A project which looks at creative writing as inquiry

This project’s resources were originally developed for colleagues within the School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice as part of the Faculty of Education and Social Work, as well as postgraduate students at the University of Auckland, by Esther Fitzpatrick.

These resources might be useful to: teachers of creative writing as well as those wishing to enhance their writing practice.

Watch Esther present her project at the 2017 CLeaR Teaching and Learning Symposium.

In interview with 2017 CLeaR Fellow Esther Fitzpatrick together with Caroline Yoon and Alys Longley can be viewed here.

For similar projects, see: Writing reflecting scripts in mathematics and Letting the Letters Run Ahead of Me.

Project background

What were the objectives of the project?

As Esther explains: “My focus for 2017, as a CLeaR fellow, was on Laurel Richardson’s work on ‘Writing as a method of inquiry’. The first objective was to create a space for colleagues and postgraduate students to explore the method of creative writing as inquiry, to collaborate, and share their ideas, and ultimately to enhance writing practice in the Faculty. The second objective was to investigate how we could adapt creative writing methods employed in research to pedagogical practice in the classroom space to engage students in the learning process, and to ultimately enhance their writing practice.”

Project reflection

What went well? What was unexpected?

Esther reflects: “I organised and facilitated several seminars and writing workshops on the campus, inviting various creative writing experts to share their skills and knowledge. These included Paula Morris on writing creative non-fiction, Toni Bruce on writing factionalisation, Alys Longley on writing with the body, Molly Mullen on writing inside the drama world, and myself, exploring poetry as method. These events provided an important cross campus dialogue on creative writing practices in both our research and teaching. Participants were encouraged in their own writing practices and began to explore other techniques in their writing. One postgraduate student wrote 12 factionalised tales of his early life in Romania using a Grimm’s Fairy tale genre. Other postgraduate students and colleagues began to explore more creative writing techniques in the analysis and dissemination of their work. There was a lot of interest from many colleagues at the Faculty, unfortunately sometimes last minute meetings would clash with the workshops so not all could attend. Hence, there are plans to continue providing creative writing workshops in 2018. An unexpected outcome of the work was the coming together of a group of Fellows each Wednesday morning to write together. In this collegial space we shared ideas, experimented with creative writing techniques, revised each other’s work, and wrote. These regular writing ‘get togethers’ enabled a developing confidence and competence in our writing endeavours.”

How did the project contribute to students’ learning?

In the second semester Esther integrated creative writing techniques into the tutorial sessions for a course she directed, as a method of inquiry, and designed an assessment that would provide space for students to employ creative writing as a way to present their understandings of content. This course explores the concept of diversity in our communities, and as a core course for the Bachelor of Education, all students are required to complete the course. Many of the students, particularly from Māori and Island cultural backgrounds, commented on how these more creative writing practices provided a way for them to have voice, and complimented epistemological practices that were inherent in their own cultures. The creative component in the assignment was attended to successfully, by most students, and interestingly, enhanced their writing in the assignment as a whole.

How did the project contribute to it’s investigator’s learning?

In response to this question Esther writes: “I am very interested in qualitative methods and writing as a method of inquiry in my research. I have also become very aware that attention needs to be made to learning the ‘craft’ of various genre of writing. This should be an ongoing aspect of my practice. I am also very interested in how we can take ‘writing as a method of inquiry’ and apply it in our teaching practice. To achieve success in both of these, further learning of the craft needs to be made.”

Are there plans to continue this initiative beyond the fellowship period?

Through the Narrative and Metaphor Network and the Critical Autoethnography group, that Esther co-directs with colleagues, she is currently organising a series of workshops and seminars that will enable them to continue to enhance their writing practices. In March 2018 Dr Deborah Green will facilitate a workshop on arts-based methods, followed by Professor Tracey Bunda facilitating a workshop on Indigenous storytelling as method. Esther has also been talking to two colleagues about starting a ‘writing group’ on campus in the second semester. The Faculty will also continue to explore how writing as a method of inquiry can be integrated into work done with undergraduate and postgraduate students, both in tutorial workshops and in assignments. Esther is also currently writing an article in collaboration with another 2017 CLeaR Fellow, Alys Longley, to disseminate the findings from their workshops and teaching and to share how engaging with arts-based practices enhances their own writing practices.

Project resources

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