1st Edition

Fostering Imagination in Higher Education Disciplinary and Professional Practices

By Joy Whitton Copyright 2018
    244 Pages
    by Routledge

    242 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Imagination and creative teaching approaches are increasingly important across all higher education disciplines, not just the arts. Investigating the role of imagination in teaching and learning in non-arts disciplines, this book argues that a lack of clarity about what imagination looks like in higher education impedes teachers in fostering their students’ creativity.

    Fostering Imagination in Higher Education tells four ethnographic stories from physics, history, finance and pharmaceutical science courses, analytically observing the strategies educators use to encourage their students’ imagination, and detailing how students experience learning when it is focussed on engaging their imagination. The highly original study is framed by Ricoeur’s work on different forms of imagination (reproductive and productive or generative). It links imaginative thinking to cognitive science and philosophy, in particular the work of Clark, Dennett and Polanyi, and to the mediating role of disciplinary concepts and social-cultural practices.

    The author’s discussion of models, graphs, strategies and artefacts as tools for taking learners’ thinking forward has much to offer understandings of pedagogy in higher education. Students in these case studies learned to create themselves as knowledge producers and professionals. It positioned them to experience actively the constructed nature of the knowledge and processes they were learning to use – and the continuing potential of knowledge to be remade in the future. This is what makes imaginative thinking elemental to the goals of higher education.


    List of Figures and Tables

    Chapter 1. Introduction

    Chapter 2. Theoretical Framework on Imagination

    Chapter 3. Theoretical Linking of Imagination with Cognition and Learning Theory

    Chapter 4. Defining and Practising Creativity

    Chapter 5. Honours Quantum Physics: Constituting Understanding by Combining Mindtools

    Chapter 6. First Year Medieval History Ethnography: Mastering the Rules of Technique - The Conditions for Imaginative Creation

    Chapter 7. Finance Ethnography

    Chapter 8. Pharmaceutical Science Ethnography

    Chapter 9. Conclusion


    Joy Whitton is an academic developer at Monash University in Australia. Her research interests include imagination, cognition and their interplay with tools/artefacts and practices, and professional learning.

    Fostering Imagination in Higher Education provides a unique account of how university educators foster the imagination, especially in disciplines not typically associated with imaginative thinking. Whitton skilfully integrates Paul Ricoeur’s theory of imagination with a wide range of other literature on the imagination, creativity, and learning. Using this robust theoretical framework, she details three ethnographic studies: a fourth year physics course; a first year history course; and a post-graduate finance course. In doing so, Whitton provides many diverse examples of imaginative teaching practice — practices that can easily be applied in most higher education contexts.

    Dr. Jennifer Bleazby, Monash University, Australia

    If there has ever been a time when we need to encourage students and teachers to use their imaginations, it is now. This is a ‘must read’ book for any teacher who wants to improve their understanding of imagination in learning. It makes a significant contribution to understanding the nature of creativity in higher education teaching and learning and other practices.

    The ethnographic case studies reveal the significance of imagination, productively connected to perception and reasoning, in the cognitive apprenticeships of learners: the important point being that while they learn how to use their imaginations like practitioners in the disciplinary field, they bring their own unique selves and history to what they imagine.

    The imaginative way in which theory, practice and research have been connected and blended into a new synthesis, will stimulate any teacher’s imagination to develop new practices to encourage learners to use their own imaginations.

    Professor Norman Jackson, Emeritus Professor University of Surrey

    This beautifully written book is both scholarly and practical and a compelling read. Drawing on an ethnographic account of creative pedago