National Teaching Fellow 2014
Dr Alison James has worked in creative arts education in a variety of roles, across all levels and many subjects – as educational and staff developer, researcher and policy maker and teacher. Her trademark is creative and interactive approaches to pedagogy with a high level of staff and student involvement and plenty of humour to go with it. She believes that ‘edutainment’ does not have to be a dirty word, and that learning is about engaging imagination – the title of her book with Professor Stephen Brookfield. The four touchstones of Alison’s work with staff and students are connection, involvement, enjoyment and inclusion.
A substantial field of activity for Alison is that of creative arts reflective practice and personal and professional development (PPD), with particular interest in how students address questions of identity, self-construction and personal learning narrative through these educational practices. These interests informed her MA thesis on Auto/biography and personal development planning in the Creative Arts and her doctoral study of, and monograph on, the life and art of Dod Procter, only the second woman to become a Royal Academician in the UK. Alison then brought these interests into her next project which was creating a visual online resource for PPD. This resource, PPD Coach, nurtures playful exploration of identity, values, emotions and drivers alongside evaluations of skill acquisition, knowledge and progress.
A fascination with alternative and creative approaches to PPD led Alison to experiment with LEGO ® as a research tool and then to become an accredited facilitator of LEGO ® SERIOUS PLAY. She uses this methodology extensively to develop reflective thinking on a range of curriculum design and delivery issues, as well as for helping staff and students explore matters of personal importance:
"I thought Alison James who ran the [LEGO ®] session was great– everything was explained in a clear and concise manner and her calm approach enabled us to really open up." (LSP participant).
“Alison is like a breath of fresh air…and despite her considerable achievements remains approachable and hugely personable.” (Executive coach and educational consultant, Lynne Dorling).
Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching
University of the Arts London