April Pre-Session Reading Task – Ron Barnett’s 2007 book ‘A Will to Learn’, Chapter 8

On the second page (p102), pause to consider the following questions:

1. How do you recognise Barnett’s ‘qualities’ in the context of a course you work with? Think of a couple of examples.

Important QualitiesNot Important Qualities
Courage – definitely. It is incredibly hard to move away from home and enter into a new non-compulsory environment with few rules and regulations and suddenly take responsibility for the organisation and future proofing of your life. Very important to my course as this is often a new subject to students and their understanding is limited.Integrity – I don’t really understand why this is important, integrity is about the ability to know oneself and form the best opinions and make the ‘right’ decisions, this is an unacceptable expectation to have from 18 yr olds who are lacking in life experience. As usual this philosophical point of view seems to be written by someone who has ‘forgotten’ what it was like to be a teenager indeed if they ever were.
the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles
the state of being whole and undivided
Resilience – This is a good one. Studying is not just the education, it’s the whole self-management and survival in a new world. Definitely, students are hear by choice so self-motivation is key and dealing with outside pressures and trying to stop these interfering with studies is very difficult. Carefulness – this would simply not be a word I would ever consider in relation to studying. Not relevant to my course.
Self-discipline – some of this is needed but also some free expression. Compulsory education is very inflexible, offering students little opportunity to explore outside the curriculum. A good BA course should encourage this.Restraint – what? No idea what this is about. Why and for what purpose would you want students to restrain themselves? Not relevant to my course.
Respect for others – very important. Although this will be ‘their’ degree, often obtaining this qualification relies on the co-operation and input from others. I am a firm believer that students learn as much peer to peer as they do from tutors. Learning in an international, multi-cultural environment enriches education and the learning opportunities and should be considered as invaluable.Openness – maybe. I’m not sure this is a top 10 quality. This is about a lack of secrecy and honesty. This is important but not necessarily paramount. I don’t really see this as important on my course.

2. To what extent do you recognise Barnett’s ‘dispositions’ in your own approach to learning? Assuming this varies, what influences them?

A will to learn – quite difficult, this is only easy for me when the subject interests me. I have worked in the same industry all my working life (clearly I love it) and anything that informs my teaching is fascinating to me. However, when I am trying to help my daughter with algebra I have no interest in learning how to do this.

A will to engage – I get easily distracted. I am massively time poor and this means unless the subject appeals to my interest I am frustrated that sometimes I ‘have’ to do it when actually I’m not interested.

A preparedness to listen – I’m quite good at this, I learn by listening although my attention span is quite short.

A preparedness to explore – Very much so, I like working with other people from varied backgrounds and enjoy sharing ideas and listening to their points of view.

A willingness to hold oneself open to experiences – I don’t think this is different from the above

A determination to keep going forward – I suppose. I wouldn’t consider myself as a reflective person so I think this is just naturally the way I am.

What influences my disposition: – time, interest, the end result, relatability.


Once you’ve finished, take a look at UAL’s Creative Attributes Framework and have a think about the following:

1. Are UAL’s Creative Attributes more like Barnett’s ‘qualities’? Or his ‘dispositions’? Is it just a question of phrasing? Comment on a couple of examples.

UAL CAFDispositionQuality
AgilityA determination to keep going forwardResilience
CommunicationA preparedness to listen
ConnectivityA will to engage
CuriosityA preparedness to exploreOpenness
Self-EfficacyA willingness to hold oneself open to experience

2. The Creative Attributes are explicitly focused on employability and enterprise, i.e. on preparing students for socially useful occupations. What valuable attributes (‘creative’ or otherwise) can you think of that aren’t employment-focused?

I find this impossible. I just don’t think it’s a valuable argument in today’s society to suggest anyone goes £50k + into debt for any other reason than to gain a better job.

3. How are these attributes taught and/or learned at UAL?

My course is vocationally focussed so this is an impossible question to answer. I think this question is aimed at people who don’t have to consider the financial implications of studying.

4. Barnett’s ‘qualities and dispositions’ are about learning, and the CAF is about creative practice. Are they more or less similar than you would expect, given this difference?

They are more similar than I expected. Creative practice is always going to be more outreaching, ie, less about the individual. Learning is more concerned with the self. Creative practice always has an element of audience participation and engagement.

5. How do these ideas connect with the theory you’ve been encountering on your elective unit (if you are doing one)?

I am not doing one.


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