Reading Task: Ron Barnett – Dispositions and Qualities

Dispositions and Qualities are needed for students to successfully achieve their aim through study. Dispositions rely on state of mind meaning that the student must have a mental well-being to adopt some of the dispositions such as willingness to learn a lot engage and prepared to listen and explore. In ontological terms is how the student perceives themselves within their studies and their experience within the environment that they are in. These aspects rely on one’s motivation and general interest and open mind.

Barnett suggests that “dispositions and qualities are durable in their nature. “They constitute the students pedagogical being. It is they that must be the focus of teaching in higher education.”
I question this as the durability of dispositions can be affected by the experience of the student within the educational environment and external experiences that may affect their disposition in both positive and negative ways. Therefore, for the teacher to recognise the dispositions and qualities the student may possess that can be harnessed, nurtured and supported.

A student may embark on a course of good intention with the disposition of excitement and eagerness. They may have preparedness to explore and a willingness to hold oneself open to experiences, therefore demonstrate the will to learn and to engage in the subject they have chosen. However, this willingness can also be determined by the student experience in the educational environment that they are in and the relationships relationship with their tutor and their peers.

The qualities I link to UAL’s creative attributes framework as well as areas for inclusive practice then teaching and learning. Is a carefulness to consider the needs of students to make sure that all students are being catered for. From my teaching experience I believe that students can bring their own selves into the subject/project that they can share. A basic example is that students (particularly international students) can share aspects of their country’s culture. Students can be encouraged to have their work informed by their identity.

If for instance the student current disposition is one due to having a concern over their progress of work at things outside of college then this may affect their disposition. Therefore, the qualities can be encouraged to build resilience and courage and openness to share with their tutor or to communicate their feelings and ideas in terms of their progress.

In cohort teaching and learning Seminar groups we discussed the Reading of Ron Barnett. The focus was based on the following quote in the reading:

It may then be suggested that qualities as well as dispositions can be expressed in verbal process. Maybe urged, for example, that the quality of ‘carefulness’ could be expressed as a disposition ‘to take care’. So it could. Similarly, say with the self-discipline which could be expressed as a willingness to exercise self-discipline.

Our interpretation and discussion of this lead to two areas.  The first being that learning and teaching there is an element student should be brave open with the willing to experiment and take risks rather than be too careful. The second was taking into consideration where Barnett suggests ‘A disposition may almost be undone by its qualities. Students the need to be aware and careful of producing work that may lead to harmful and unethical outcomes. This can possibly have derived from characteristics of sense of arrogance through a disposition eagerness and the willingness to explore.

We drew upon practices within our own teaching that we discussed and shared.

I had recognised Barnett’s qualities within my own course where students are encouraged to have the courage to use their voice and to put their own self in their work. They are encouraged to experiment and try new things for example, Theatre Design students develop their resilience in creating their model set designs stop there was a carefulness in their approach to maintain accuracy as the model sets had to be made to scale. When talking to the students about this they disclose their anxieties towards making mistakes in the technicalities around making models. In my tutorials with the students I had suggested that they should record the process of making their model sets and reflect on what they found challenging and why and areas that work well on their reflection sheets. Using the reflection sheets help students to develop a sense of resilience as by writing they were able to identify solutions towards producing their model sets.

The second part of our discussion led to identifying students dispositions and qualities the connections between creative arts framework and inclusive practice.
Integrity carefulness courage and resilience self-discipline outlined in Barnett’s paper were linked to the creative attributes framework. Restraint, respect others and openness I consider to be part of inclusive practice.


It is important that teachers recognise this however introduce their own characteristics be fair and inclusive to all students. Teachers will recognise this, and the students will often receive good support.  There is risk of favouritism to students that outwardly show the will to learn there may be some students out with that will have the will preparedness to listen and explore within art and design practice it is necessary to have these dispositions alongside the characteristics of being able to have the courage to take risks. The resilience to take knock backs and self-discipline to be organised these aspects of qualities are linked to the creative attributes framework that is there to guide and support students to prepare them for life and industry experience.

As a teacher we get to learn about the dispositions and the qualities of the students and able to support them with such. Dispositions and qualities are linked to how students attain and make progress.  I think of the interview process where a prerequisite of dispositions is what or how students are judged when the interview process for course and how they are assessed along the way.

Students may have or attain certain qualities through their experience within the education system. Qualities such as courage, resilience, carefulness and self-discipline are developed. Some students may have already come equipped with some of these qualities. Other students need to be supported. Therefore, it is important to bring equity as well as equality within teaching and learning.


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