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Use of Creative Space in Enhancing Students’ Engagement

Maja Jankowska-Kolasa

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This paper explores the effect teaching in a ‘creative space’ has on students’ engagement with the learning process, their motivation to explore, experience and discover (i.e. to be creative), and on them becoming more active, autonomous learners. The presentation will examine the notion of creative space, how it has been made a reality as part of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the University of Bedfordshire, how it differs from teaching and learning in a typical classroom environment and the impact it has on students and staff.
     Socio-economical changes affecting Higher Education are having a considerable impact on the nature of the curriculum and the way in which teaching is carried out. The student body is becoming increasingly diverse and a greater premium is being attached to the development of so called higher order skills such as creativity. This is being further affected by an increase in the use of advanced technology. Furthermore, our greater understanding of the teaching-learning relationship with the lecturer’s role becoming increasingly one of a facilitator of the learning process also increases interest in exploring innovative and stimulating practices to meet the needs of diverse groups of students.
     Staff, students, technology and the curriculum come together in the physical environment and the way in which it is configured (see, for example, ‘Spaces for Learning’ – a research report prepared for the Scottish Funding Council’¹). A literature review indicates that the physical environment is one of the important aspects of learning, especially in learning by doing, creativity problem solving and reflective practice. Creative space can give a sense of surprise and challenge, and the switch from ‘ordinary’ teaching may influence students’ attention, motivation to learn and their way of thinking. It also supports the notion of playfulness and fun as essential factors in innovative and creative thinking (De Bono, 1986)². Offering both advanced technology and a place with its own unique atmosphere, a creative space can be an environment which invites social interactions, enhances group work and stimulates the free flow of thoughts (especially with the use of specialist brainstorming software such as FacilitatePro which allows complete anonymity).
     It is not an easy task to measure the effectiveness of any learning space as there are many variables: teacher style, learning techniques, the method of delivery, etc. This presentation will report on the initial findings of using such a space in a variety of subjects in an attempt to make a difference to students’ learning and their creative capacity.

1. Alexi Marmot Associates (2005). Spaces for learning – Research report prepared for the Scottish Funding Council
2. De Bono, E. (1986). Six thinking Hats. Harmondsworth : Penguin

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