Creative Praxis: A methodology for researching teaching in higher education as critical and creative practice

Year: 2012

Author: Allen, Belinda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Creativity is promoted as a desirable attribute for graduates, yet creativity is a slippery concept that is highly contextual in its definition. In order to realise creativity as an aim of university curriculum and an outcome of learning, university teachers must engage with what creativity means to them, in the context of their discipline and in their professional practice as a teacher, and to their students. A proposed study takes as its starting point the notion of creativity as a disposition brought to practice in a particular context, and will investigate 'creative praxis' as a methodology for the development of teaching as a creative practice, in order to support the development of creative capacities in students.

Praxis, defined as committed action informed by critical reflection, positions practice and theory as mutually constitutive (Carr & Kemmis, 1986). Participants in praxis are positioned as teachers, learners and researchers in relation to an ecology and architecture of practice (Kemmis & Grootenboer, 2008). As the research designer I am particularly interested in how creativity might apply to the research process, informing the architecture of research practice, as well as to teaching and learning.

Creative praxis, derived from Marxist theory, originally referred to the potential of social-critical practice to imagine new economic and political realities. Praxis has since been re-envisioned through 'communicative action' theory (Habermas), and utilised through action research as an approach to educational development and research, maintaining a social justice and personal emancipatory aim (Carr & Kemmis, 1986). My re-emphasis on the creative potential of praxis refers to both a creative approach to praxis (emphasis on imaginative and exploratory techniques in investigating practice) and a focus on creativity enacted in practice (in this case, in the practice of university teaching). Creative praxis for the development of a critically creative disposition in graduates is intrinsically related to critically creative practice in teaching, in research, and in the nature of the organisation itself.

This paper describes the proposed methodology which, drawing upon critical theory, practice theory and transformative learning, will use narrative enquiry and participatory action research to enable 'creative praxis' in university teaching and learning. It looks at the role of creativity in the design of praxis-oriented research, explores ideas for creative representations and publishing modes for practice-based research, and presents a design for creative research that could provide a model for other praxis-oriented studies.