The discourse of collaborative creative writing: Peer collaboration as a context for mutual inspiration

Vass, Eva; Littleton, Karen; Miell, Dorothy and Jones, Ann (2008). The discourse of collaborative creative writing: Peer collaboration as a context for mutual inspiration. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 3(3) pp. 192–202.



Drawing on socio-cultural theory, this paper focuses on children's classroom-based collaborative creative writing. The central aim of the reported research was to contribute to our understanding of young children's creativity, and describe ways in which peer collaboration can resource, stimulate and enhance classroom-based creative writing activities. The study drew on longitudinal observations of ongoing activities in Year 3 and Year 4 classrooms (children aged 7–9) in England. Selected pairs’ collaborative creative writing activities were observed and recorded using video and audio equipment in the literacy classroom and in the ICT suite (13 pairs, about 2–4 occasions each).

The research built on the contextualised, qualitative analysis of the social and cognitive processes connected to shared creative text composition. Using an analytic tool developed specifically for creative writing tasks, we linked collaborative and discursive features to cognitive processes associated with writing (‘engagement’ and ‘reflection’). The research has identified discourse patterns and collaborative strategies which facilitate ‘sharedness’ and thus support joint creative writing activities.

The paper discusses two significant aspects of the observed paired creative writing discourse. It reports the significance of emotions throughout the shared creative writing episodes, including joint reviewing. Also, it shows children's reliance on collaborative floor (Coates, 1996), with discourse building on interruptions and overlaps. We argue that such use of collaborative floor was indicative of joint focus and intense sharing, thus facilitating mutual inspiration in the content generation phases of the children's writing activities. These findings have implications for both educational research and practice, contributing to our understanding of how peer interaction can be used to resource school-based creative activities.

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