NiTRO + Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

The Imperative of Creative Teaching in Relation to Creative Learning for Artist-Scholars Working in Higher Education

By Professor Pamela Burnard — Why is it an imperative for arts institutions and academies to identify creative teaching in relation to creative learning as a vital way of addressing the politics of higher education? What is it about creative teaching in relation to creative learning that offers new priorities, new narratives, new forms of knowledge, new ways of ‘knowing how to speak' and ‘knowing how to hear' for creative teachers, artists and artist scholars?

I argue that creative learning and teaching is more likely to occur when the rigid divisions between artist and scholar, teacher and student, researcher and practitioner are relaxed, creating an improvisatory space where creative learning communities jointly construct the improvisational flow of higher education classroom, studio, rehearsal and instrumental lessons. How so?

Learning the politics of academic culture in post-secondary publically-funded institutions is a complex business. Students and institutions are co-dependent. Creative arts programmes in higher education institutions are increasingly challenged to improve how students learn to become successful creative artists and navigate student focused approaches. The culture of specialism, a characteristic of music conservatoires particularly, sees performers such as those who specialize in, say, classical music assume superiority over specialized performers of jazz music, pop music, hip hop or folk. The ways students learn to navigate the learning site, as they seek to become professional musicians and performing artists, reflects social navigation practices which may be deemed deviant or compliant to particular cultural brokers. A complex dynamic arrives of institutional expectation, peer influence, social capital and cultural capital, something which presents as a kind of a pecking order of prestigious value, ‘in’ music ‘about’ music, ‘of’ music and ‘through’ its performance. This manifests itself in terms of social positioning within the institution and alignment with social networks and musical hierarchies in contemporary fields.

What arts students come to know, learn to become and do, as artists specifically and performing artists generally, of course, is not clear-cut. Reflecting on what makes for an ‘artist’ working in the creative arts involves commitment to looking anew at things as they are, giving form to the idea that a consistent feature of tradition is that past practices are continually changing, as are values and practices that make, one would hope, radical improvements to the outcomes of any particular arts performance or creative arts project. Reflecting on what makes for ‘creative teaching’ in relation to ‘creative learning’ is only part of the picture for understanding and developing innovative practices in higher education, since teaching for creativity, together with the mutual dependency of learning and teaching, also needs to be acknowledged.

One of the biggest challenges for higher education, particularly in the present climate of radical institutional reform, programme renewal, and changing standards of valuation and review, is in institutional strategic planning and forms of practice that are given social and cultural recognition by conferring degrees. Building academic communities of practice with an ethos of creative teaching in relation to creative learning affords high value to curiosity and risk taking, to ownership, autonomy and making connections.

The untold, unaddressed stories of academics, artists, artist-scholars and artist-researchers, in terms of their identity as bearers of professional expertise within higher education academic cultures, combined with the view of academics as agents of learning and change, contributes to the complex labyrinth of expectations and change demands for academia in the 21st century.

Whether your work identifies you as an artist-scholar, artist-researcher, artist-educator or any combination of these, the characteristics that successful artists working in the higher education sector either have or co-construct in professional learning communities embrace qualities of uncertainty within which learner’s agency is fostered, where risk taking, passion, driving curiosity, range of knowledge(s), critical reflexivities and diverse creativities are nurtured and where awareness of the diverse diversities in the way creative learning manifests is explicitly encouraged. The name that we give an activity or process (such as ‘teaching’) acts as a ‘frame’ for how we put it into practice.

Creative arts educators need to develop new and innovative signature pedagogies which enable diverse forms of creativities to develop. Research evidence highlights the leadership capacity and dual purpose of creative teaching for creative learning which promotes sustainable creative futures. This should be a sound core value at the heart of all creative arts professional learning communities, their programmes, and future agendas of research and practice. It is with this premise that creative teaching for creative learning offers new directions for exploration for artist-scholars and artist-practitioners working in academia.

For more details on what it looks like in theory, practice and research see:

Haddon, L. and Burnard, P. (2016) (Eds) Creative Teaching for Creative Learning in Higher Academic Music Education. Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate.

Burnard, P. and Haddon, L. (2014) (Eds) Activating Diverse Musical Creativities: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. London: Bloomsbury.

Burnard, P. (2013) (Ed) Developing Creativities in Higher Education: International Perspectives and Practices. London: Routledge.

Professor Pamela Burnard is Professor of Arts, Creativities and Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, UK and an alumnus of the University of Melbourne.  She convenes the British Educational Research Association (BERA) Special Interest Group, Creativities in Education, and the biennial international conference, Building Interdisciplinary Bridges Across Cultures and Creativities. She is an international authority on creativities research and has published widely on creative teaching and learning and the expanded conceptualization of diverse creativities across education sectors and creative industries.

More from this issue

More from this issue

By Su Baker, President, Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Creative Arts — In this issue of NiTRO we ask how well are we connecting the academy with artist practice outside the Citadel. How well are we preparing our students and how do we support our colleagues in their core career aspirations, that in most cases will be outside the university and educational context?
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By Arun Sharma — Creative and performing arts disciplines are at an interesting juncture. After decades of concern about lack of funding, and about being sidelined in favour of the STEM disciplines, there may be some positive signals. The question is whether these disciplines are ready for the opportunities emerging from these signals.
By Malcolm Gillies — Sitting on my shelf for the last eighteen years has been a copy of "The Strand Report". Dennis Strand's excellent work was for a project overseen by the Head of the Canberra School of Art, David Williams, and chaired by Peter Karmel, a leading economist and former vice-chancellor of the ANU. It was the first coordinated attempt to bring together the full range of visual and performing artists to address how they might better fit in with the developing research expectations of the National Unified System.
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By Associate Professor Vanessa Tomlinson — The second Australia Percussion Gathering, directed by Associate Professor Vanessa Tomlinson alongside advisors Tom O'Kelly, Dr. Louise Devenish and Francois Combemorel was held at Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University in July 2016. Sitting somewhere between a music festival, a conference and a music camp, the six day event brought together industry professionals, international guests, and an impressive 96% of all students studying percussion in tertiary institutions in Australia.
by Ian Haig — The status of the Avant grade has now been systematized into what Dave Hickey calls the ‘therapeutic institution' – a self-propagating structure of academics, curators, critics and artists proclaiming arts goodness for the world.
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By Dr Linda Ludwig — The Symposium at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel – introduced by Carla Delfos from the European League of the Institutes of the Arts – brought together methodological reflections on research in the arts with recent activities from researchers in the field. It was goal of the Symposium to discuss how art and design generates knowledge that is of relevance to society.