Open University – a conversation with Professor Teresa Cremin

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The train took me from rain to fleeting sunshine, closer to Milton Keynes and a conversation with Teresa Cremin over coffee and cake. Having read much during my literature review, it was worthwhile to connect a face and voice to the words and passion of Professor Cremin. Our discussion was limited in time, but touched on many aspects and areas of this field of writing teachers, and peppered with recommended readings.

IMG_7941Walton Hall, Open University, commemorated in 1970

Teresa discussed her current research project which involves both primary and secondary schools, teachers and writers.

Arvon, the Open University, and the University of Exeter are working together on this two year research project funded by the Arts Council, exploring how the opportunity for teachers to work with professional writers might change their understanding of being a writer, how they teach writing, and improve outcomes in writing for the children they teach.

Teachers develop a unit of work on ‘narrative’ and a writer visits the school to work with classes for two sessions during the course of the unit. Both teachers and writers were paired in the planning stages to contribute to or co-plan the proposed unit of work, with the idea that both voices – artist and pedagogue – will be heard. Researchers will observe and document each interaction. Focus groups are also conducted with pupils from each school both before and after the teaching to identify their interest and focus on writing, as well as track attitudinal shifts. Read more about the research and project methodology – involving 16 intervention and 16 comparison schools, with 16 teachers attending a week long writers residential – including an ongoing blog, at: Teachers as Writers

An area of acknowledged deficit is in researching the impact on students of teachers who consciously write and identify as writers. In a soon to be published text – Writing Identity and the Teaching and Learning of Writing edited by Teresa Cremin and Terry Locke, Routledge – Nikolaj Elf has contributed a chapter titled ‘A student’s dramatic development of writer identity in Danish upper-secondary education’. This case study explores the shift in one student’s approach and practice of writing over four years. This work is part of the Writing to Learn, Learning to Write project. The chapter abstract closes with:

In general, the study stresses the importance of acknowledging that students’ writer identity plays a fundamental role in the formative years of adolescence and that we, as researchers and practitioners, need to further explore the relationship between how teachers position writing and student writers within the subjects.

During our time together, we discussed my goals and objectives for conducting this study tour. My plan has always been to establish and maintain teachers writing group/s with research intentions to study the impact on the teacher’s students and their writing.  Teresa made thoughtful suggestions for structuring rigorous research aimed at reducing subjectivity and reducing the ‘over collection’ of data.

As should be expected with any project, the more you learn, the larger the project becomes. This meeting has opened up many possibilities that will be examined and sorted over time.

 

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