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Assessing creativity in an unhelpful climate
Lewis Elton, University of Manchester
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The increasing audit culture of quality in universities based on simplistic quantitative performance indicators of quality is the enemy of creativity. Hence issues of quality assessment are important, particularly in the face of the traditionalism of university teaching and examining, but in practice quality assessment has had little, if any, effect on this traditionalism. Instead it has led to a shift from unjustified total trust to equally unjustified total lack of trust (ONeill 2002) and a corresponding shift from collegial to top down management (Elton 2005). The latter is now so firmly entrenched in universities that the first step towards the general introduction of a component of creativity into university curricula (isolated examples of creativity can readily be found) may well require an academic revolt (see eg Elton 2006a).
There have been aspects of creativity in the most traditional curricula - even in the sciences - for a long time (e.g. project work, Elton 2003) but really hopeful signs pointing to the introduction of aspects of creativity into whole curricula are in:
* The move from teacher centred to student centred learning (Savin-Baden 2000);
* The expression of this move in the form of problem based and enquiry based curricula (see eg Savin-Baden and Howell Major 2004 and Hutchings and ORourke 2002);
* A move from positivist to interpretivist assessment and, in particular, assessment in general from unseen papers to portfolios (Johnston 2004, Elton 2005, Elton 2006b).
L. Elton (2003), Dissemination of innovations in higher education: a change theory approach, Tertiary Education and Management 9, 199 214.
L. Elton (2005), Could there be a balance between top down and collegial management in universities? 4th Annual Conference on Leadership Research, Lancaster, 12 13. December.
L. Elton (2006a), Some dumb insolence might get their ear, Times Higher 24. March,p.16.
L. Elton (2006b), Designing Assessment for Creativity: Guide for busy academics, Higher Education Academy.
B. Hutchings and K. ORourke (2002), Problem-based Learning in Literary Studies, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 1, pp. 73 83.
B. Johnston (2004), Summative Assessment of Portfolios: an examination of different approaches to agreement over outcomes, Studies in Higher Education 29, pp. 395 414.
O. ONeill (2002), A Question of Trust, BBC Reith Lectures.
M. Savin-Baden (2003), Facilitating Problem-Based Learning, Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press 2003.
M. Savin-Baden and C. Howell Major (2004), Foundations of Problem Based Learning, Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press 2004.