Engaging Imagination: Helping Students Become Creative and Reflective Thinkers
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More About This Title Engaging Imagination: Helping Students Become Creative and Reflective Thinkers


How to nurture creativity in tomorrow’s innovators—today’s college students

When asked what they want colleges to emphasize most, employers didn’t put science, computing, math, or business management first. According to AAC&U’s 2013 employer survey, 95% of employers give hiring preference to college graduates with skills that will enable them to contribute to innovation in the workplace. In Engaging Imagination: Helping Students Become Creative and Reflective Thinkers, two leading educators help college instructors across disciplines engage students in nurturing creativity and innovation for success beyond the classroom. Alison James, an expert in creative arts education, and Stephen D. Brookfield, bestselling author, outline how creative exploration can extend students’ reflective capabilities in a purposeful way, help them understand their own potential and learning more clearly, and imbue students with the freedom to generate and explore new questions.

This book:
  • shows why building creative skills pays dividends in the classroom and in students’ professional lives long after graduation;
  • offers research-based, classroom-tested approaches to cultivating creativity and innovation in the college setting;
  • provides practical tools for incorporating “play” into the college curriculum;
  • draws on recent advances in the corporate sector where creative approaches have been adopted to reinvigorate thinking and problem-solving processes; and
  • includes examples from a variety of disciplines and settings.
Engaging Imagination is for college and university faculty who need to prepare students for the real challenges of tomorrow’s workplace.


ALISON JAMES is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK and has worked in creative arts education for more than two decades. During this time she has taught students at all levels, run a learning support service, carried out extensive staff development on all aspects of pedagogy, and conducted research into student learning through personal and professional development. She has taught, written, and presented nationally and internationally on personal and professional development in fashion and the creative industries, emphasizing play and interactivity in reflective practice. Her publications on these and other subjects include a monograph, solo and coauthored book chapters, and journal articles.

STEPHEN D. BROOKFIELD is the John Ireland Endowed Chair at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more than 40 years, he has taught in England, Canada, Australia, and the United States. A six-time winner of the Cyril O. Houle Award for Outstanding Literature in Adult Education, he is the author of numerous books on teaching including Teaching for Critical Thinking (2011), The Skillful Teacher (Second Edition, 2006), and Discussion as a Way of Teaching (Second Edition, 2005), all from Jossey-Bass.


List of Figures ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xxi

About the Authors xxiii

Part 1 Understanding the Role of Imagination in Learning 1

1. How Engaging the Imagination Fosters Reflective Thinking 3

2. Introducing Refl ective Thinking to Students 25

3. Connecting Creativity, Imagination, and Play 47

Part 2 Engaging Imagination Tools and Techniques 67

4. Using Visual Methods of Teaching and Learning 69

5. How Story and Metaphor Provoke Reflective Thinking 93

6. Playing Seriously: Legos and Labyrinths 115

7. Playing with Space: Pods and Patchwork 139

8. Asking Powerful Questions 163

9. Building Reflective Communities: Maps and Mazes 185

Part 3 Negotiating the Emotional Realities of Engaging Imagination 207

10. Keeping Energy and Morale High 209

11. Engaging Our Own Imaginations as Authors 233

References 251

Index 261