Educating risk: How fear of failure is stifling creative practice within Higher Education

Smith, Michael (2020) Educating risk: How fear of failure is stifling creative practice within Higher Education. EDUCATING ANIMATORS Academic Conference 2019 Teaching the World's most expressive Art Form.


The presentation explored how creative play, free from assessment can manifest itself in learning about animation practice. There is an increasing concern within higher education that students are no longer prepared to take risks, try new things and develop their practice through place. This is problematic as it stifles creative play, experimentation, the development of new knowledge and ultimately innovation. Clifford asserts that, “Teaching students to take risks as a means of learning and motivation facilitates learning and increases effort in academics” (Clifford, 1991). Encouraging students to take risks, stimulates and creates an environment where uncertainty and ambiguity arise; because of this students have to learn to be critical and reflect upon their learning. A key aspect to developing risk taking to encourage all involved in the activities to discuss their learning and that of others. As such it’s vital that learners are equipped with strong communication skills to articulate their thinking. Creative play allows the student to exercise and test out skills without the fear of failure, or indeed assessment. The current research explores how can we develop a community of practice where creative play can be fostered to allow students to acquire skills that can be applied to other projects (transferrable skills), Winthrop & McGivney suggest, “Content is not learnable if communication skills are not in place, and critical thinking operates on content, not in a vacuum. In this way, the skills build on and reinforce one another.” Winthrop & McGivney (2016).

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