Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Academically Informed Creative Writing in LIS Programs and the Freedom to Be Creative

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Academically Informed Creative Writing in LIS Programs and the Freedom to Be Creative

Article excerpt

The Rhetoric of Self-Direction and Creativity and the Challenge of the Contemporary University

At the university level, all teaching faculty members are facing numerous dilemmas. The rhetoric of valuing a learning process clashes with the necessity to assign a numeric grade to the final product, be it a written paper or a presentation. The usefulness of self-directed learning is curbed by meticulously structured guidelines for group activities or step-by-step handouts, both of which support information transfer but leave little room for the declared student self-direction. Grade quotas prevent professors from encouraging students' experimentation and risk-taking. The ideal of diversity in teaching methods is subdued by the unconditional reign of PowerPoint, applied indiscriminately to subjects that do not lend themselves to bullet points and business-style rendition. Worse still, students learn to expect detailed guidelines and internalize a simple truth: the better that they follow instructions and the more accurately that they guess the professor's intent, the higher their grade will be. Students are groomed to consider carefully structured, standardized PowerPoint slides to be an indicator of exemplary teaching; by extension, professors are likely to get higher evaluations on the grounds of "clarity" and "teaching effectiveness." Students become unreceptive to and deconditioned from alternative modes of learning, teaching, and assignments and from alternative modes of thinking, if you will. They become less comfortable with independent choices, and fearful of potential grade-related penalties. Hence, the rhetoric of pedagogical diversity crashes and burns over instructional practices that bring about the opposite: uniformity. This uniformity limits students' creativity and self-direction but allows for fact accumulation, easy grading, quick comparisons and, ultimately, straightforward performance measures, all valorized by the university audit culture, to use the words of Cris Shore (2008).

In a situation where evaluations reign, quantitative indicators abound, comparative baselines are a must, and efficiency in teaching is sometimes mistaken for effectiveness, can we find a place for unorthodox pedagogical approaches that allow for students' creative expression? Can we truly facilitate "learning to learn," i.e., learning beyond the mastery of specific concepts or the accumulation of facts and information; learning that stimulates critical thinking and tough questions rather than an unconditional acceptance of the professor's opinion (Rogers, 1959)? Can we "prevent standardized testing from draining creativity out of our classroom" at the time when "assigning] more nonfiction 'informational' texts and text-based academic writing" (Dafoe, 2013, p. 8) is privileged in academic circles? More specifically, is there a place for creative writing in Library & Information Science (LIS) programs?

Focusing on the assignment used in an elective course on reading practices and audiences, we present1 a unique professor-student insight into the merit of academically informed creative writing and its significance in helping future professionals to make a leap from the theoretical "knowing that" to the experiential "knowing how" (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986, as cited in Kvale, 1996, p. 106). We explore the role of creative writing in the facilitation of self-directed learning, which capitalizes on students' interests and ability to relate to and invest in their work (Dafoe, 2013; Rogers, 1959, 1969). It highlights the importance of creative writing in fostering the "habit of reflection" and observation (Cain, 2002, p. 118), which is paramount for user- and communitycentered LIS practices, as opposed to material- and resource-oriented ones. In particular, we advocate for creative writing as a vehicle for promoting a contextual and holistic understanding of human experiences, of which reading practices are a chosen example (Dali, 2013). …

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