Barnett’s Dispositions & Qualities and the Creative Attributes Framework

Barnett’s Dispositions and Qualities (Barnett, 2007)

How do you recognise Barnett’s ‘qualities’ in the context of a course you work with? Think of a couple of examples.

My library colleagues have developed learning outcomes (UAL Library Services, 2017) that tie in with UAL’s Creative Attributes Framework. (University of the Arts London, 2018). Although we don’t use these to assess students, they help us decide what and how we teach. There are several similarities with Barnett’s dispositions and qualities. For example, under the heading ‘Resilience’ we have

  • Handle adversity in the research process; able to problem solve and overcome obstacles 
  • Work with ambiguity, uncertainty and unfamiliarity 

(UAL Library Services, 2017)

Relating to ‘a preparedness to explore’ and ‘determination to keep going forward’ we have

  • Build on existing knowledge; use research as exploration rather than as a tool to back up what is already known
  • Recognise research is a creative process; take an enquiring, analytical and explorative approach
  • Understand connections between information sources and ideas, and be empowered to take risks in order to make further connections

(UAL Library Services, 2017)

I think many of our learning outcomes are more akin to dispositions/qualities than skills or knowledge: we are hoping to enable the students to, as Barnett describes, “take ownership of her studies and imparts to it her own energies and direction”.

To what extent do you recognise Barnett’s ‘dispositions’ in your own approach to learning? Assuming this varies, what influences them?

I think if I do have some of these dispositions, it varies a lot. Unless I feel a very strong connection with a subject, self-belief is a big factor in the variation. I feel that Barnett fails to take into account the emotional factors in studying and learning. However much I may wish to be ‘willing to learn’, anxiety can be a major barrier to engaging as much as I would wish to.

Are UAL’s Creative Attributes more like Barnett’s ‘qualities’? Or his ‘dispositions’? Is it just a question of phrasing? Comment on a couple of examples.

As to the character of the Creative Attributes, this varies. Quite often the Creative Attributes combine elements of the dispositions and qualities into one e.g.

Enterprise Creative Attribute (University of the Arts London, 2018)

Here the “mindset to take measured risks” seems to be very close in character to the dispositions, but the second part, “the resourcefulness to pursue these opportunities in an ethical and sustainable way” seems to have more in common with the qualities, as it describes the manner or the style in which that “mindset” or disposition should manifest itself. However, the Creative Attribute for ‘Resilience” directly ties to one of Barnett’s qualities.

The major disparity between the dispositions/qualities and the Creative Attributes is that the attributes seem much more concerned with the individual whereas the dispositions/qualities are concerned with how that individual interacts with others to a much greater extent. For example, the only mention of interacting with others in the attributes are in the “Showcasing abilities and accomplishments with others” section below, but all these seem focused on how that individual transmits information or ‘showcases’ to others rather than reciprocal engagement.

Showcasing abilities and accomplishments to others creative attributes (University of the Arts London, 2018)

Also, the qualities include integrity, restraint and respect for others, whereas the attributes, apart from one mention of being ethical, don’t mention anything of this kind. This is perhaps a little strange when the ability to work with people in a respectful and honest way would seem to be key skills for the creative industries.

The Creative Attributes are explicitly focused on employability and enterprise, i.e. on preparing students for socially useful occupations. What valuable attributes (‘creative’ or otherwise) can you think of that aren’t employment-focused?

Being employment-focused, these attributes are concerned with the commercial side of creative practice, but much creative endeavour is not commercial, and may hold a different kind of value to the artist and others. Perhaps a valuable attribute would be the ability to pursue something for the love of it, even though it will never bring commercial gain.

How are these attributes taught and/or learned at UAL?

I think these attributes are mainly taught via the methods by which the students carry out and deliver their work e.g. through collaborative project work, giving presentations, live projects.

As part of our information literacy workshops, we also teach these attributes as part of teaching students how to find, understand and evaluate information.

Barnett’s ‘qualities and dispositions’ are about learning, and the CAF is about creative practice. Are they more or less similar than you would expect, given this difference?

They are less similar than I would expect. They might apply in different ways to how Barnett means them, but I think all the dispositions/qualities could be applied to creative practice. As mentioned above, I think it’s surprising that some of them aren’t included.

How do these ideas connect with the theory you’ve been encountering on your elective unit (if you are doing one)?

I am doing the ILTHE module and considering Barnett discusses various barriers to learning that students might face, it seems surprising that he doesn’t mention anything related to inclusivity or diversity in the chapter e.g. how the dispositions could be affected if a student perceived they were treated differently or found university to be in some way unwelcoming to them if they were from a particular background or had a disability. He mentions difficulties students may encounter in the course their studies, such as illness or disliking the teaching style, but seems to assume that all students start from the same point at the beginning of their course. This differs with Paulo Freire’s views that we must take the social identity of students into account, consider the power dynamics that exist outside the classroom and practice a pedagogy that aims to dismantle existing power structures (Freire, 2000)

 

References

Barnett, R. (2007) ‘Dispositions and qualities’ in A will to learn:  being a student in an age of uncertainty. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Freire, P. (2000) Pedagogy of the oppressed. Thirtieth anniversary edition edn. New York: Continuum.

UAL Library Services. (2017) UAL Library Services information literacy learning outcomes, London: UAL Library Services.

University of the Arts London (2018) Creative Attributes Framework. Available at: https://www.arts.ac.uk/about-ual/teaching-and-learning-exchange/careers-and-employability/creative-attributes-framework (Accessed: 30 April 2018).

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