Creative learning conversations: producing living dialogic spaces

Chappell, Kerry and Craft, Anna (2011). Creative learning conversations: producing living dialogic spaces. Educational Research, 53(3) pp. 363–385.



Background: ‘Creative learning conversations’, are methodological devices developed in two co-participative qualitative research projects exploring creativity and educational futures at the University of Exeter in England.

Sources of evidence: Framed by Critical Theory, the projects, one on dance education partnership, the other on student voice and transformation, sought to open space between creativity and performativity to initiate emancipatory educational change. This was undertaken over the course of five years in English primary and secondary schools, prioritising humanising, wise creativity.

Purpose: This paper re-analyses data and methodological processes to characterise and theorise creative learning conversations in terms of social spatiality and dialogue. The characteristics are: partiality, emancipation, working from the ‘bottom up’, participation, debate and difference, openness to action, and embodied and verbalised idea exchange.

Main argument: This re-analysis theoretically adapts Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model (The ecology of human development; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979) to situate layered engagement. Utilising Lefebvre’s conceptualisation of lived space (The production of space; Wiley-Blackwell, 1991) and Bakhtin’s work (Problems of Dostoevsky’s poetics; ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson; Minneapolis: University of Michigan Press, 1984) on open-ended dialogue, the paper theorises creative learning conversations as producing living dialogic spaces.

Conclusions: Creative learning conversations are a way of contributing to change, which moves us towards an education future fit for the twenty-first century. From a living dialogic space perspective, a creative learning conversation is the ongoing process without forced closure of those in the roles of university academic, teachers, artists, students co-participatively researching and developing knowledge of their ‘lived space’ together. Given traditional lethargy in the educational system as a whole commitment to changing education for better futures demands active involvement in living dialogic space, where our humanity both emerges from and guides our shared learning.

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