Case study: Learning Programmes – Understanding Your Practice

The Creative Partners in Learning programme was designed to train artists to work in schools as part of the government’s ‘Creative Partnerships’ scheme. This commission focused on up-skilling a workforce – who were already familiar with, and experienced in, educational settings – to work in a very specific way.  Although clearly developmental for the participants, its ultimate goal was to shape this workforce who – through their knowledge, expertise and skill – would be instrumental in bringing about change in schools, and in teachers’ classroom practice.

We began the programme by focusing on developing artists’ understanding of their own practice. This sounds simple but for many it is hard to separate ‘what we do’ from ‘who we are’.

One of our skills is being able to create a distance between the individual and their practice – whether an artist or business leader – to gain a perspective on, analyse and articulate what it is they do.

Providing engaging exercises that gave artists this distance, allowed them to discover the creative behaviours they employ:  identifying and solving problems; risk taking; new ideas generation and exploration; and reflection.

For many artists these creative behaviours remain at an unconscious level, an unarticulated part of their practice. However, in order for schools to adopt those creative behaviours – so vital to young people in the 21st Century – there must be a sharing of understanding, arrived at through a shared language.

Artists, teachers and pupils not only need to be engaged in creative work they must be able to see it, say it and make it for themselves:

“Providing a common language that enables learners to recognise, take responsibility for, and articulate the learning process can have a big impact on engagement, for both teachers and pupils. “ Eva Bennett, Artist

A key element of the programme was encouraging artists to work in a different way.  In order to do this we provided them with a ‘frame’ through which to view their practice:  Enquiry Questions (EQs).

EQs are the questions that remain when all the other questions are stripped away. Here is one participant’s reflection on their value:

“Once I began working with enquiry questions I found a deepening and expansion of my educational practice. It provides a focus for the work from which everything else can grow.” Pyn Stockman, Artist

Judging the success of such a programme, where the workforce is self-employed, and conventional means of monitoring and measurement are not available is not an easy task.

One measurement is to see, some time later, how many individuals are still working in the field – and how they are working. The above quotes were not taken during the programme that ran in 2008 and 2009, but four years later, from artists still being engaged by schools to transform their teaching and learning.

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