It is fashionable for university courses to specify in advance what students will learn, what the learning outcomes will be. That’s equivalent to trying to predict the future, and the research on how people learn does not support the notion that we can predict how learning will unfold – or even if learning will happen. In this course, you will decide how much you learn and what you learn. My approach to the class is to assume that everyone is capable of making their own choices about how much to commit and how far to go. If you read a few books, if you approach the activities and projects with enthusiasm and authentic curiosity, then you will learn quite a bit in this class. I can’t say in advance exactly what you will learn – you are uniquely you, with your own interests and values and learning needs – but you will learn something. On the other hand, if you do the least amount possible in this class – if you don’t read anything, if you don’t commit to the creative activities, if you don’t try to improve your writing – then you probably won’t learn very much.
I won’t ask you to prove what you are learning. There are no book reports, quizzes, or exams in this class. No one will ask you what a gerund is. An avalanche of educational research has shown that methods of enforcement and compliance don’t contribute much to learning and can even impair learning. On the other hand, methods of enforcement and compliance are probably what you are most used to, if you have spent many years in a traditional educational system (high school or university in Canada or anywhere in the Commonwealth, for example). And this presents a problem, because in this course you will likely experience a kind of educational freedom that you have not encountered before. Read what you want. Write what you want. Engage as much or as little as you want. No exam, no mid-term. And so on. For some people in my class, this new freedom can be very challenging: when no one is forcing you, it can be tough to get things done.
I encourage you to bring as much curiosity, maturity, and commitment to this class as you can. This may be your only opportunity to experience a non-traditional educational environment. Your learning in this class is for you. You’re not here to prove anything to me or to digest what I think you should know. Learning – especially creative learning – doesn’t work well if you are not free to discover new things on your own. Use this class to explore your creativity, your inner life, your values, your direction – whatever you want. That’s the magic of the creative process: it can take you anywhere. But you have to be willing to go.