In a research project conducted by Arvon, researchers at the University of Exeter and Open University (UK) have found that teachers who write themselves can boost student confidence in creative writing and, when given time and support to become creative writers, it has helped them motivate their students. ‘Even teachers fully trained to teach English can feel ill-assured as writers. But academics have found working with authors can help them make changes to their practice and curriculum which can benefit children.’
One of the biggest difficulties for teachers who are trained to teach English, when it comes to teaching Creative Writing, is mastering knowledge and skills that writers use to target audiences and generate particular effects, which they can then use to pass on to their students in an effort to expand the range of student writing.
This is primarily an issue of epistemology. English teachers, especially in secondary learning, often qualify through an English literature degree, or an English teaching degree in which the focus is on the tools of analysis as the basis of course learning. The knowledge base for the reader does not meet easily with the knowledge base from which the writer works, though. As Anthony Eaton points out, English teachers as writing teachers’ tend to approach the process of teaching creative writing by looking at, for example, the literary analytical tools of ‘characterisation’ or ‘setting’ or ‘theme’ – wherein we isolate that one particular narrative aspect from the organic whole, and focus our creative attention there’.
The creative writer, however, works from a different knowledge base, focusing not so much on such things as characterisation or setting or theme — which are best described as ‘post creative’ — but are more concerned with creating an effect for which they have a foretaste, and then dipping into a toolbox of words and turns of phrase that work to stimulate imagination and their sensibilities to generate the effect. This is nigh on impossible for those who do not write regularly.
The research conducted by Arvon (PDF) showed, however, that teachers who do write with their students have a greater effect on students developing a wider range of writing because they are able to teach from the ‘writerly perspective’; they have some direct knowledge of the challenges and difficulties students face when they are required to produce an authorial voice, learn more authentic approaches to how writing happens, and developed fresh pedagogical approaches to creating time and space that is particularly conducive to writing learning.
The Creative Writing PD Masterclass will introduce teachers to methods they can take into the classroom to achieve similar results and the satisfaction of ‘being able to do it’.