Creativity is not a new concept in higher education. Nor is it something to be bolted on to curriculum practices. Creativity is core to realising authentic future facing learning and the context for many of the wider capabilities and complex learning we seek to develop through our courses and modules.

It is how, through the curriculum, we empower our students and graduates to develop ethical awareness and wide-ranging qualities, abilities, and behaviours to prepare for the future and sustain rewarding professional lives.

This, in turn, requires curriculum and learning designs that move beyond an emphasis on the ‘acquisition’ of knowledge and understanding, to favour more engaged, learner-centered, approaches, and a focus on the development of certain attributes, their deployment in both familiar and unfamiliar circumstances, and the ability to contextualise and adapt knowledge and skills based on experience and learning.

Enabling creative learning in this way is to intentionally develop a set of attributes that are demonstrated by students through their ability to effectively communicate about themselves and their ideas, be open to feedback and new insights, and confidently put their learning to work in ways that enable them to adapt to and thrive in different situations and scenarios. These attributes are recognised here as:


  • Authenticity: evidenced through exploratory and self-reflective behaviour – learners are encouraged to take ownership of initiatives and tasks by actively constructing and making judgements on their own knowledge and understanding of concepts and relationships relevant to real-world contexts.


  • Curiosity: evidenced through inquiring and information seeking behaviour – in response to situations and tasks that require the ability to elicit, analyse, refine and evaluate existing knowledge to create unique and cogent ideas and artefacts.  


  • Receptivity: evidenced through inclusive and collaborative behaviour – in response to learning tasks and situations that require an openness to new and different knowledge, ideas and perspectives and the ability to connect and work with others, to communicate ideas, and be responsive to multiple sources of feedback.  


  • Proactivity: evidenced through self-initiated and anticipatory behaviour – in response to scenarios and tasks that require a capacity to take measured risks, an ability to perceive and create development opportunities and the resourcefulness to pursue novel perspectives on and solutions to problems.


  • Personal Flexibility: evidenced through accountable and evaluative behaviour – in response to unpredictable situations that require the self-awareness and confidence to embrace and navigate change and the capacity to put learning to work in a variety of ways and scenarios.


  • Resilience: evidenced through self-regulated and adaptive behaviour – in response to overcoming obstacles and dealing with uncertain situations and outcomes, requiring a tolerance for ambiguity, a positive motivational outlook, and a proclivity for solving relatively complex problems.


It is important to acknowledge that different disciplines will recognise and value different forms and combinations of these attributes; context of practice is, therefore, vital to the interpretation and meaning of creative learning in curriculum and learning design.

These 6 attributes, together with Teesside University’s Academic Enhancement Framework (AEF), provide a clear structure and language for supporting future facing curriculum design that nurtures creative learning. By providing descriptors that join creativity with student learning development this expanded framework allows us to benchmark for a wide variety of curriculum outcomes and practices. It also provides the means with which to evaluate and articulate what we do well currently through surfacing good practice and sets out an aspirational terrain to help us to further improve.

From the perspective of your own course or module, some useful first questions when reviewing the extent these attributes are actively embedded in your current curriculum and learning designs include:


CONTEXT – In what ways does your course or module expound these attributes to help students develop flexible and creative ways of thinking and working that empower and prepare them for their future?

  • Consider how these attributes are delivered across levels on your courses and the extent to which this builds developmentally as students progress.


CONNECTIVITY – How does your course or module support students to actively engage in multiple (self, peer, tutor, industry) dialogues and networks, and to critique, shape, and position authentic narratives about their own learning development?

  • Consider how these attributes are developed through interaction and collaboration with other people and networks that enable students to make meaningful contributions to a wider community of practice.


CHALLENGE – In what ways does your course or module intentionally develop these attributes to help students work through and resolve complex problems and situations as part of the process of learning?

  • Consider how learning and teaching activities on your course or module develop these attributes to enable students to confidently navigate changing professional industry contexts and respond positively in challenging scenarios.


To be read alongside the LTE Blog: Nurturing student creativity and resilience for an uncertain world: some considerations for what comes next

6 Attributes of Creative Learners

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