Jarvis, Christine and Gouthro, Patricia (2013) The role of the arts in professional education; making the invisible, visible. In: Research in Work and Learning, 18-21 June 2013, University of Stirling. (Unpublished)

'The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls' (Pablo Picasso). This paper will explore the value of using the arts in professional education. We use the term arts to include all the creative arts, such as poetry, drama, music, fiction, film, television and all the visual arts. The general argument in our paper could be applied to education for a wide range of professionals, although we draw on examples from health, teaching, business, and law.
Professional education, and particularly professional education which confers a licence to practice, is often tightly regulated and controlled by professional bodies, and curricula are generally employer-led. Students invest heavily in their education in most countries in the world, with a few enlightened and beleaguered countries constituting exceptions. In England, fees in most universities have risen almost threefold for entry in 2012. Globally, students expect a financial return on their investment in the form of a graduate job. Policy spanning decades and cutting across political parties has emphasised the production of employable graduates as the primary role of higher education. Our contention is that this has led to a significant narrowing of the focus of professional education. There is a difference, however, between creating a 'job-ready' graduate, who is able to fulfil a narrow set of immediate vocational requirements, and developing a creative critical thinker, who is able not merely to implement current best practice, but to challenge it, develop it and even overturn it if necessary and who will be able to function at the highest level if circumstances change and new challenges present themselves. Sheridan-Rabideau (2010, p. 56) argues that “there is both room and need for preparing more creative individuals in every discipline”.
The paper offers a rationale for widening the curriculum so that it includes opportunities for imaginative and open ended work, via engagement with the arts. It draws on research projects that each of us has conducted and some under development. We will also draw on both theoretical literature and on literature offering examples of good practice in this area. We aim to show how the arts enable people to expand their thinking and feeling so that they can get to those things that are often invisible because they are difficult to express in conventional academic language. We will explore, for example, how the arts may stimulate playful approaches that can bypass inhibition and produce surprising and exceptional ideas, how they encourage the envisioning of alternatives , helping us to overturn thinking trammelled by routine, how they may promote empathy and a deeper understanding of those whom professionals try to help and support and how they might help professionals develop a resistance to hegemonic perspectives. Our argument is that professionals have to be able to get 'beyond the dust of daily life', rise above routines and protocols and think imaginatively and creatively.

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