Interdisciplinary learning

‘This is actually how we want young people to be learning in the future’ – Secondary Head Teacher, City of Edinburgh Council


In 2012 an innovative model of Interdisciplinary learning (IDL), which placed creativity at the heart of the curriculum, was developed in a partnership between the Lyceum Theatre Company’s Creative Learning team, Edinburgh schools and the Arts & Creative Learning Team, City of Edinburgh Council. The approach took as a starting point the Lyceum Theatre’s productions:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2012) became Project Dream

A Christmas Carol (2013) became Project Scrooge

The BFG (2014) became Project BFG

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2015) became Project Narnia 

Subsequent IDL Creative Learning projects have taken other arts/cultural stimuli adopting a similarly effective way of working with schools. The approach and process is effective with different arts and cultural partners.

Pack Up Your Troubles: Project Kit Bag was a Creative Learning and Global Citizenship project led by young people for teachers and pupils in Edinburgh to experience the heritage of World War One. Project Kit Bag received funding from the Heritage Lottery Young Roots fund and was delivered in partnership with staff from City of Edinburgh Council Communities and Families department, (Arts and Creative Learning , International Unit, Community Learning and Development and Libraries and Information Service) and external partners including Historic Scotland and the War Poet’s Collection at Craiglockhart.

Fundamental to the success is that professional arts organisations/artists collaboratively plan with schools, team teaching and sharing evaluation and practice. This helps stimulate professional dialogue about learning and teaching, moderation and self-evaluation. It also has had an impact across all curricular areas by:

  • Establishing project steering groups made up of staff from all curriculum areas
  • ensuring that pupils have a real say in responding to creative challenges, determining the learning and having opportunities to reflect

Pupil feedback

‘We had to be creative and think outside the box to create a unique experience. I think the past three days has helped me to become more inventive in my work.’

‘It was fun to have the whole year working to achieve something. It was also fun to do different types of learning.’

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The process

Each IDL project was developed over 9 months, leading to delivery of creative activities in schools over 3 days. The long planning and lead in time is crucial.

The projects all have at least 3 partners – schools, arts or cultural organisation(s) and the Arts and Creative Learning Team

Each IDL project is brokered and supported by Arts and Creative Learning, although fully owned and led by the schools with their partners.

Pre-project planning

  • Every high school is sent an information pack outlining the project purpose, commitment expected from schools, input from arts partners, support from Arts and Creative Learning Team and an application form
  • Schools apply to be involved, outlining links to improvement plan, school commitment and providing a statement of support from the Head Teacher – this forms the basis of a project partnership agreement
  • Applications are assessed against clear criteria by Lyceum Theatre (or another arts organisation) and Arts and Creative Learning
  • Successful schools establish Steering Groups made up of staff from all curriculum areas
  • All staff who will be involved in each school come together in an initial CLPL session. This is led by the arts organisation and Arts and Creative Learning
  • Back in school, the staff steering groups work over a number of weeks to develop Creative Challenges for pupils
  • All participating staff meet together again with the arts organisation and Arts and Creative Learning to discuss and share progress with planning. Peer support and challenge is key to this session and it always generates new ideas.
  • School steering groups spend the next few weeks refining their Creative Challenges and liaising with the arts organisation
  • Resources and timetables are confirmed between schools and the arts organisation

The structure of learning

  • Each pupil (usually the entire year cohort) attends a performance or exhibition or other arts event
  • Back in school the pupils are presented with the Creative Challenges devised by the steering group of staff from all curriculum areas
  • Schools decide how they would like to structure groups of pupils – some invite pupils to choose their own groups, others decide in advance and allocate pupils to the groups
  • The pupils have no prior knowledge of the Creative Challenges
  • They are given 3 full days to complete their challenges supported on a practical level by school and arts staff. The pupils however have to identify issues and propose solutions
  • On the evening of the 3rd day, parents are invited to school to see the results of 3 day’s work – this is generally a performance, showcase, installation etc. but it’s the pupils who decide at the start of day 1

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After the event

School staff come together again with the arts organisation and Arts and Creative Learning. They present their projects to each other and discuss the learning, the challenges and the successes.

Why take this approach?

The approach demonstrated an evolution of arts education into Creative Learning in three key aspects:

  1. the development of learners’ creativity skills are explicit and at the heart of the projects
  2. arts organisations engage with schools, broadening out from an artform subject specific approach, e.g. working with expressive arts only, to working creatively with teachers across all subject areas and whole year groups
  3. school staff and young people as key players were engaged in planning and decision making about the content and direction of a creative project, rather than taking a predetermined ‘package of workshops’ from an Arts Company

The Projects were developed in partnership, to meet the following criteria:

  • School priorities and links to the improvement plan
  • To meet the requirements of the Broad & General Education
  • To provide an opportunity for pupils to engage with high quality theatre performance and to work with artists
  • Pupils leading and directing their learning
  • To develop the creative skills of all involved, teachers, pupils and artists
  • To offer an opportunity to share work with the wider school community

The purpose of this interdisciplinary approach was to provide an opportunity for young people and teachers to work closely with artists in planning a project over several months, using a shared arts stimulus, but crucially tailored to their needs and interests.


Increased levels of creativity skills being used confidently by learners

Increased confidence in using creative approaches in Teaching and Learning

Increased confidence in open inquiry and meeting creative challenges