Dr Welby Ings
The power of Viruses: Teaching as productive subversion.
In 1975 Donald Campbell, the American social psychologist and philosopher, made a frightening observation that became known as Campbell’s Law. He noted,
'the more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.'
Put simply ... he said this, ‘If you set up fixed measurements for a social agent like education, people within the system will begin to corrupt it so it works to their advantage.’ For Art and Design educators this poses a fundamental problem. Assigned the task of developing creative thinking in students, we often find ourselves sidelining risk taking and discovery in favour of templated approaches. These produce outcomes that neatly map onto exemplars or tick the boxes associated with pre-imagined descriptions of learning. Achieving grades becomes a concern of greater immediacy than developing the disobedient thinking that leads to higher and more profound levels of discovery. Paradoxically however, it is this propensity to disobey and innovate that universities and polytechnics seek in applicants. They search for evidence of the ability to solve problems in unique ways, to risk and fail, to discover from failure, and to trade beyond the experience of the teacher, the ‘marker’, and the self.
Using examples of student’s artistic research and recent challenges to the New Zealand’s model of evidence-based, grade accrual, the address argues against the micro managing of teachers and their students. It advocates higher levels of trust in professionalism and suggests that productively subversive approaches to learning adopted by certain Art teachers, are in fact what enable their students to attain high levels of success in tertiary education.
Welby Ings is a Professor in Design at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand. He is an elected Fellow of the British Royal Society of Arts and has been a consultant to many international organisations on issues of creativity and learning.
He is an award winning designer and illustrator, and his short films have garnered numerous international awards.
Welby has written and spoken extensively on Art & Design education, learning and the power of disobedient thought. In March of this year Otago University Press published his critical book Disobedient Teaching.
Welby has supervised over 80 postgraduate theses in Art and Design and is an international examiner in the same discipline. In 2001 he was awarded the Prime Minister’s inaugural, Supreme Award for Tertiary Teaching Excellence and in 2014 he was awarded the AUT University medal for his contributions to research and creative teaching.