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Creative activity and its impact on student learning: issues of implementation. A presentation of 7 years’ practice of including filmmaking as a learning tool across a range of disciplines.

Claire Allam

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This paper will describe how the use of filmmaking as a learning tool has been pioneered at the University of Sheffield, enumerating the many benefits. It will describe the conditions within the institution which have encouraged such innovative approaches to learning and discuss strategies for continuing implementation.
     Enabling students to use filmmaking in their coursework offers an exciting and challenging way of learning. Students interact creatively with their subject discipline, engaging closely and thus gaining insight and deeper understanding. Filmmaking can create a motivating environment in the classroom. A whole range of skills is learned through the process, useful both in education and future working life. Perhaps most important, it makes learning fun, and gives students a sense of empowerment and achievement.
Getting students to communicate using moving images and sound rather than text has proved highly stimulating but the learning curve can be very steep and appropriate levels of support need to be given, which can be time-consuming for staff. There has been variable institutional support for these projects over the years: sometimes because of scepticism as to the value of the learning, but also for cost reasons. Certainly, a key question is that of sustainability. This paper will describe the learning outcomes from several projects using differing levels of resource, and offer possible future strategies.
     It is difficult to quantify the experience and the type of learning that students undergo on these projects. While the critical thinking element can be judged from written work, the ‘creative’ understanding attained is harder to evaluate. How do you verbalise the non-verbal? And more to the point, how do you measure it? The crude metrics of box-ticking cannot be applied. The best method to date has been to rely on students’ own insight into their learning. They report that they understand the subject better and that they really enjoy the hard work(!) of this creative challenge. This positive feedback has provided the impetus to continue with this work and has convinced the writer that it is a highly beneficial pedagogic practice.
     There is strong Government support for creativity in the curriculum. We should respond to this by using our ingenuity to design curricula that stimulate such activity. Feedback from students proves that it delivers a valuable experience and this is backed up by both academics and external assessors. We have incontrovertible proof that creativity is vital. Industry states that it requires a creative workforce. Who are we to argue? Audit-minded managers should take note.

Author Bio(s)

Claire Allam has worked as a producer of multi-media learning resources at the University of Sheffield for 10 years, following a career in television. Initially employed as a producer of educational television, her interest in working in a more facilitative/teaching role with students has increased and her commitment to filmmaking as creative act has inspired her to share this with students. It was for this innovative work, in part, that she was awarded a University of Sheffield Senate Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching in 2004. In September 2005 Claire was awarded an MEd, having submitted a dissertation on the implementation of blended learning at the University of Sheffield. Her research continues to be based around filmmaking by students, and its creative and pedagogic benefits.