The UWAS curriculum is built around themes and topics rather than specific skills or con-tents. We’ve had courses on darkness, beer brewing and sausage making, electricity in the arts, microscopic images, and creative coding – just to name a few. Students don’t need any previous knowledge in art or design to take our courses, and all UWAS courses are open to bachelor’s and master’s degree students alike.
While UWAS has been warmly welcomed by students, faculty and staff across the university, our transdisciplinary and trans-formative approach to teaching, learning, and curriculum planning does not always fit within the discipline-orientated mindset of higher education.
I believe this discrepancy is connected to the strongly held belief that there are foundations to be mastered prior to advancing into deeper disciplinary or trans/inter/multi/cross/you-name-it-disciplinary knowledge and skills. Or, as the old saying ‘What if radically creative education was not about breaking the established rules, but disregarding them?’ goes, one ought to know the rules before breaking them.
This is all familiar to us in UWAS as well. We are quite often asked to offer so-called foundational courses where students could learn easily utilisable tools and methods of art and design. These range from design thinking to basic skills in photography, and from Adobe’s programs to exercises in creative thinking.
Of course, requests like these are completely valid and show how needed the creative fields are in today’s world. Personally, I’d love to see engineering students immersed in ceramics and business students exploring installation art.
Going back to the idea of transformative education, however, teaching does not have to be simply a means to transmit preexisting knowledge and skills to those who allegedly lack them, but it can offer time and space to question what one presently knows and does. In other words, instead of simply learning new things, one may also unlearn the already learned.
I wish to emphasise that I’m not against foundational courses – on the contrary, they have an important part to play in building a community of discourse and practice within and beyond the university.
All I’m saying is that since transdisciplinary education takes place between established fields of knowledge and practice, it is by nature devoid of stable foundations. Or, if one claims to have foundations for it, they are most likely imposed by disciplinary demands for specific outcomes for teaching and learning.
It is precisely this circular bind be-tween preestablished foundations and predetermined outcomes that UWAS aims to disrupt with its arts-based transdisciplinary curriculum.
That said, what if radically creative education was not about breaking the established rules, but disregarding them? This doesn’t have to mean that everything goes; that students and teachers should embrace some sort of a laissez-faire relativism. On the contrary, it requires careful attention toward what one does not know about the things they know and staying with questions (“what,” “why,” “how,” “where,” “who,” etc.) that initiate every educational inquiry, whether in the form of teaching or learning.