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International Symposium: Creativity, English and the Arts

For learning, knowing and hopefulness
Held at the University of Sydney on 4 July 2020, this one-day symposium will draw together those who are passionate and hopeful about creativity in English and arts education.

Hosted by the CREATE Centre at the University of Sydney in collaboration with the British Educational Research Association's English in Education Special Interest Group. The Symposium immediately precedes the International Federation for the Teaching of English Conference, also to be held in Sydney.

Keynote speakers


Call for papers

We invite papers that explore, interrogate, reconceptualise, showcase and celebrate creativity and the arts in teaching and learning within, across and beyond the borderlines of existing and historical classroom, curricular, disciplinary and policy constructs. We welcome contributions from researchers, teachers, other educators, practitioners and artists on any aspect of creativity in English and arts education.

In contemporary education discourses, creativity tends to be conceptualised in terms of certain skills and dispositions that can be taught and cultivated in subject-specific or more generic contexts. These skills and dispositions include, for example: higher-order problem-solving; collaboration; initiative and agency; a willingness to take risks to disrupt or transgress normative ways of knowing; generating ideas; a curious and receptive mindset; and the cognitive suppleness to meet the challenges of an ‘increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world’ (OECD, 2018, p. 3).

While creativity as a term and a concept is often foregrounded in the rhetoric of education policy and curriculum, it has been discursively appropriated – and some argue, commodified (see Pope, 2005) – to signify a pre-requisite for and condition of ‘employability’ and a vital driver of a society’s economic advancement (Saunders, 2012, p. 216). As a consequence, the measurable outcomes and impact of creative outputs and performance in education are favoured over the far less quantifiable but arguably more significant creative ‘processes’. Of course, these processes are the antecedents and generators of creative ‘products’ but they are also in and of themselves the wellspring for authentic learning.    

A more expansive conceptualisation of creativity in education includes but transcends a utilitarian and product-oriented view. It encompasses notions of creativity as inseparable from individual subjectivities: subjectivities that are shaped by acts of meaning-making through ‘the alchemy of the imagination’ (Bachelard, 2005, p. 84). These notions recognise that creativity is at once socially-mediated and also idiosyncratic. Creativity and creative activity can be visible and public. It can be numinous and private. It can be spontaneous, protean and serendipitous, arising from the inner self (McWilliam, 2009). It can be prompted and nurtured by deliberate pedagogical choices and environmental stimuli. It can be realised in lively classrooms and in the image-laden daydreams of a single mind.

As material and symbolic spaces in the curriculum, English and the arts are centrally concerned not only with the products of human creativity and the imagination as they are represented through, for instance, language, literature, music, visual arts and performance (Ewing, 2010). They are equally concerned with creative processes, or what Kress (2003) describes as ‘the task of relating the world of inner work and action with the outer world of social and cultural work’ (pp. 17-18). In this sense, English and the arts in the curriculum are predicated on the hope-filled conviction that the ‘most complex and subtle forms of thinking take place when students have an opportunity either to work meaningfully on the creation of images – whether visual, choreographic, musical, literary or poetic – or to scrutinise them appreciatively’ (Eisner, 2002, p. 13).

In an era characterised by highly regulated systems operating through sophisticated measurement, compliance and accountability regimes, those committed to the imperative for creativity and arts in education continue to navigate profound challenges. These challenges manifest not only in the broader sphere of education policy and curriculum: they are also present in the everyday world of teaching and learning. The pressures to perform and conform increasingly constrain the necessary conditions and resources for creativity to flourish. On this point, Saunders (2012) believes that ‘it’s not only time and space (hard enough to come by in school curricula) that are needed to nurture creativity … Perhaps we, teachers, learners, individuals, need another element, a further dimension, which it is most unusual to encounter in the way both schooling and society are organised – silence. And the kind of silence that is conducive to daydreaming, at that’ (p. 221).

This international Symposium will be an opportunity to share and build upon research and practice related to any aspect of creativity in English and arts education.

Panels, papers and workshops

We invite proposals for:

  • 20-minute papers on any aspect of the Symposium theme
  • 60-minute panels of 2-3 papers that cohere around one or more aspects of the Symposium theme
  • 60-minute workshops exploring pedagogy for creative teaching and learning.  

Abstracts for papers, panels and workshops should be about 300 words; please include:

  • Name/s of presenter/s
  • Institution/Affiliation
  • Email address for lead presenter
  • Presentation format (paper, panel, workshop)
  • Please submit abstracts by Friday 8 May 2020
  • Notifications by Friday 29 May 2020

Please email abstracts to: Professor Jacqueline Manuel.

Papers and panels may consider such topics as:

  • What factors and conditions enable or constrain creativity in English and arts education?
  • How and to what extent might different manifestations of creativity emerge within English and the arts in schools?
  • How does/can English and arts education extend, transcend and transform outcomes and standards-based conceptualisations of creativity?
  • Representations of creativity in the media and public domain
  • What does/can English and arts education contribute to the ‘creativity for employability’ agenda?
  • Creativity as it is conceptualised in policy and curriculum and the implications for teaching and learning
  • The role and/or potential of creativity in teacher development, professional identity, sustaining commitment and resilience
  • Realising creativity in learning within/despite the parameters of systems
  • Assessing creativity
  • Creativity as process and/or product
  • Theorising creativity
  • Creativity as disruption, disturbance and subversion
  • Conflations and distinctions in creativity in primary and secondary school contexts
  • Individual, collaborative and socially-attuned creativity
  • Innovative and re-imagined pedagogies to generate creativity in English and arts education
  • Challenging/dissolving pedagogical, conceptual and curricular boundaries for creative activity
  • Creativity and inclusive teaching
  • Creativity and the aesthetic
  • Creativity and the imagination
  • Creativity, agency and emancipation
  • Creativity, the emotions, pleasure and wellbeing
  • Creativity and empathy
  • Creativity, knowledge and ways of knowing
  • Creativity, ethics and the moral imagination
  • Creativity in English and arts education to foster hopefulness
  • Bachelard, G. (2005). On poetic imagination and reverie. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications.
  • Eisner, E. W. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Ewing, R. (2010). The arts and Australian education: Realising potential. Camberwell, Victoria: ACER.
  • Kress, G. (2000). Kress, G. (2003), Literacy in the New Media Age, Routledge Press, London.
  • McWilliam, E. (2009). Teaching for creativity: from sage to guide to meddler. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 29(3), 281-293.
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), The future of education and skills: Education 2030, Position Paper.
  • Pope, R. (2005). Creativity: Theory, history, practice. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Saunders, L. (2012). Silences and silence in ‘creativity’. London Review of Education, 10(2), 215-225.

Attendance at the Symposium will be registered as 6 hours of professional learning.


Headshot of Associate Professor Jacqueline Manuel
Professor Jacqueline Manuel
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