Drawing on experience: mature students and practical wisdom in art and design higher education.

Broadhead, Samantha ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9469-1233 (2015) Drawing on experience: mature students and practical wisdom in art and design higher education. It’s All Adult Education: Proceedings of 44th Annual Conference. pp. 68-75. ISSN 978-0-907644-09-5


This paper analyses the narratives constructed by and between Chad, a post-Access to HE student, and myself, the inquirer, that represent some of her experiences during her BA (Hons) Surface Pattern course. Surface pattern designers are concerned with designing for surfaces and embellishments which could include wallpapers, fabrics, flooring, and packaging. This case study was part of a longitudinal study (2011-14) that sought to investigate the experiences of ‘non-traditional students’ in art and design higher education. The participants were studying on a range of creative degree programmes in various institutional contexts. Narrative inquiry was used to show the ways in which students reflected on and took stock of their educational journeys. The analysis draws upon some of the notions concerned with phronesis (prudence or practical wisdom). Aristotle claimed that only a person of experience can practice practical wisdom, and a young person is unlikely to have extensive life experience, (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VI, Chapter 8). This discussion recounts some of the critical incidents within Chad’s story where I have noticed evidence of phronesis or at some points the absence of wise judgement. It is suggested that within the context of higher education mature adults sometimes make poor decisions leading them to act in ways that continue their sufferings. This is because they do not exercise their potential to act with prudence, (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VI, Chapter 5). Chad offers an explanation of why this maybe so at the end of her story where she describes the culture of her course as being very competitive and not conducive to her thinking and acting well for herself and others. Within the educational field of adult education at level three, four, five and six Chad’s account of her learning experiences triangulate with Williams (2013) who argues that some of the managerial processes of Higher Education infantise students.

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