Immersive and Somatic Learning: A Summary of Creative-Based Practice as a Method for Higher Education
In the creation of an art form, the artist’s chosen medium – whether it is clay, language or the human body – becomes an ‘object’ with educational potential. For creative practitioners of many varieties, it is understood that to ‘create’ is to ‘do’, and the act of creating a work may be as important for the artist as the resulting work. Within a Western educational tradition, much of the formal training in creative practice has been focused on mastering particular techniques. This way of working is often termed ‘practice’ and embodies the complete creative process, including concept, method, materials, production and realisation of the final work, alongside the context or theory that frames it (Medvedev, 1928; Archer, 1995; McNiff, 1998). Practice is key to the identity of artists, much as the process of primary research is important to scholars from other disciplines. A growing body of literature has developed that positions creative practice within a framework of research culture (Frayling, 1993; Sullivan, 2010). This field has been led by artist practitioners and academics in the UK and Australia, which is reflected in the development of performance and practice-based doctorates and degree programmes in those regions, and more recently in New Zealand and the US (Little, 2011). Within the field of dance education, an understanding of practice as both learning and research has been firmly established for some time (Fortin, Long and Lord, 2002) and within the last decade the UK’s Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has begun to examine the ways in which creative practice is understood and employed within fields such as art, design and architecture (Rust, Mottram and Till, 2007). The fields of visual art, design and architecture provide particularly helpful case studies of how practice-based research methods can connect closely with teaching and learning (McNiff, 1998; Leavy, 2009). Moreover, the relationship between practice and research has become a topic of importance to higher education institutions since the UK’s Research Assessment Exercise of 2008 (now termed the Research Excellence Framework) chose to include practicebased and performance-based submissions in its remit, enabling universities and art schools to have these ‘outputs’ fully recognised (HEFCE, 2005).