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OUR PUBLICATIONS > HEARTS Higher Education, the Arts and Schools: an experiment in educating teachers

OUR PUBLICATIONS > HEARTS Higher Education, the Arts and Schools: an experiment in educating teachers

CCE Research

HEARTS Higher Education, the Arts and Schools: an experiment in educating teachers

May 1, 2007

Author: Dick Downing and Emily Lamont with Mike Newby

Institution: NFER (Sponsored by Esmée Fairbairn)

Full reference: Downing, D. and Lamont, E. with Newby, M.(2007). HEARTS: Higher Education, the Arts and Schools: an Experiment in Educating Teachers. Slough: NFER.

Summary of key findings

HEARTS (Higher Education, the Arts and Schools) project was established with the intention of strengthening the arts element of initial training of primary school teachers.

The HEARTS members came from two major charitable trusts (the Esmée Fairbairn and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundations), each with a long standing interest in both the arts and education; and from a university-based Faculty of Education in the person of its Dean. A project manager and an evaluator (NFER) were invited to join them. During the academic years 2004/6, six higher education institutions were given financial and practical support to introduce new programmes of arts work into their curricula.

Key findings included

  • Increased collaborative working was a key outcome of HEARTS for staff in the higher education institutions. Despite time constraints within the context of initial teacher education, the project demonstrated there could be greater professional dialogue between tutors, and efforts should be made to enable this more widely.
  • The current cohorts of student teachers have only studied under the national curriculum and have largely experienced teaching to pre-determined outcomes. They expressed some surprise and even delight that it is possible to enable pupils to explore and find their own creative outcomes.
  • Trans-disciplinary and cross-curricular learning, with the arts as a central focus, were a feature of all of the HEARTS projects and were examples of how subject areas can come together meaningfully, for both teachers and learners.

A key outcome for students was around an enhanced awareness of creativity. This emerged in two distinctive ways. First, despite some initially negative perceptions of their own abilities, students came to recognise their own creativity, or a rekindling of latent skills. Tutors observed how students began to engage in their own artistic activities and how the contact with practising artists challenged their creative abilities. Tutors also cited cases of broadened thinking and creative ideas in subsequent work and in the HEARTS assessment.

Second, students reported a better understanding of creativity as a concept. For example, some said that they ‘learned to embrace creativity’ and discovered how to be more creative in school.

Research questions & methodology

As part of the ongoing evaluation of HEARTS, the NfER scheduled visits to each of the participating university departments of education. The first visits took place during November and December 2004, approximately six months after the planning residential. Second visits took place in July 2005 and focused largely on the emergent outcomes of the three projects (see section 4).

Visits were designed, as far as possible, to provide the opportunity to speak to the following stakeholders:

  • teachers from schools involved in HEARTS;
  • students involved in the projects;
  • members of the local HEARTS management team;
  • someone at a higher management level within the university department of education such as the head of department, dean of faculty, etc.
  • a member of staff involved in researching HEARTS at institutional level.

Evidence in this report has been drawn from NFER interviews with students, tutors and senior staff members at each university department of education and from internal university department of education evaluations.

Go to the journal article.