From Reading to Writing: Exploring New Techniques for Inspiration in Creative Writing.
Alexia Bowler and Adele Jones
Our paper will consider the way in which traditional forms of learning (lectures, seminars, workshops, the use of media technologies) can be supported by innovative, external, and physical activities that encourage a deeper understanding of, and investment in, the topics under discussion in relation to the world around us. In our view, the future classroom asks students to apply knowledge in an authentic way, not only by using new and old technologies but by creating a convergence of the two, leading to a more holistic, relevant and direct learning experience.
Ideally suited to these considerations was the module ‘Bright Lights, Big City: From the Flâneur to the Modern Metropolis’, with a group of Level 4 and 5 DACE students on an English degree, studying the literature of three cities. One of the assessments on the module is a creative non-fiction piece of work accompanied by an academic reflection intended to allow students to demonstrate their understanding of concepts of space and place, and we felt that a city excursion would be an ideal way for students strengthen that understanding. Our wider rationale for this excursion was that it would impact positively on learning and subsequently students’ formally assessed work. We felt that the students’ investment in the activities of the day would be manifold: it would be personal in terms of our willingness to invest personal time in an excursion with them; it would consolidate the group in a community of learning and as part of the wider COAH learning community (through COAH investment); it would allow them to translate their reading experiences into a real-life situation by asking them to directly apply their knowledge and understanding in ‘real time’, thus making their formal creative work more authentic. Their enactment of the activities studied and discussed would allow them to reflect on the activity and the practicalities, limitations, and modes of inspiration for psychogeographic writing.
After a walking tour based around texts studied in the classroom combined with concepts discussed throughout the module (spatial meaning making, the city as palimpsest, for example), the students – using the materials they prepared in advance – undertook a dérive through London. The feedback from students demonstrated that they embraced the rationale behind the excursion and that our aims were largely met. Taking responsibility for their own learning, with the primary aim of informing their forthcoming assignment, allowed the students to marry the course content and the learning objectives. This specific aim was underpinned by a clear group coalescence, forging new relationships between the students as well as consolidating those built in the classroom.
The pedagogical value of the excursion lies in the students’ new understanding of the dialectical relationship between classroom learning and ‘real world’ experience. Our paper will focus on how we can add value to this kind of technique, exploring some of the limitations of the exercise. We will reflect on how we can continue to widen our practice in order to shift the emphasis from the classroom to a praxis of learning.
Introduction and rationale
Ideas and Inspiration
Planning and Executing the Field Trip
Student Work & Feedback
How to think creatively about learning activities
How to assess learning in innovative ways
Planning activities outside the university
Creativity writing, psychogeography, urban exploration