How do you define impactful creative work?
In addition to student and faculty centered goals, one of our main areas of interest was identifying the elements needed for impactful creative work. The goal of the Creative Discovery Fellows Program was not only to ensure that students become capable technology users, but also enable them to push the boundaries of social justice, knowledge, and meaning-making. Creative work often engages students in surface-level tasks focused on technical and aesthetic goals. While developing sound technical and creative design skills was a goal for the CDF program we knew that these creative projects could and should open up many more deep, rich, and meaningful possibilities for students and instructors.
As with all of our research, we took an iterative, emergent, and collaborative approach to this question. We developed the initial conceptual framework for creative work from the theorized CDF Program and assignment structure, input from Creative Discovery Fellows instructors, student survey responses and reflections, and qualitative interview data from instructors and students. This led to us naming five elements necessary for and/or developed by impactful creative work: intellectual capacity and growth, development and use of technical and creative skills, development and use of personal and interpersonal skills (building relationships, utilizing own interests/knowledge, ability to reflect on choices/thinking), ability to envision and create work that has an impact outside of the classroom, and ability to connect and use skills and knowledge gained from the creative project outside of the classroom.
This framework, in turn, informed our assessment for the Fall 2019 semester as student survey and interview questions were designed to both measure and continue developing our framework for impactful creative work. This once again led to an updated understanding of the elements necessary for creative work with the addition of two new elements – collectivity and storytelling – and the refinement of several more. Ultimately, the CDF Program illustrates that impactful creative work is much more than student knowledge and skill acquisition. Impactful creative work aims to expand the boundaries of what stories get told and who is impacted by the development and dissemination of these stories:
- Intellectual growth: Impactful creative work necessitates that students engage in or develop a reflexive (circular) relationship between the course content/theories and the content/framing of the creative project.
- Skills development: Impactful creative work necessitates that students develop and/or leverage technical and creative design skills.
- Motivation: Impactful creative projects allow students to experience learning and doing for emotional or intrinsic satisfaction instead of learning driven only by external validation (e.g. grades).
- Collectivity: Impactful creative projects give students the opportunity to do work that is in service of something or someone besides themselves.
- Storytelling: Impactful creative projects help expand the boundaries of who and where power comes from and tell a wide range of stories (e.g. challenge dominant storytelling).
- Application: Impactful creative projects provide opportunities for students to develop knowledge and skills that have use and application outside of the classroom/project.
- Impact: Impactful creative projects allow students the opportunity for their project to have an impact outside of the classroom (e.g. wider audience/use).