Building Creative and Critical Thinking Skills in Higher Education
An interdisciplinary research project in collaboration with the OECD exploring the role of creativity and critical thinking in Higher Education.View content
About the project
The University of Winchester has been selected to work with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on an innovative new project to explore the fostering of creativity and critical thinking skills in Higher and Teacher Education.
The project, which brings together partners at 24 other Higher Education Institutions from 14 countries, reflects the increasing significance of creativity, critical thinking and complex problem solving skills in our technologically driven society. The rapidly changing nature of jobs has led many employers to identify these skills as amongst the most important in their workforce (World Economic Forum, 2018). Indeed, jobs requiring creativity, such as those in the broadly defined ‘Creative Industries’, are now the fastest growing sector of economies such as the UK’s (Creative Industries Federation, 2018).
The project builds on a previous programme of work conducted by the OECD, which focussed on methods to foster the development of creative and critical thinking skills in school education. This programme benefited from extensive expertise in this field from the University's high-impact Centre for Real-World Learning (see for example HERE), whose conceptual framework underpinned the previous OECD work.
The schools project is now complete and the outcomes were launched in September 2019 at a two-day project conference at the headquarters of innovation foundation NESTA. Featuring distinguished speakers from across the globe, the meeting comprised a select group of 120 influential policy makers, practitioners, funders and experts. Winchester’s contributions to this project featured prominently with presentations from Professors Bill Lucas and Paul Sowden, as did the Centre for Real-World Learning's work on the Durham Commission Report on Creativity in Education (read it HERE).
A strategically important project
The University of Winchester is the only UK institution involved in the follow-up OECD project looking at creativity and critical thinking in Higher Education. This large-scale project is closely aligned with the University's new 10-year Strategic Vision, which is built on the pillars of sustainability and social justice. Find out more about our Strategic Vision 2020-30.
The project also aligns with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, directly addressing the following SDGs:
SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing
SDG 4: Quality Education
SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Professor Joy Carter, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winchester, said:
“The importance of creativity and critical thinking cannot be overstated. They underpin the very fabric of all of our futures. Addressing many of the complex problems targeted by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals will require people with the skills to think critically and creatively. As the University for Sustainability and Social Justice we are delighted to be able to support this project with the OECD, and contribute to the development of future generations of creative and critical thinkers equipped to tackle the challenges facing our modern world.”
The Winchester team consists of:
Core research team
- Principal Investigator: Professor Paul Sowden, Professor of Psychology, Cognition and Creativity
- Project Consultant: Professor Bill Lucas, Centre for Real-World Learning Director
- Project Advisor: Professor Alison James, Professor of Learning and Teaching
- Project Academic Quality Advisor: Cassie Lowe, Learning and Teaching Enhancement Officer
- Research Assistant: Sandra Mansfield
Work will interweave a variety of research strands. These will:
1 Compare a range of interventions to foster students creative and critical thinking skills across a wide range of academic disciplines including such diverse disciplines as animal welfare, creative writing, digital media, mathematics, physiotherapy, psychology and teacher education amongst others.
2 Explore the impact of a professional development programme with academic staff focused on approaches to developing and assessing creativity and critical thinking.
3 Assess the impact of specific intervention components on students’ thinking skills relating to creativity and critical thinking.
1 New theories of the processes of creative and critical thinking, including a better picture of the moment when creativity and critical thinking have been particularly fostered by interventions that will allow us to design and adjust learning and teaching practices to facilitate these moments.
2 bank of evidence-based methods and resources to develop creative and critical thinking skills in different disciplines.
3 Knowledge about approaches to helping academics develop skills to enhance students’ creative and critical thinking.
As of late 2019:
- There are 24 international project partners;
- A ‘service evaluation’ survey of Winchester staff was conducted in Spring 2019 to identify academic staff understandings of creative and critical thinking and their existing approaches to fostering creativity and critical thinking;
- Full ethical approval for the research at the University of Winchester has been granted;
- The PI and the Advisor have attended project partner meetings held at OECD, Paris in September 2018, March & October 2019. These meetings have addressed project set-up, coordination and running. The next meetings are planned for Porto in Feb 2020 and Paris in October 2020;
- The PI joined the OECD project working group to advise on measurement of creativity and critical thinking in the project;
- Thirteen cohorts of Winchester students have been identified as creative and critical thinking ‘intervention’ groups, with ‘comparison’ cohorts to be tested alongside;
- An initial wave of data collection at Winchester will start in January 2020.
Background image by Helena Lopes on Unsplash