• Creativity or Conformity? Building Cultures of Creativity in Higher Education
      A conference organised by the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff in collaboration with the Higher Education Academy
      Cardiff January 8-10 2007
    • Unlearning How to Teach

      Erica McWilliam
    • arguing the need for a more interventionist role for academic teachers and a greater emphasis on an experimental culture of learning, rather than a culture in which curriculum and pedagogy is fully ‘locked in’ in advance of engagement. The challenge for academic teachers is to promote and support a culture of teaching and learning that parallels a post-millennial social world in which supply and demand is neither linear nor stable, and in which labour is shaped by complex patterns of anticipations, opportunities, time and space.
    • To develop the sorts of learning dispositions that are appropriate in such contexts, academic educators will need to spend less time explaining through instruction and more time in experimental and error-welcoming modes of engagement. If higher education is to play a key role in capacity building for graduates’  professional workforce futures, then a pedagogy of induction into disciplinary knowledge needs radical reworking into a pedagogy in which teachers and students work as co-creators and co-assemblers (and dissemblers) of trans-disciplinary knowledge applications for digital work futures.     
    • unlearning’ will be as important to social success in the 21st millennium as learning has been in the 20th millennium, then the habit of ‘lifelong learning’ will need radical re-thinking in terms of the nature and purposes of pedagogical work. Put simply, we will need to see a further shift from sage-on-the-stage and guide-on-the-side to meddler-in-the-middle (McWilliam, 2005).
    • The challenge for academic teachers is to promote and support a culture of teaching and learning that parallels a post-millennial social world in which supply and demand is neither linear nor stable, in which labour is shaped by complex patterns of anticipations, opportunities, time and space, and in which new combinations of ‘creative’ skills and abilities are increasingly in demand. It also takes up the challenge posed by Pat Kane (2005), that of getting universities and other learning organisations to become more serious about play. 
    • University graduates, as potential future ‘creatives’ (Cunningham, 2005, 2006; Florida, 2002; Florida & Goodnight, 2005: Pink 2005), will be performing work that is much less focused on routine information-seeking, executing transactions and routine problem-solving and much more focused on forging relationships, tackling novel challenges and synthesising ‘big picture’ scenarios. The challenge of the “Conceptual Age”, as Daniel Pink (2005) describes it, is not just the ability to work in high technology environments, but to utilise “high concept/high touch” abilities to make and re-make our personal and professional environments in ways that serve both functional and aesthetic needs simultaneously.
    • the de-routinisation of present and future creative work has profound implications for what university teachers do and how they do it. Yet there is little evidence that the nature and purposes of teaching and learning have changed in any substantive way in recent times. Mainstream pedagogical practice within the academy very much parallels a work culture focused on accessing information and using it to solve relatively predictable problems or complete routinised transactions of one kind or another. Lectures allow students to ‘access’ the wisdom of ‘the best’; tutorials allow students support as they seek to ‘master’ the knowledge of the ‘master’; assessment tasks focus on how well the young apprentice has been able to perform ‘knowing’ the discipline.
    • “an English speaking thirteen year old in Zaire with internet connection can find out the current temperature in Brussels, or closing price of IBM stock or name of Winston Churchill’s second finance minister as quickly as the head librarian in Cambridge university” (pp.100-101).
    • young people increasingly experience formal learning and work in parallel
    • engage with the challenges of the less predictable, less routinised work made possible in the “Conceptual Age”, higher educational policy has certainly been saturated with calls for more innovation and/or creativity within the sector.
    • The collapse of calls to innovation is evident in the framing of what is sanctioned as evidence of literacy, numeracy, citizenship and employability skills. The evidence is overwhelmingly drawn from standardised test results (see Corson, 2002). In broad terms, the funders of education, both government and non-government, have come to fix almost exclusively on performance data that can be standardised in order to allow for intra-national and international comparisons. In a performative culture that makes it possible, in theory, to quantify the value of higher education on a national and even global scale, winners can be highly visible and valued, however that calculation is arrived at.
    • The capacity to learn and reproduce appropriate social behaviours, he argues, is no longer the key to success. Instead of opening up possibilities, such learning may actually be unhelpful because it assumes a fixed or predictable social world. Bauman elaborates:

        Just as long-term commitments threaten to mortgage the future, habits too tightly embraced burden the present; learning may in the long run disempower as it empowers in the short…. ‘Your skills and know-how are as good as their last application’. (p.22)     
    • To develop the sorts of learning dispositions that are appropriate in such contexts, academic educators will need to spend less time explaining through instruction and more time in experimental and error-welcoming modes of engagement.
    • This is supported by findings from neuro-science about the way in which the brain is ‘changed’ (see Zull, 2004) through hands on, minds on experimentation and how it is not changed by instruction-led pedagogy.
    • a pedagogy of induction into disciplinary knowledge needs radical reworking into a pedagogy in which teachers and students work as co-creators and co-assemblers (and dissemblers) of trans-disciplinary knowledge applications for digital work futures.     
    • Put simply, we will need to see a further shift from sage-on-the-stage and guide-on-the-side to meddler-in-the-middle (McWilliam, 2005).
    • “What holds people back from taking risks”, he asserts, “is often as not …their knowledge, not their ignorance” (p.4). Useful ignorance, then, becomes a space of pedagogical possibility rather than a base that needs to be covered. ‘Not knowing’ needs to be put to work without shame or bluster. This sort of thinking is echoed in Guy Claxon’s (2004) call for a pedagogy for “knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do” (p.?) .
    • value creation
    • shifts thinking from consumers to co-creators of value, and from value chain to network.
    • As co-creators, both would add value to the capacity building work being done through the invitation to ‘meddle’ and to make errors. The teacher is in there experimenting and learning from the instructive complications of her errors alongside her students, rather than moving from desk to desk or chat room to chat room, watching over her flock.
    • if we consider the student’s learning network as a type of value network, then, we must also accept that such a network allows quick disconnection from nodes where value is not added, and quick connections with new nodes that promise added value – networks allow individuals to ‘go round’ or elude a point of exchange where supply chains do not. In blunt terms, this means that the teacher who does not add value to a learning network can – and will – be by-passed.
    • The rhizomatic capacity of networks to flow around a point in a chain means that teachers may be located in a linear supply chain of pedagogical services but excluded from their students’ learning networks. That would be an effect of being perceived by students to be doing things that do not add value. And digital technologies can and are being used both to identify value-blocks and options for getting around them. Once again, this is not a just matter of how much take-up of technology is evident in the pedagogical work (Sassen, 2004), but whether or not pedagogical processes bring student and teacher together in their shared ignorance and mutual desire to make something new of their world.  
    • If the rethinking of pedagogy as co-creation of value re-positions teacher and student (or one student with other students) as project partners, as co-directors and co-editors of their social world, who then is the rightful assessor of the value of that cultural assemblage? What does it mean to make judgements to credential individuals on the basis of the quality of the co-creation? What new dilemmas does this set up around ‘objectivity’ and assessment?
    • “[t]he opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression’ (Sutton-Smith, cited in Pink, 2005: 179)



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