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Learning by heart

Graduate education course explores creative learning

Dr. Elizabeth Yeoman and John Hoben.

By Heidi Wicks

Dr. Elizabeth Yeoman of Memorial’s Faculty of Education wants to give students an opportunity to do something creative.

“Part of my thinking is that a lot of qualitative research is disseminated in ways that are very dry,” Dr. Yeoman said of the graduate course she developed – Education 6394: Biographical Exploration of Teaching and Learning. “I think that there’s an awful lot of good research and good, important information that is not being read. I’m also interested in ways of reporting on research that are more creative, that have more human interest, and so on.”

The class starts out by listening to radio documentaries, multimedia presentations, short films and such, which results in course assignments producing works of fiction, art and short films – all of which pack a punch in their presentation of research and educational theory. Dr. Yeoman said students from varying creative backgrounds are interested in the course.

“Some students take this course because they are creative and welcome an opportunity to use their gifts as part of their master’s work. Others have never done anything creative at all but are willing to take that risk. And as long as they have that willingness, I accept them in the course,” she explained.

Harvard professor Dr. Howard Gardner’s theoretical model of multiple intelligences (1983) cites eight kinds of intelligences: linguistic (“word smart”), logical-mathematical (“number-reasoning smart”), spatial (“picture smart”), bodily-kinesthetic (“body smart”), musical (“music smart”), interpersonal (“people smart”), intrapersonal (“self smart”), and naturalist (“nature smart”).

Although Dr. Yeoman believes there are more than eight, she believes logical-mathematical and linguistic are the two intelligences schools seem to use the most.

“The idea is that we should teach to all intelligences, and not just those two. But the question is, how do we do that?” she said, adding that her course hopes to tap into the other intelligences.

Faculty of Education PhD candidate John Hoben was a student in Dr. Yeoman’s course four years ago, and has since taught the course himself. Mr. Hoben reiterated that there is a misconception that being creative is a cop-out, or easy way of doing something.

“We tend to think of creative work as being in contrast to academic work, and some of the things we try to do is to bridge that gap. We tend to have writing communities and creative communities, and then we have academic communities. It’s a shame because I think both communities can learn from each other. I think there were a lot of talents that both communities had, that they weren’t utilizing. This course gives the space where you can be creative and have freedom, but also work hard.”

Like other graduate courses in the Faculty of Education, the course also provides an opportunity for personal reflection.

“I designed the course partly to give students on the all-course master’s route an opportunity to do some personal reflection in the ‘culminating course’, or final course at the end of their program,” Dr. Yeoman clarified.

“What you’re doing in schools relates very much to the lives of your students,” added Mr. Hoben. “And yourself as well. Her course did an excellent job of providing that space, and she’s also got the knowledge of theory and writing that draws on this. The focus is interdisciplinary, so whether it’s narrative inquiry, pop culture, feminist theory, second language learning or whatever, she’s done a great job of drawing from different aspects of these to reflect.”
If people learn using different intelligences, it’s important to have options in our education system. And whether students choose to go a more traditional route with a scholarly course thesis, or go for a project in writing, film, audio, art work or any other creative outlet that takes a more personal approach, should perhaps be up to them.