Conceptualisation of constraints on creativity in teaching in higher education: Towards the possibility of challenging practices in an Irish university
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Creativity in relation to teaching has become a fundamental political and philosophical concern that has shaped a new paradigm of higher education (HE), in the context of a social and economic change. Yet, the instrumentalist policy discourse of creativity within HE, it can be argued, contradicts its intrinsic potential as a means for individuals' transformation and autonomy, which should be core values of a university system. As a result, this top-down political discourse of creativity is often disconnected from teaching practices. In this context, academics feel constrained in their creative teaching. This study explores in depth the constraining mechanisms on academics' creative teaching within HE. From a critical perspective, it questions academics' perceptions of the constraints they experience. The specific research questions that this study aims to answer are: -What are the factors contributing to the gap between top-down political discourses encouraging creativity in terms of teaching in higher education and teaching practices on the ground? -What conception do teachers have of the constraints on their creativity in terms of teaching experiences within their institutional and disciplinary context? -What may be the most appropriate research methodology to explore constraints on creative teaching experiences, perceived by academics in HE? Moving away from an individualistic approach to creativity, the core data of this study was gathered though an action research project based on interdisciplinary collaborative enquiry group with academics from NUI Galway. The research outcomes of this study contribute to an understanding of the difficulties of attempting to capture academics' creativity in teaching, and of the constraints on creativity in teaching in higher education. By looking at the interaction between academics, their disciplines, and the social imaginary of their disciplinary communities, it offers a novel theoretical framework for understanding these constraints and demonstrates the contradictions in academics' accounts. Furthermore, this thesis calls for emancipation from the current university system which stifles creativity as a potential means of challenging social norms.