How did I get here? A reflection on creativity and identity

Author: Hugh Harlow

How did I get here? A reflection on creativity and identity

Hugh Harlow
28 November 2018

Harlow, H. (2018). How did I get here? A reflection on creativity and identity. (A thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Professional Practice, Otago Polytechnic.) [PDF 1,756 KB]

Executive Summary

My slightly unconventional four-year journey towards achieving the Master of Professional Practice has traversed three broad phases, corresponding to the evolution of my professional persona. The first of these, covering the Review of Learning and Learning Agreement processes, led to in-depth reflection on my professional and academic experiences over the previous fifteen or so years. This reflection brought to light some of my early assumptions about academia, specifically the focus on the award or qualification, rather than the learning undertaken in achieving that award, and also the naïve acceptance of transmission-model lecturing as the default mode of teaching. More positively, the process allowed me to recognise the work-based learning I had undertaken in my professional practice as an audio engineer. The broad range of knowledge and skills developed during that practice constituted a solid foundation upon which I could build the rest of my study. Further reflection upon my changing professional persona, as I started to embrace my role as a teacher, began to unearth ideas around education which have carried forward into my current practice: the potential pedagogical benefits of blended learning models; the role of the teacher as a facilitator rather than the font-of-all-knowledge; the importance of experiential learning, especially in a vocational training environment.

Phase two of the journey was the practitioner inquiry research. The project investigated ideas around creativity, looking specifically at the creative process of the mix engineer and trying to identify a method by which this could be fostered in novice audio practitioners. The hope was that this would lead to a transformation in teaching practice. Several ideas emerged from this which have continuing broader relevance: that creativity is not some magical gift from the Muses, but instead is a collection of skills and processes that can be learned and applied; that a practitioner’s skills, while essential to their practice, need to be applied with both an awareness of the context of their practice and with reference to the knowledge and shared understandings which permeate their field of practice.

The third and final phase was a reflection on the practitioner inquiry process and the implications for my new professional persona as a leader, first as Programme Coordinator in London, and then as Learning and Teaching Specialist at Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand. Where previously my focus had been on audio-related knowledge and the skills and concepts required to successfully teach my students, now I was drawing upon yet another body of work-based learning to benefit other teachers. Initially, this involved mentoring and supporting my colleagues in London. Upon returning to Dunedin, this transformed into a wider role in supporting my teaching colleagues at OP, taking advantage of my acquired skills in educational technology, learning and teaching practices, and curriculum design.

Collectively, these three phases represent a transformation in my professional persona that continues to this day.

“Strange how you never become The person you see when you're young”
‘Where We Would Be’ (Wilson, 2000)

Key words: Creativity; Education; Music production; Professional practice; Audio engineering.


This redacted thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International.

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