Current Exploration on Creative and Transformative Education

I have been engaged in a collaborative exploration on “creative and transformative education” run by Peter Taylor who directs the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston.  My thinking related to creative and transformative education is still in a very unsettle space.      Below are the threads I’m starting to considered based on the three goals of the case.

a) expose a variety of possibly competing views of “Creative,” “Transformative,” and their combination;

I began here by searching for “transformative research” since any doctoral program would need to make the case on what new knowledge and research would it be preparing its students for.  The National Science Foundation put out a report in 2007 ( calling for the NSF to fund and support more “transformative reserach”.  In the context of the report concepts of “risk,” “innovation,” and increasing openness to paradigm shifts.  The NSF defines “transformative resaerch” as:

research driven by ideas that have the  potential to radically change our understanding of an important existing scientific or engineering  concept or leading to the creation of a new paradigm or field of science or engineering. Such  research is also characterized by its challenge to current understanding or its pathway to new  frontiers.

In particular the report looks at the resistance to change that comes from long standing institutional and cultural practices in the field of scientific research.:

Experts in the areas being challenged (many of whom may sit on  review panels) may dismiss such ideas by pronouncing the research overreaching or without basis. Consequently, such ideas can remain hidden or discouraged and their breakthrough discoveries delayed or even missed. (p. 4)

I was also able to locate a call for transformative research in the social sciences ( put out by the Economic and Social Research Council which is the largest funding agent in the UK for research in the economic and social issue arena.  Issued for the 2012-2013 funding cycle, it is a relatively new push with a focus on “innovation” and “risk” as well.

 We regard transformative research as that which involves pioneering theoretical and  methodological innovation. The expectation is that the transformative research call will  encourage novel developments of social science inquiry, and support research activity that  attracts an element of risk.( p.1)

Some of the possible characteristics of transformative research according to this call include (p. 2):

  • results that will radically change accepted thinking in the social sciences
  • research that may be high risk but with the possibility of high reward
  • research that is carried out with the expectation that it will produce a broad base of
  • knowledge and new thinking/insights

The next line of inquiry in this area would be to look at concepts of “creative research” and transformative research in the context of the educational field.

b) draw employment possibilities from their own location in the world;

Thinking on who might be the potential audiences for a doctoral program in creative and transformational learning it occurs to me that these might be possible candidates: 

  • Those working in fluid and changing contexts
  • Organizational leaders with diverse staff and customers / constituents
  • Those at the intersection of sectors, fields or disciplines
  • Individuals responsible for managing complex problems with diverse stakeholders
  • Those in transnational / global environments
  • Those seeking new ways to research and explore areas in new ways

I was then thinking about programs that are out there and have “non-traditional” or alternative concepts of graduate education with the idea that they might trigger ideas for promotion and language.  The European Graduate School’s Expressive Arts PhD  and Goddard’s MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts were two examples I was starting to explore along this thread.

The next step in this line of inquiry is find some additional examples and try to synthesize their approaches.

c) do blue-sky thinking about what kind of mid-career or mid-life creative and transformative education that would attract their personal interest

Thinking about the kind of program I would attract me, I jotted down these elements.

  • A program that would ideally attract an extremely diverse set of students with varied experiences, research interests, and personal backgrounds
  • Provides many, many opportunities for these students to interact and learn from one another — a learning community — Peter Taylor has been exploring the idea of a studio and in a previous collaborative exploration Marius Foley talked about elements of a co-constructive design environment. here Peter’s Studio idea,  Marius’s criteria above
  • Demonstration or mastery would take multiple forms an not just a written thesus (need to find examples)
  • A small set of required core courses that focus on inquiry, research, engagement etc — similar to 3 core research and engagement courses in CCT program — 1 initial course designed to allow students to identify their core interests and begin a learning map of additional courses that will meet their goals.
  • How can you design a program that seeks creativity and transformation without being too prescriptive?

I am going to continue thinking on what I would desire. I also started an inquiry in the term “doctorate”

  • The term doctorate comes from the Latin docere, meaning “to teach.”
  • At the university, doctoral training was a form of apprenticeship to a guild.


I’ve also collected these resources to follow up on mostly prompted by Dan’s paper on practice-based research.

  • Hanson, Phil and Baron Bruce 2009. Research-Based Practice: Situating Vertical City between Artistic Development and Applied Cognitive Science.  TDR/The Drama Review, Winter 2009, Vol. 53, No. 4 , Pages 120-136 (doi: 10.1162/dram.2009.53.4.120)
  • Leary, Mark R. 2001. Introduction to Behavioral Research Methodology. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • PARIP. n.d. Practice as Research in Performance. University of Bristol, (5 September 2008).

  • Art & Research –

Borgdorff‘s vision of artistic research

Embedded in artistic and academic contexts, artistic research seeks to convey and communicate content that is enclosed in aesthetic experiences, enacted in creative practices and embodied in artistic products.


Quick & Dirty Qualitative Analysis

So I’ve been thinking on ways in which nonprofit organizations might be able to take lots of text from reflections, surveys, testimonials, and other such word heavy data and quickly code the data for analysis.  Over the last six months, the 119 Gallery ( has been conducting a survey ( on impacts members of its creative community have experienced from the gallery.

I took all of the text from the 44 responses and pasted that text into Wordle ( which is a free tool to create word clouds.  The only word I deleted from the text was “gallery” since it is used often in reference to the name of the space.  Here is the resulting Wordle:

So initially, I would say that this display of text data is a good first step to assessing raw word count content.  In reading the responses it was clear that the sense of community was clearly present and given that the organization is an arts organization it is therefore not surprising that the 119 emerges as a “community art” space.

People, artists and Walter (one of the founders) emerge as other prominent words.   The what of the space — work, shows, events, music are not surprising.  The ideas of support, appreciation, welcoming are joined by open, creative, opportunity and unique which are in my opinion essential qualities of the organization.  Other interesting words that emerge are things like sense, felt, believe, feel and experience.

What the quick and dirty doesn’t provide is more nuance and context to the words.  Thus a traditional coding process can get at deeper meaning.  But this initial test seems promising.

Action Research

I’m assisting with Peter Taylor’s class “Action Research for Educational, Professional and Personal Change”.  In considering the “Cycles and Epicycles” framework, it occurs to me I have been most familiar with the concept of participatory action research which I see now is a type of action research (no duh).  I had thought of action research being linked to working with those in the field or with those who normally would be seen as “objects” of research.  I can see in this definition that the “process” focus of focusing on a concrete problem or situation that is then constantly evaluated.  I can also see where this links to other forms of qualitative research where the researcher is part of the process of defining the question and iteratively feeding back into.  This seems to be a more natural way of coming to knowledge to me.  The idea of exploring something, finding something out, testing it, going back, modifying, and slowly “tweaking” the research as new knowledge comes to the table.  I see the value of more “experimental” type research designs, but these sorts of methods seem more “true” to me.

Also, more than a circle, I can tend to think of these processes as spiral in shape.  There is movement forward / back or up/ down, but at the same time a backtracking and revisiting throughout.  This too I think is more attuned to how the “human”mind works.  I can easily see where an orderly progression of the steps may not happen as well as there is movement back and forth around the various elements.  It would seem that being aware of these steps, however, is critical.

I would say from my own experience that the steps of reflection and dialogue may short-changed just as coming to plans and actions come the easiest.  Evaluation and feedback also seem to get pushed aside when there is a crunch on time.  It would seem we can find outselves then working in ways that may be inefficient and counterproductive and or stagnate or stall as a result of inability to move beyond barriers or blocks.