Exploring Imaginative Education: Insights from the Master of Education Program with Dr. Mark Fettes

March 11, 2024

Introducing the MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Imagination in Teaching, Schooling & Place program, under the guidance of by Dr. Mark Fettes. Explore a transformative educational journey delving into Imaginative Education. Discover its origins, unique attributes, and its profound influence on teaching and learning. 

Q: What inspired the creation of this unique Master of Education program, which centers around developing learners' imaginations? 

A: Our first MEd program in Imaginative Education launched in Fall 2002, and we have run more than a dozen cohorts since then. It was inspired by the work of Professor Kieran Egan, a long-time faculty member at SFU whose books include "Teaching as Storytelling," "Imagination in Teaching and Learning," and "The Educated Mind." Although Dr. Egan is sadly no longer with us, the program continues to be guided and taught by faculty members who worked closely with him.

Q: How does this program differentiate itself from traditional MEd programs?

A: Like all offerings under Community Graduate Programs in the Faculty of Education, the Imaginative Education MEd is a cohort program: everyone goes through six courses together. A cohort is typically 18-22 people, large enough to be diverse but small enough so you can get to know everyone else and build a keen sense of community over time. As you would expect from a program focused on imagination, the IE MEd allows lots of room for creativity, risk-taking and exploration — classes can be fun, exciting, challenging, and surprising.

Q: What opportunities does the program provide for educators to apply their learning in real-world educational settings?

A: There is a strong emphasis on sharing and reflecting on classroom experience through the program, culminating in an extended inquiry into some aspect of teaching practice. Students often tell us that the program helped give them language and concepts to articulate what they feel is most valuable and alive in their teaching — things overlooked in more mainstream ways of thinking about education. And this helps them align their practice more closely with their values. 

Q: How do you support educators adapting their teaching practices to foster imagination within diverse learning environments?

A: We work hard to build trust and mutual support in each cohort so that people feel safe to share stories of vulnerability and struggle and to try out novel ideas and activities. It is easier to stretch your imagination when a whole community is supporting you! For many people, imagination catches fire through dialogue and play, with different perspectives and personalities striking sparks off one another. And hearing about other people's adventures can inspire or encourage you to embark on your own.

Q: What would you say to prospective professionals considering further education but are feeling apprehensive?

A: We have worked with people at all stages of their teaching careers and can safely say there is no “wrong” time to take this program! We've had people teaching on call, people on maternity leave, people contemplating a move into administration, people nearing retirement, people from outside the traditional school system, people with an art-based practice or with a focus on inclusion/special needs – all of them bring something meaningful to the mix, and all of them get some significant benefit from the program.

The format of the classes – typically taught on Friday evenings and Saturdays, every two weeks over three months for each course – works well for people with families and busy working lives. Our instructors understand the need for flexibility when life gets in the way. Community Graduate Programs also provide some excellent support services.

Q: What types of career pathways have you seen from your alumni who have participated in this program?

 A: Most people who go through the program stay on as classroom teachers — usually with a renewed sense of possibility and purpose stemming from their work. Some have become principals and vice-principals, and quite a few have worked as Faculty Associates – teacher educators – for SFU. A handful has done doctoral degrees (PhD or EdD). There is something of an informal network of alumni who stay in touch with one another, turn out for occasional social or professional events, and help spread the word about the program. 

Are you ready to unlock the potential of Imaginative Education in your teaching career? Discover how our program can empower you to transform your classroom practices and inspire your students. Explore the possibilities with us today and take the next step towards enhancing your teaching journey. Learn more about the program, how to apply, and register for an upcoming information session by visiting our program page.

Read more from our Imaginative Education Series