ appear more as a means of reinforcing learning than actually generating knowledge, self-awareness and understanding. In this way they are useful adjuncts.
The recommendation would not be for all university staff to read every chapter, but for chapters to be used to stimulate ideas for different groups at different times. The approach of analysing rather than just describing is to be highly recommended. However this is not overt, and a University CPD leader may wish to extract a conceptual framework to enable the reading of this text to be used to enhance and enliven learning in a structured and useful way.
Professor Kit Field
University of Wolverhampton