SoTL RESEARCH

Creative Capacity Development: Examining the Impact of Online, Modular and Asynchronous Approaches to Enhancing Creativity in Undergraduate Classrooms.

This study is grounded in the context of a senior capstone marketing course in the Bissett School of Business (MKTG 4850). In this class, students engage with an online, modular and asynchronous creative capacity development training program as part of their course work. This online program forms a critical component of the course, and the completion of the online modules is assessed as part of the final class grade. The online modules include videos, digital resources, individual learning activities and peer-feedback discussions – each focused on the development of critical creative capacities that are essential to student success in this particular course, and in their ongoing work as early career professionals in the creative or cultural industries.   Creative capacity development has been proposed as a means to foster innovation and critical thinking capabilities. However, there has been little research examining the most effective forms, pedagogical approaches or learning experiences that might characterize impactful and meaningful creative capacity development engagements in the higher education context. By using the MKTG 4850 creative capacity development online training program as a site of inquiry, this study will examine whether students can develop enhanced creative capacities by taking part in an online, asynchronous, modular learning experience, whether an online, asynchronous, modular learning experience can provide an effective climate for creativity, and the ways in which students characterize learning about creativity in an online, asynchronous, modular environment.

The importance of developing the “creative capacities” (Brown, 2018) of our students is a global issue: the World Economic Forum has identified creativity and the development of creative capacity as being as important as artificial intelligence in shaping the jobs of the future and as the single most important skill for leaders in the digital economy (World Economic Forum, 2020). However, despite emerging research about the value of creative capacity development in higher education, the phenomenon has not been well characterized in terms of its practical application—especially in interdisciplinary undergraduate contexts. We know we have to find ways to develop the creative capacities of our students as part of our work as instructors across disciplines, but the best way to incorporate creativity relevant processes and creative capacity development into existing pedagogical approaches in our classrooms remains unclear. There is still much to be learned with respect to how creative capacity development is applied in practice in online, modular and asynchronous learning experiences, which creativity relevant processes are extended by students into their work in their home disciplines, and the nature of undergraduate learning that the development of creative capacities enables. By generating a deep, nuanced account of the application of creative capacity development practices in higher education, and a unique case example of how online, modular and asynchronous approaches to creativity focused skill development are experienced in an undergraduate classroom context, this study will provide key insights into the ways in which we might develop the critical creative capacities of our students across disciplinary contexts.

There is an emerging body of research in higher education that has worked towards demonstrating links between creative capacity development and enhanced student learning in a variety of disciplinary areas (for example, Miller & Dumford, 2016; von Thienen et al., 2017). Despite this effort, however, there are few consistent descriptions of how creative capacity development is enacted in practice (Jackson et al., 2006). While there seems to be widespread agreement that integrating creative capacity development into degree programming is important for generating meaningful and sustained student learning, the ideal manner in which those creative capacities might be developed remains something of a mystery. Accordingly, instructors in higher education have no guidance on how to bring creativity relevant processes or creative capacity development into their courses in a way that will optimize student learning in their disciplinary context. By investigating how an online, asynchronous and modular learning experience impacts students’ creative capacity development, I hope to better understand how to better support both students and teachers who are engaging in enhancing creativity across campus.


Better by design: Design thinking, experiential learning and the development of a growth mindset in undergraduate classrooms.

This study examined how design thinking practices might effect the development and resilience of a growth mindset and of failure tolerance within an undergraduate learning community. This research was generously supported by a Mount Royal University Essential SoTL Grant (2019 – 2020).

The overarching purpose of our project was to better understand the phenomenon of design thinking, and the way that design thinking oriented learning strategies might contribute to the development of a growth mindset in undergraduate students. Could the use of design thinking oriented learning strategies in an undergraduate marketing class contribute to the development of a growth mindset in the learning community? Specifically, we aimed to answer the following questions:

1. How do students in a design-thinking focused section of MKTG 2150 describe their orientation toward a growth mindset before and a design thinking-based learning experience? How does their orientation differ from that described by learners in a standard section of MKTG 2150?

2. How do students in a design-thinking focused section of MKTG 2150 characterize the role of failure in creative problem-solving work before and a design thinking-based learning experience? How does that differ from the role of failure characterized by learners in a standard section of MKTG 2150?

How might design thinking — the interactive, human-centered pedagogical approach that has recently been recognized as a valuable strategy in the development of a creative practice— complement existing approaches to experiential learning in higher education classrooms? This video presentation shares findings from a comparative study of 400 undergraduate business school students enrolled in a common first year marketing class, and reveals the ways that design thinking protocols can be mobilized to strengthen experiential learning in the post-secondary learning environment. The survey data collected from students participating in both the design thinking and the non-design thinking samples of this research study shed light on whether this pedagogical approach can indeed effectively foster the development of a growth mindset, and on the relationship between the use of design thinking approaches, the resonance of reflective practices and the alignment of experiential learning goals in our classroom partnerships.

In this presentation, shared at STLHE 2021 and with our MRU Community in conferences and workshops, I discuss specific outcomes of the research study related to the phenomenon of design-thinking, and the way that design-thinking oriented learning strategies might contribute to the development of a growth mindset and of failure tolerance in undergraduate students within an experiential learning environment.