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Initial Reflections: Creative & Academic Writing

Initial Reflections

… on using creative writing to prepare honours students for their project.

Burg Meissen—Saxony

Renaissance staircase: of course, the metaphor for hermeneutical spiral

Today I used the creative writing exercise from my previous post with a group of 4th year students in preparation for their honour’s year project and dissertation. The exercise induced much stronger cognitive dissonance (I just leave it at that for the blog) than I expected. Or to say it simply: it really got them thinking.

The Students’ Reaction

Initially the students were unsure what to do, they even asked me what to write or if *example* would be the right thing. So I kept saying ‘what ever comes to mind’, ‘there is no right or wrong’. I had to keep encouraging them to trust me and it would all make sense at the end. Kudos to the students for giving it a try, trusting a lecturer they don’t usually have.

I will not share the students’ answers in this post, because I think this would expose my students. However, the answers were very varied.  When I was introduced to this exercise the first time, I wrote myself experiencing a ‘faceplant’*, the second time I wrote myself flying, zooming above the ocean. The students experienced a wide range of mental images—linking it to academic writing went well. We discussed some of the images and how difficult it was to get into writing.

All together the exercise took no longer than 15 minutes and still it seem to have had the highest impact in comparison to the rest of the session. Students waited for me after the session asking questions about their stories and how to reflect on the outcomes. The students appeared to like the opportunity to change the story and write themselves out of a dead-end situation (such as a ‘faceplant’) into a more positive story.

Conclusion so far

(I will continue to evaluate the exercise.)

I thought the most difficult part would be linking story-writing to writing the story of their research. Interestingly the most difficult part for the students seemed the process of free writing (which I also suggest as one of the strategies in cases of writer’s block) and accepting that literary** everything is possible.

So I decided to give the students a better chance to reflect on the exercise. The next time I undertake this exercise with a bigger group I am going to split the class into groups and include a group discussion about the experience. Offering prompts the groups can use to see different viewpoints and encourage possibility thinking, before I consolidate the key points.

*My husband insists consulting a thesaurus is redundant. According to him there is no true alternative to ‘faceplant’. As non-native speaker I shall take this at face-value here.

** I must pun!

Categories: SOTL

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Nathalie Sheridan

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