Changing identities in the student group: using creative writing.
In: JSWEC 2009, 8-10 July 2009, University of Hertfordshire.
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This paper analyses how a creative writing project was used to address the needs of a diverse group of new social work students. The new students had wide-ranging life, work and educational experiences. Many had English as an additional language and had been educated overseas. Local experience reflected research findings about the needs of such ‘non-traditional’ students (Jones 2006, Rai 2004) and as a result this pilot project was set up.
The project ran for six months, prior to enrolment and until the end of the first semester. Led by the admissions tutor and an external creative writing teacher and published author, a small group of students took part in individual, group, face-to-face and online exercises. Providing enhanced informal learning and group development opportunities, the project also demonstrated the relevance for social work education of techniques used for developing creative writing. A particular focus was the link with reflective and critical thinking and writing. Exercises were specifically designed to address the cognitive and affective factors which may make it difficult for this group of students to feel confident about their writing (Gibbons and Gray 2004, Heron 2006, Yip 2006).
Taking advantage of affordances presented by information technology, the creative writing project used blogging and online discussion to share ideas and writings, and to maintain group cohesion in between workshop meetings. This also increased these students’ confidence with the information technology (IT) requirements of the first semester, including e-learning modules.
Group and individual exercises and examples from literature were deliberately chosen to challenge a hierarchical or eurocentric approach to creative writing. The paper explores how this project helped to give a voice to and validate students’ linguistic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and experiences within the educational setting (Lee and Street 1998).
Student feedback will be presented, along with hypotheses generated by this project, and suggestions for further study in this area.
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