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Educational Excellence and Creativity: the undergraduate curriculum

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The new landmark Central St. Martins building at Kings Cross

When City University set up the multidisciplinary centre for creativity, there was an idea that all UG degrees would include creativity in the first year curriculum. This did not really progress, and I have been reflecting on why. My thoughts on this were stimulated by participating in a recent conference Creativity and Business Presented by The Culture Capital Exchange and The British Library, with a reception at the new landmark Central St Martin’s building at Kings Cross.
This brought together a very wide range of disciplines. I could relate strongly to the Central School of Speech and Drama’s  speaker Geoffrey Colman talking about conservatoire, about the frustration of agents wanting the next soap stars versus the school needing to develop actors for life. This resonated for me on a personal as well as professional level, as an alumni of Central School, where I took my second degree, as an actor. My experience then of the conservatoire approach which developed the students’ existing talents yet embedded an approach to learning that would serve them  life long, has greatly influenced my career both in theatre and subsequently in business, and as a teacher.

To take this a little further, in the acting profession few become stars, and many of those who do, can burn brightly for a short time before dying out.  But the formative learning I experienced enabled me to develop a career that went on growing and adapting to change, something I believe all our students will need for their future professional life.

There are in my opinion vital and common ideas that inform curriculum design across all schools and disciplines at City:

imaginative

critical

persuasive communication

visual awareness

perceptive

reflective

City has expertise in all these areas which other schools could learn from. Just a few examples are creative writing in Arts, visualisation in Informatics, persuasive communication in Law, reflective practice in Health Sciences. There were many examples of these in the Arts and Social Sciences Fete and in other learning events open to the whole university such as the forthcoming Cass Assessment and Feedback Showcase on May 22nd. These provide quick and effective ways of connecting with expertise in other schools.

Possibly a lesson to be learned from the “failure” of embedding creativity into all the first year UG curricula, is that creativity means different things in different disciplines. Far from being an obstacle this lesson is a way forwards for exploring both shared areas, and potential cross disciplinary ideas towards a common curriculum for first year Undergraduates. To begin that process we need to consider and share what creativity in education means in each school and discipline. In this way we can identify and develop a core UG. curriculum, across schools, that is fundamental in producing “a transformational and supportive learning experience that will provide them with a secure foundation for their careers.”  City University Strategic Plan 2012

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