I AM AN EXTENDED ART TEACHER: My speciality is in interdisciplinary learning and teaching with a focus on applied / transferable creative intelligence. My reach, value and impact extend beyond art and HE. My teaching is uniquely-intertwined with my practice and research. Why/what/how/whom I teach further draws on my neurodivergence (ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia, diagnosed after my PhD at UCL Slade School of Fine Art), and upbringing under Singapore’s ‘hothouse’ educational regime with working-class parents who were school-dropouts. While I have lectured/consulted at 100 HEIs worldwide since 1998, and am Senior Lecturer at Manchester School of Art, my ‘students’ include professors and professionals, across art-design, psych- and social sciences, charities and marginalised groups excluded from HE. They apply learnings to engage peers/students/followers in their disciplines/sectors/communities, thus advancing higher art education’s potential exponentially.

EXAMPLES: At Manchester Met, I have been doing developmental work on the stackable MA, and am principal supervisor for two interdisciplinary PhDs (with Royal Northern College of Music, and with Leverhulme’s £1.3m doctoral award for MMU, entitled LUDEC). Discussions with the Business School for the Creative Arts Leadership MA are being formalised (circa 09/2023). I will also be keen to seek your advice on ways to formally embed efforts like the Race Equality Activities Planning group. External engagements for Autumn 2021 include as keynote speaker for ELIA academy’s 300,000 members on extending higher art education, and on neurodiversity, creativity and mental health for King’s College London, and Kingston University’s PGR. At King’s as the first artist in residence at the Centre for Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry, I was in discussions with neuroscientists to develop an ‘MASc’ to study the science and arts around ‘neurodiversity’. I also review research grant applications for the Irish and Icelandic research councils, apart from my roles as Peer Review College member for AHRC and UKRI FLF. In a previous life in the last century I also did keynotes and provided feedback as panel member to the Ministry of Education in Singapore.

CONTEXT: WICKED ISSUES: The call for creativity, interdisciplinarity and Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) to solve wicked issues has intensified during the pandemic (e.g. UN 2020; Advance HE 2021; WEF 2020; UKRI 2020). Yet, the creative arts and neurodiversity – how humans have diverse learning/cognitive modes like dyslexia – are not meaningfully included in this discourse. This is despite growing research about the value of neurodiversity (such as divergent thinking and risk-taking, in e.g. Tan 2018a; Lesch 2018). Furthermore, from dyslexic artist-engineer Leonardo da Vinci to Manchester School of Art student-turned-Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, evidence abounds on how art, artistic processes and artful ways have catalysed or caused change, beyond the confines of ‘art’ (Tan 2020).  

EXTENDINGART TEACHING/LEARNING: As an ‘artist, researcher, teacher’(Thornton 2013), I have been pioneering (co-)creative, interdisciplinary, intersectional, inclusive student-centred teaching/learning interventions that produce iterative and generative outcomes. Celebrating higher-order learning (Biggs 2003; Marton and Säljö 1976), and often with, for and/or about neurodivergent learners and processes (including divergent thinking from my own ADHD), they equip/empower learners with the tools to become not just critical but creative thinkers (Krathwhol 2002) and change-makers. As the quotes in the previous section illustrate, these learners in turn adapt and improve on my recommendations, and (re-)invent yet other creative measures, to further transform yet other individuals and/or their respective institutions, disciplines and/or sectors. My strategies include:

  • Workshops to suit diverse learners, although all bear my ‘positive’ (Guardian 2014), ‘eclectic and cheeky’ (Sydney Herald Tribune 2006) approach;
  • (Co-)Creating artistic outputs, which also become teaching/learning materials, such as an EU-funded documentary Shine A Light on ADHD, watched 44,605 times on YouTube (2018);
  • Mentoring and collaboration, such as withscientist-turned-PhD student, Mike Barrett, cited previously. This allows me to bring other minoritised/marginalised learners/teachers into spaces I have successfully trespassed, or to infiltrate spaces previously/historically inaccessible to myself and others like me, and create interventions to generate disciplinary, cultural, structural and/or policy/ideological change;
  • Writing peer-reviewed articles/chapters and lecturing on high-profile platforms, which enable me to reflect upon, and synthesise my teaching/learning in the forms of methods, frameworks and/or provocations. Formalising/legitimising my experiments in these ways enables other teachers/learners to adapt my approaches, and advance their own. This is captured in my article, cited above, which formulates an anti-racist and decolonised tactic, and which Professor in Creative Practice Pedagogy Susan Orr calls a ‘great text’ (2021).

URGENCY: If the mission of the study of art and design is to develop ‘cognitive abilities related to the aesthetic, ethical and social contexts of human experience’ that ‘contributes to society, the economy and the environment, both in the present and for the future’ (QAA for Higher Education 2019), efforts like my own, which can be described as ‘extended art teaching/learning with a spotlight on neurodiversity’, are imperative. The following case studies are highlights from my 23 years of teaching excellence in HE. They enact the ‘Look, Think, Act’ nexus to incite and ‘sustain reform in teaching/learning ecologies’ (Patterson et al. 2010) and by extension, society at large.

Caption: Above: Running-Discourse at dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel, Germany, September 2012.

Caption: Below: Tweet by Pro Vice Chancellor: Learning and Teaching at York St. John University, Professor in Creative Practice Pedagogy Susan Orr, on my article ‘Towards an Anti-Racist Fine Art PhD’