media release

Imagination: The great workhorse of learning

June 27, 2014

Kieran Egan, 778.782.4671,
Melissa Hudson, educ. comm.,
Juliane Siu, educ. comm, 778.782.7381,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


Teachers, parents, academics and others interested in knowing what motivates a child to learn will attend the 9th Imaginative Education Research Group (IERG) Conference on Imagination and Education, July 2 to 4. The conference takes place at Simon Fraser University’s Vancouver campus at Harbour Centre.

Hosted by SFU’s Faculty of Education where the IERG was first conceived by education professor Kieran Egan, the conference will engage attendees in an exploration of what Egan calls a key conundrum.

He says that although the IERG’s evidence-based research has shown that imagination is one of the great workhorses of learning, our current educational system sees it only as a frill for occasional use. He notes that teachers are not trained to understand how students’ imaginations work and develop.

“All the knowledge in the curriculum,” says Egan, “is the product of someone’s hopes, fears, passions or ingenuity. If we want students to learn and understand knowledge in a way that makes it meaningful and memorable, then we need to bring it to life for them in the context of hopes, fears, passions or ingenuity. The great agent for achieving this routinely in everyday classrooms is the imagination.”

Thousands of teachers globally have adopted his approach to imaginative teaching and learning. But, says Egan, an economically troubled world looking for quick fixes to global challenges and too often ignores the real power of the imagination to equip students to learn, understand and apply knowledge to real-world problems.

The conference will focus on presenting approaches and findings by the following speakers, and others from more than 20 countries:

  • A conference keynote speaker, John Willinsky, Stanford University, Graduate School of Education professor, activist and author, presents The Intellectual Properties of Imagination. Willinsky says: “We may be remiss in introducing the imagination into education without also teaching the young about the legal and economic implications of imaginative labour and learning…What do the young need to know about their rights in the use of the imagination?”
  • Jennifer Stokes, course coordinator for Australia’s UniSA College’s programming in University Studies and Information Skills, will present Becoming a university student: a case study of imaginative education and enabling pedagogy in Australia. Imaginative Education (IE) supports the learning needs of students in university enabling programs. In contrast to the traditional undergrad, the diverse students who access these programs are more likely to have suffered negative educational experiences resulting in fragile learning identities. Stokes will outline IE approaches to build students’ ironic understanding, critical literacy, wellbeing and intrinsic motivation.
  • Beth Ferholt, University of New York, Brooklyn College, assistant professor, Department of Early Childhood and Art Education, will present how Swedish playworld projects incorporate cognitive tools for mythical understanding. The presentation will demonstrate the centrality of imagination in preschool learning.

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 130,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

<p><a href="/content/sfu/sfunews/comment_guidelines.html?keepThis=true&amp;TB_iframe=true&amp;height=700&amp;width=700" class="thickbox">Comment Guidelines</a><br>