Making Thinking - Crafting Education

This thematic session will explore how we promote thinking through making in the context of craft and design-to-make education. A thinking that not only promotes personal independence and resilience, but also incorporates (even prioritises) ethical and environmental stewardship, in tandem with a clear sense of social responsibility and contribution to notions of community.

Most will agree that a better future depends significantly on whether we can successfully educate younger generations to appreciate the importance of natural systems, the social structures dependent upon them, and how to live creatively, adapt and innovate, within a context of finite energy and material resources. Purposive engagement with materials through art, craft and making across the learning continuum - from primary into secondary levels (including initiatives such as the Forest Schools ‘movement’), apprenticeships, graduate and post-graduate levels - is often championed as an approach to pedagogy whose aims and ends engender these values through forms of concrete problem solving.

The reality, however, has often fallen short of the rhetoric, with art and craft activities frequently being marginalised in favour of a more instrumental vision of education linked to the prioritising STEM-based subjects, at least in the UK educational system. This arguably supports the develoment of mass-consumer cultures in which the majority in any given society are deprived of any real understanding of how the material cultures that underpin their worlds operate. How might this dire situation be addressed? What might a materially based education that promotes making thinking actually consist of? How do we foreground studio and workshops as learning environments and/or modes of learning that encourage independence, personal responsibility and agency? What innovative pedagogies might evolve to support these proposals? These questions reverberate through the whole continuum of education – from pre-school, through primary to secondary and graduate level education, to adult lifelong learning.

Although Making Futures is developed as a Higher Education research project, as the above text indicates, we are actutely aware of how HE is but one part of a wider interconnected ecology of learning. Therefore, we are interested papers and practice-led presentations that cut across the full spectrum of educational experience, from early years through to undergraduate and post-graduate levels, and on through continuing education.