What does the ideal expert leader in learning and teaching for the Creative Arts look like?

By Barbara de la Harpe and Thembi Mason

Working in the area of learning and teaching in Higher Education for a combined total of 35 years we have consistently questioned ourselves, while at the same time being questioned, about what the expert leader in learning and teaching for the Creative Arts looks like.

Over time we have found that leadership of learning and teaching in the Creative Arts is a site of contestation, primarily because of the Studio model of learning and teaching which is at the heart of Creative Arts disciplines and is often seen from within as being not well understood by those outside the discipline. The model is characterised by distinctive and fiercely defended traditional practices from within the Creative Arts. Battles about studio pedagogy and how the studio model “fits” into the modern entrepreneurial global university continue to this day (Budge, 2012; Zehner et al., 2009).

So then, what does the ideal expert leader in learning and teaching for Creative Arts look like in changing times?

Through interviews with 25 Associate Deans across 20 Universities in Australia who are responsible for leading learning and teaching in the Creative Arts and a synthesis of the leadership literature, the hallmarks for an ideal expert leader of the Creative Arts were revealed in the recent PhD Study by Thembi Mason.

Through interviews with 25 Associate Deans across 20 Universities . . . and a synthesis of the leadership literature, the hallmarks for an ideal expert leader of the Creative Arts were revealed in the recent PhD Study by Thembi Mason.

A clear prototype of what hallmarks would ideally equip learning and teaching leaders emerged. The prototype, to which all existing and future leaders in learning and teaching for the Creative Art can aspire, looks like this.

An expert leader in learning and teaching for the Creative Arts would have a PhD, and a formal qualification in Creative Arts as well as in Education or Higher Education Learning and Teaching; so that they are accepted from within as fully understanding the studio model and from without as both fully understanding learning and teaching pedagogy, and how to conduct research.

They would be a full Professor, either prior or once appointed. They would have received an L&T award, citation or fellowship, and have significant publications in both L&T and their discipline.

They would have been recruited into a full-time role through a competitive and rigorous process meeting essential L&T selection criteria, including several years’ experience in other learning and teaching roles. They would have a formal induction to the role. In the role they would have line management of either learning and teaching or discipline academic staff, and be responsible for managing a discretionary learning and teaching budget.

They would be self-aware, motivated, empathetic and self-regulating, with the social skills to lead and persuade others to follow a vision

They would cultivate positive working relationships with others, including the Dean and Head(s) of Creative Arts, as well as with those in a Central Learning and Teaching Units. They would be well networked and belong to a group of Associate Deans within the institution. They would have significant knowledge of how the university works both formally and informally.  

They would be self-aware, motivated, empathetic and self-regulating, with the social skills to lead and persuade others to follow a vision. They would blend an excellent grasp of policy, teaching and learning experience, with prior and contemporary knowledge of learning and teaching, and would be able to apply high-level reasoning and decision-making to any problem or issue. They would recognise that disciplines need different pedagogical approaches.

Significantly, they would focus on leadership as well as management, acting to bring about strategic outcomes through a dispersed model of leadership. They would be deeply interested in supporting and bringing about change at the School level, and would lead learning and teaching projects. They would work closely with discipline leaders, to integrate quality enhancement opportunities with quality assurance processes, and focussing on technology and innovative pedagogies.

They would also extend their focus externally, taking on leadership roles or actively participating in external networks, such as participating in national learning and teaching projects, developing partnerships with industry and engaging in international projects.

Most importantly, an expert leader of learning and teaching in and for the Creative Arts would enjoy a great deal of job satisfaction, since they would be equipped with the hallmarks that fully enable them in their important leadership role now and into/for the future.


References

Budge, K. (2012). A question of values: why we need art and design in higher education. Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education, 11 (1), 5-16.

Zehner, R., Forsyth, G., Musgrave, E., Neale, D., de la Harpe, B., Peterson, F., Frankham, N. with Wilson, N. & Watson, K. (2009). Studio teaching project: four reports. Sydney: Australia Learning and Teaching Council.  http://www.studioteaching.org


Barbara de la Harpe is the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business, Education Law and Arts at the University of Southern Queensland. Barbara has over 20 years’ experience in the higher education sector, including in Academic Development and Senior Learning and Teaching and Executive leadership roles. She has an outstanding and sustained record of successfully leading and championing learning and teaching and has significant standing for her research in the field of Higher Education that has been recognized by numerous awards, including an ALTC citation ‘For specialist expertise and leadership in professional development support for academic staff’.

Thembi Mason is a Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching at RMIT. Thembi’s background and experience is in learning and teaching with a specialisation in educational technologies and blended learning. Thembi has worked across all educational sectors, including secondary schools, adult education, VET and Higher Education. Thembi has worked as a project manager on an ALTC funded project, createED, which aimed to strengthen learning and teaching leadership in the Creative Arts and on the OLT project investigating professional development approaches for staff teaching in New Generation Learning Spaces. Thembi has submitted her PhD in the area of learning and teaching leadership.