Conference Papers

How to de-programme a University student

This is a discussion paper, based upon the practitioner’s reflections of a new module taught to second year undergraduate students studying Education Studies. The module, Interpretations of Education in Film, literature and Art, was designed to encourage an alternative and more creative approach to thinking about the study of education. It asks students to consider how teachers, schools and pupils are portrayed in popular culture and what we can learn from this process, as well as to reflect on to what extent these representations can be applied to their own experience of the education system and the types of teachers they might aspire to become. Students are also encouraged to consider how the themes of the module can be translated into transferable skills.

In some ways students act as co-facilitators, creating knowledge as they develop their own interpretations. Student feedback has suggested that this creates a highly enjoyable experience, but also provides challenges for them; raised on a menu of didactic teaching, SATs and teaching-to-the-test. The paper was inspired by a discussion with students early in the module and in a focus group at the end; it revealed that in their previous education they had few opportunities to think laterally, act creatively, or even be asked for their views on subject content.

Furthermore, to integrate the aims of the module into learning outcomes and module-specific assessment, a number of new criteria were introduced to the assessment brief. This included the awarding of percentage points in the marking process that rewarded innovative and creative approaches to the assignment. An aim was to enable students to express themselves through metaphors, semiotics and symbolism as they reflected on images and scenes that helped compare and contrast between the “reel” world of film and the “real” experience of the education system.

Practitioners are now beginning to question historical approaches to teaching and learning and consider ways in which teaching creative thinking in Higher Education can support students’ learning and employability. In preparing students for success in business and academia, it has been suggested that the top intellectual skill is no longer critical thinking, but rather creative thinking. Many organisations need students graduating from University able to think and initiate creativity and innovation for themselves rather than slavishly follow current trends. Some academics point to a revised model of Bloom’s taxonomy where evaluation and synthesis is exchanged for creativity at the apex of the pyramid.

Previousely creative thinking was perceived as something reserved for the arts and humanities. However creative thinking can reach across all disciplines. It is now taught in education, business, and psychology. A cross-disciplinary approach has replaced what used to be exclusively artistic.

Dr David Thompson
Senior Lecturer
Institute of Education
Faculty of Education, Health and Well-being
University of Wolverhampton

Thompson, D. (2016) 'How to de-programme a University student', paper presented to The 12th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 30 June-01 July, viewed 08 August 2020, <>