Creative Writing pedagogy aims to provide teachers with the skills they need to effectively engage with and highlight the significant creative elements within their writing curriculum. It is often considered to be an extension of undergraduate writing, yet it requires a distinct approach and sets of skills. There is a wealth of both theory and practice across the curriculum, and this article will guide you through the basics of designing a creative writing course within a discipline-based learning framework.
Why teach Creative Writing?
Developing authentic, creative writing skills in students is not only desirable but vital. However, it is not enough to simply teach students to write creatively – we need to consider the why and how.
Across the curriculum, there is a drive to develop both writers and thinkers, and this can be enhanced through the understanding and development of creative writing as a discipline. Consider the work of Kwame Alexander, who argues that:
- Teachers need to ‘think creatively’ about how to engage their students
- Writing can be an ‘awakening experience’ that helps students to develop their critical thinking and reasoning skills
- The role of the teacher is to ‘inspire, challenge and motivate’ their students
Creative writing courses provide an opportunity to do this, helping students to develop a range of essential skills including critical thinking, research, and presentation. Moreover, it can be an ‘awakening experience’ for students, helping them to discover new passions and directions in life, as well as contributing to their personal growth as writers.
What is discipline-based learning?
If we are to promote student wellbeing and avoid the dropout rates often found within the education system, then we must consider how we can engage students in learning. A strong connection to the real world is imperative for any student, whether they are seasoned professionals or first-time writers. Yet, many students can often feel isolated and detached from the subjects they are studying – creative writing is no different.
Developing students’ independence while still providing them with the support they need is a major challenge within the education system. Disciplined-based learning helps to combat this by encouraging students to identify their areas of strength and weakness, as well as formulating learning goals and strategies to improve both within and outside of the classroom.
Understand the Creative Writing Curriculum
Before you begin designing a creative writing course, it is important to have an understanding of what constitutes a creative writing curriculum. In order to create a satisfying and effective learning environment, it is essential to consider what skills and knowledge your chosen course offers. Are you teaching a traditional or a contemporary course? Does your course follow a set structure or allow students a lot of freedom in the way they approach their work?
These are all important questions to consider, as different answers will lead you to create a curriculum that is both unique and effective.
Design the Curriculum
Having a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve is crucial if you are to design a curriculum that will offer students the skills they need to succeed. Setting learning objectives and formulating key learning outcomes are integral to this process, yet it is also important to consider each stage your students will need to undergo to be able to demonstrate their skills. Setting intermediate and final objectives is also a crucial part of this process, ensuring that you are setting measurable goals for your students.
Having a distinct plan and structure will also help you to create a satisfying learning environment for your students. A well-designed curriculum will offer the right amount of structure while still allowing you to provide the guidance and support your students need to succeed. Consider using a curriculum mapping tool to help you plan your course. These tools will help you to consider not only what skills you are trying to instill in your students but also how you are going to instill them.
Determine The Structure Of The Course
One of the most important things to consider when designing a creative writing course is the structure of the course. Just like any other subject, you will need to determine the right pace and mode of learning for your chosen course. There are many different structures you can use, from traditional, correspondence-style learning to completely online or blended courses.
Whatever mode of learning you use, it is important to consider how you are going to measure and demonstrate the success of your students. You may choose to use a variety of approaches, from traditional exams to assignments and peer review.
Develop The Required Practical Skills
As already discussed, creative writing is a broad subject, and it is important to consider the skills and knowledge your chosen course offers. Students will need not only to be able to write creatively but also to present their work in an effective and polished manner. Just like any other subject, you are going to need to consider your chosen toolbox of practical skills, whether that be copywriting, editing, or reviewing.
Whether you are teaching a traditional classroom setting or using an online learning platform, you will need to consider what practical skills your students need in order to succeed. It is important to consider what tools and methods will be the simplest and most effective for you to use, yet within the context of your course.
Build Up Skill Quickly
If you are worried about your students dropping-out or not learning the skills you need them to, then this is where a strength-based learning approach comes in. With a focus on building students’ confidence and unlocking their potential, you can begin to tackle this issue head on. Consider using a range of approaches, from project-based learning to gamification, to engage your students, build their skill, and foster a love for learning.
In short, if you are designing a course for teachers, whether in a classroom, via an e-learning platform, or via a blended learning approach, then you need to ensure that your curriculum is both flexible and effective, while still adhering to the required standards.