Student-led Arts Strategies for Master’s Programmes


Lehtimäki and Silvast offer an interesting example of how arts-based strategies can be student-led.  Students use various arts-based strategies in an introductory course, called ‘Innovation Cultures’, of the International Master’s Programme in Innovation Management at the University of Eastern Finland.

Each year, approximately 30 students take the course. It is comprised of seven 3-hour long classes. Prior to each class, each student reads and writes a one-page summary of two academic articles related to the topic of that class.

In the first class, the 30 or so students are divided into 4 groups. They are tasked with preparing a lesson plan that will engage the whole class using an arts-based strategy to cover one topic of the course content. The four arts-based strategies often selected are visual arts, dance, music, and theatre.

The visual arts group leads the class in using art materials to explore the themes of the readings for that week. Discussion is driven by the student group and guided by the professor. The dance group uses some form of embodied action to discuss the readings. Examples could be mirroring exercises or learning a simple choreographed dance. During the next class, the music group can encourage the students to bring in musical instruments, conduct music through clapping and body percussion, or write and perform a song collaboratively. Finally, the theatre group directs the students to perform mini skits on themes of that week in front of the rest of the class. Each student-led activity lasts between 60 and 90 minutes. The final assessment of the course is either a learning diary, highlighting central themes and personal reflections on the course content, or a video made in groups to reflect on their learning throughout the course.

The students all thought the course was informal and inspiring, which made them feel comfortable trying new learning frameworks and engaging in new ways of thinking about issues related to innovative organisation and leadership. Most of the student feedback was positive, mentioning having fun while learning. These arts-based strategies can foster “experiential student-centred learning and create conditions for reflexivity among students” as well as helping them to become creative and empathetic leaders.


Hanna Lehtimäki and Heidi Silvast. “Using Student-Led Arts-Based Methods in Finnish Higher Education to Foster Leadership for Change”. In: Antonacopoulou, E., Taylor, S. (eds) Sensuous Learning for Practical Judgment in Professional Practice, Volume 2: Arts-based Interventions, 255-276. Cham: Palgrave Studies in Business, Arts and Humanities. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.