Tell the truth. Take your time.

By Ian Eyres, Senior Lecturer, The Open University

Before my involvement with Teachers as Writers I was for some years involved with a large-scale English teacher development programme in Bangladesh called English in Action (EIA). A couple of years into the project, a group of four or five EIA colleagues, including myself, became unusually excited by the results of one of our evaluation studies. Continue reading “Tell the truth. Take your time.”

On giving feedback

By Dr Anthony Wilson, Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter

I found myself in the position of giving feedback to some writers recently. The writers were teachers who had signed up for two Master’s modules about writing. These comprised a critical look at how we teach writing, for which they needed to put together a research project evaluating their own practice via an analysis of pupils’ work; and a creative writing module consisting of a portfolio of creative pieces accompanied by a critical commentary. Guess which one I found harder to mark? Continue reading “On giving feedback”

The creative and the critical

By Professor Debra Myhill, Director of the Centre for Research in Writing, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean, The University of Exeter

Children’s author, Tim Bowler, once wrote:

Why is writing so tricky? Because it requires mastery of two conflicting skills: a creative skill and a critical skill. The former is of the imagination, the latter of the intellect, and they come from different brain hemispheres. To write well, we have to employ both to maximum effect.

I have always used this quotation with my PGCE group in our own ‘Teachers as Writers’ session, because it sums up so aptly an essential point about writing – that writing demands both creativity and criticality.   Continue reading “The creative and the critical”

I remember

By Lucy Oliver, Research Fellow, University of Exeter

‘Writing from the heart’ has been a recurrent theme throughout the Teachers as Writers project. Teachers and writers together have drawn on life experience, memory and emotion as resources for writing in their classrooms, sometimes to powerful effect. The poem below was written and shared aloud by Harry (Year 9) during one such lesson, co-taught by teacher and professional poet. Continue reading “I remember”

Let them write!

Teachers as Writers Research Report Launched Today

Teresa Cremin, Professor of Literacy in Education, The Open University

The report of the partnership between Arvon, The Open University and University of Exeter into Teachers as Writers is launched today!

This two year project reveals new insights about the value of teachers expanding their own understanding about writing and being a writer through working with professional writers. It highlights consequences for classrooms, both primary and secondary, including:

  • the significance of time and space to ‘Just Write’ (who owns the space to write?);
  • the potency of the personal and drawing on life experience (who frames their content choices?);
  • the value of investing more energy and effort in revising (whose choices are these?);
  • the need to develop students’ autonomy as writers (whose writing is it anyway?).

Professional writers, the research reveals, whilst also responsive to their publishers, exert considerable agency as authors. The teachers too found their authorial agency upheld as they generated, shaped and polished chosen pieces of writing- they were free to write, albeit supported by the Arvon tutors.

What of young people – is it time to let them free to write?

To read the Executive Summary click here:

Teachers as Writers Executive Summary (PDF download)

On reaching land

By Becky Swain, Head of Learning and Participation, Arvon

‘We reached land after what seemed like weeks on the open sea. Our supplies had all but run out, our arms ached and our hearts were weary.’

Not, I hope, descriptive of a mid-term mood as we head towards half term break, but an extract from the opening of a story by a Year 5 pupil from a school in Cornwall.

One of the joys of the Teachers as Writers (TAW) research project has been to read some of the writing generated by both teachers and students. Continue reading “On reaching land”

A chance to stop and think

By Ian Eyres, Senior Lecturer, The Open University

Loyal readers of this blog will remember Debra’s recent entry on the value of just writing. Just writing, the spontaneous commitment of words to the page while they are fresh in the writer’s mind, is something that almost all the Teachers as Writers teachers have committed themselves to including in their class’s regular timetable. Not only does just writing capture spontaneous ideas before they escape, it also helps writers overcome the fear of the blank page by suspending all the rules that can inhibit flow: not just the rules of spelling and grammar, but also the rule that it all has to be consistent or even make sense. All that stuff can be dealt with later. Continue reading “A chance to stop and think”

What do I know?

By Dr Anthony Wilson, Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter

One of the more interesting paradoxes of analysing the interviews of professional writers during the Teachers as Writers (TaW) project has been the finding that many of the writers struggled when we asked them to define their ‘craft knowledge’ of writing. I call this a paradox because, when they spoke about other aspects of their writing life and process, they displayed abundant craft knowledge. From a researcher’s point of view this has led us to asking that if writers were more consciously aware of their own expertise, might they be better able to share it with children and teachers when working in schools? Continue reading “What do I know?”

Sharing – the pain and the gain

By Professor Debra Myhill, Director of the Centre for Research in Writing, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean, The University of Exeter

Whenever I prepare something for sharing in a public forum, I am modestly pleased with my efforts at the start, but as soon as somebody else shares their work, I instantly re-evaluate my work and wish it were better! I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this!

Yet sharing is at the heart of the Arvon experience. Continue reading “Sharing – the pain and the gain”

Some thoughts on impact

By Lucy Oliver, Research Fellow, University of Exeter

As we write up our findings from the Teachers as Writers (TaW) project, it’s hard to avoid a creeping sense of déjà vu. After all, the idea that students gain when teachers of writing write themselves is hardly new. Nor are the strategies that TaW project teachers and writers have found most helpful in the classroom. Wasn’t freewriting advocated by Peter Elbow in the 70s? And the emphasis on drafting-revising a defining feature of the so-called ‘process movement’ of the 80s? Continue reading “Some thoughts on impact”