Creativity : a higher order capability : investigating how creativity is made teachable in design education

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Creativity: A Higher Order Capability is a qualitative inquiry that marshals various interpretive strategies to address the problem of 'how' creativity is made teachable in design education. Theoretically, the themes of creativity, design and design education are contextualised and interrelated using selected historical and philosophical approaches. Of most relevance in building a more holistic appreciation of creativity, than that previously offered in the psychological research for example, are certain philosophical insights expounded in differing phenomenological traditions. In particular, theoretical insights into the experiential nature of creativity are drawn from an interpretation of 'being' offered by Martin Heidegger, coupled with a richly physical and sensate analysis of 'embodiment' proffered by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the socially constructed 'intersubjectivity' provided by Alfred Schutz. This research explores creativity in terms of higher order capability by focusing attention onto the role of qualitative human attitudes, values and beliefs, which contribute the indispensable emotive underpinning needed for individuals to acquire meaningfully enacted design knowledge, skills and processes through specialised educational practices. Other, more narrowly defined, scientific views of creativity are also canvassed, especially in relation to cognitive psychology and neuroanatomy. Pertinent avenues of educational theory are examined in relation to creative teaching practice. Most notably this includes Lev Semenovich Vygotsky's 'cycle of imagination', the culturally pragmatic perspectives of John Dewey, the principles of 'reflective practice' advocated by Donald Schon and the socially situated learning in 'communities of practice' articulated by Etienne Wenger among others. It must be acknowledged that much relevant literature dates from the modernist era. This calls for close reading and critical review. Therefore a broadly postmodem perspective has proved useful in tempering and reconciling the researcher's own presuppositions with overly deterministic or contradictory assertions and recurrent reductionist tendencies in the literature. This also helps, when discussing creativity in terms of education, to expose many biased, limited and unhelpful assumptions that persist in confounding and inhibiting serious pedagogical engagement with creativity as an overt focus of teaching and learning. A more expansive understanding of creativity has been synthesised from differing historical and theoretical analyses of creativity. These have been compared with the implicit understandings of practising designers. Recent attitudinal data was obtained using a qualitative questionnaire circulated through the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) asking practitioners for opinions on the nature and relevance of creativity in design practice and design education in Australia. The present study has seven chapters comprising an Introduction, followed by discussion of Design Context; Design Education; Understanding Creativity; Creativity, Philosophy and Education; Targeting Creativity in Design Education and a brief Conclusion. This draws together a weight of evidence from disparate sources to support the proposition that creativity is not a rare, indeterminate, unitary or linear consideration. Rather, it is asserted that creativity is best understood holistically as a fully physical, emotional and cognitive, as well as iterative and generative, human capability of a high order that is potentially shared by all design teachers and learners working within overlapping communities of practice. The cultivation of creative confidence in heart, body and mind through targeted teaching strategies requires development of multidimensional, highly interactive and participatory educational approaches. It is argued that such pedagogical approaches must begin with an awareness of the characteristically adaptive and fluid nature of creativity in response to change and the particularities of content, opportunities and circumstances governing each and every application. Teaching strategies may then be developed to prompt and sustain affective engagement with what it means and feels like to 'be' intentionally creative in a given field. This investigation argues that this can most readily be achieved when teachers and learners engage proactively with 'potentialities' via the production of future-oriented modes of learning. Creative modes of learning deal not so much with 'what is' but with 'what-might-be' using rhetorical questions such as 'What if?' and 'Why not?'. Open-ended strategies like this operationalise creativity in education to stimulate curiosity and exploration, and guide praxis in design or indeed in any other field of endeavour where creativity is considered advantageous.
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