Creative Writing through the Arts

PIF event 5 December 2017

Dr Paulette Luff, Dr Mallika Kanyal and Faye Acton presented a project called Creative Writing through the Arts (CWttA). The project is a collaborative arts project between Anglia Ruskin University researchers and academics and primary school teachers. It aims to promote and develop children’s creative writing skills through integration of writing with dance, drama, film, music and visual art activities in primary school classrooms (Foundation Stage to Year Six).

The project, involving 45 schools across Essex, is Funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (2016-2019) and supported by the Royal Opera House Bridge and schools from five Teaching School Alliances in Essex. It explores and celebrates the value of working in partnership with the cultural sector to develop the primary curriculum and pedagogy.

The project works by providing professional development for teachers in arts subjects through inspiration day workshops led by an arts specialist with a follow up school visit providing an opportunity for the teacher and specialist to work together to integrate the arts focus into the curriculum and teaching style.

Pupil voice has been integrated into the project since 2017 as a focus for assessing the impact of the integration of the arts on pupils and their writing. Pupil voice is concerned with pupils having a say and having their voices heard and acted upon in relation to their learning, educational experience and progress. University researchers visit the schools and make a classroom visit once a term. The visit includes an observation of a lesson, conversation with the teacher and where possible the pupils. The researcher compiles a written account which also includes photographs of the learning and environment.

Researching pupil voice is inspired from the recommendation of the international monitoring body for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNRC), who in 2008 advised UK schools for greater implantation of Article 12 detailed below along with Article 13, which is also pertinent to pupil voice:

  • Article 12: Respect for the views of the child. When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account.
  • Article 13: Freedom of expression. Children have the right to get and share information, as long as the information is not damaging to them or others. In exercising the right to freedom of expression, children have the responsibility to also respect the rights, freedoms and reputations of others. The freedom of expression includes the right to share information in any way they choose, including by talking, drawing or writing.

Evidence from the pupil voice visits is collated and evaluated by thematic analysis at the end of each term. This produces an overall report at the end of each year drawing out main themes such as self-assessment, love for learning, feedback, communication, etc.

Evaluation of the creative learning and impact on writing takes place through three avenues. The first involves teachers submitting writing samples for selected children in their class, these are analysed in detail and compared across the year to assess the impact on the child’s writing development. The second is interviews with head teachers. The third is via collaborative action research between the academic staff and teachers.

The teachers complete a 300-1500 word narrative which sums up their experience of the CWttA project in their classroom, these are shared and analysed as a group at termly twilight sessions. This helps to ensure teachers are valued as co-researchers throughout the project. Completing the narratives also helps teachers to see themselves as writers (Graves, 1983). Teachers have diverse attitudes towards writing and writer identities, and their engagement with writing and conceptions of writing vary; …teachers’ conceptions of writing, and these adults’ practices, preferences and identities as writers (and as teachers) are likely to impact upon classroom practice and the identity positions offered to younger writers in school (Cremin, 2016).

The open question and answer session that followed included discussions regarding consent, experience of participating teachers, the different artistic methods and the attitude of both the teachers and pupils towards the different art forms.

Please contact paulette.luff@anglia.ac.uk, mallika.kanyal@anglia.ac.uk or faye.acton@anglia.ac.uk for further information.

Blog post written by Faye Acton

Author: annadadswell

As a Research Fellow in Social Work and Social Policy at Anglia Ruskin University, I manage the Participatory Research Blog. Please feel free to contact me with questions and suggestions at anna.dadswell@anglia.ac.uk.

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