Serif in Education

The Guardian’s creativity debate – our view & the importance of constructive criticism

“Being creative in today’s fast-moving, tech-driven world requires a particular set of skills that goes beyond fact-based learning: problem-solving; creative thinking; and the ability to experiment, fail and try again,” says Lucy Jolin, writing for the Guardian newspaper this month. “But is our education system set up to deliver innovation and creativity in this rapidly expanding and fast-moving sector? If not, why not? And how can it help to meet those needs?”

These were the questions under discussion in a recent roundtable debate hosted by the Guardian and sponsored by the Marketing Agencies Association (MAA).

The UK’s creative industries – which are worth about £84.1bn a year, and grew by 8.9% in 2014 – need these skills. In January 2016, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport revealed the number of jobs in the industry grew by almost 9% between 2013 and 2014 – almost double the rest of the economy as a whole (4.6%). Creative companies now account for just over 5% of the economy. One of the areas of strongest growth was in film, TV, video, radio and photography, which rose almost 14%, second only to architecture and graphic products and fashion design. Advertising and marketing increased by almost 11% between 2013 and 2014 but publishing went up just 2.8%. The number of jobs in the creative industries – which includes both creative and support roles – increased by 5.5% in the same time period, to 1.8 million.

Over the last few years there has been a huge focus on computing in schools, but not much on creativity alone. So what about creative computing? Shouldn’t that be what we as educators should be working towards?

With creative jobs growing, surely we can now go crazy with creativity in the classroom?  We need to connect what is learnt in schools with the industries that students will go into – or as the Creative Industries Federation’s Chief Executive, John Kampfner says: “there are still areas where the government needs to act to secure continued growth, not least by providing a proper creative education to ensure the workforce of the future.”

At the debate, a disconnect emerged between current education policy and what creative employers actually look for. One individual pointed out, “Education is industrialising just as industry is de-industrialising.”

“When I’m recruiting, I don’t look at where applicants have been to school but how they think, and how they demonstrate that thinking,” said James Hurst, executive strategic creative director at the Design Studio.

A creative education isn’t necessarily teaching someone how to take pictures and use PhotoPlus to become a photographer, or to use DrawPlus to become a designer. We feel a creative education is best summed up by Amy Smith, global head of recruitment at Framestore VR. “The key problem from my point of view is the assumption that a creative education leads to a creative job. I think that assumption is false.

“I think a creative education creates people who can use resources and tools themselves to do any number of jobs. The problem is that by not giving everyone access to a creative education, you end up with people who cannot think for themselves. There is a formal way they learn things, and they don’t know how to learn anything else.

“It’s about making mistakes and getting things wrong. With my children, there is certainly an anxiety around perfection. We need to encourage and celebrate failure, experimenting and getting things wrong.”

With this in mind, we wanted to suggest an activity, whereby the whole aim of the task is to point out what is wrong in someone’s design, build, or photograph, instead of what is right. This could be done as a reflection activity or at the end of class when assessing student’s work. You could use any piece of work really – a website, a drawing, a photograph or a presentation. But instead of asking students to say what they did well, or what they got right, offer it out to the class to suggest what might be “wrong” with their piece of work, or essentially what they think they could have done better. This type of constructive criticism is rife in the creative industries as everyone has a different point of view to what is ‘right’ – much is based on opinions, not facts. So, getting students used to this type of feedback is a very valuable tool for the future. Try it, and let us know how it goes!

You can read the full Guardian article here: