Higher Education

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 257-276

First online:

From the personal to the public: Conceptions of creative writing in higher education

  • Gregory LightAffiliated withSearle Center For Teaching Excellence, Northwestern University

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Much qualitative research on student learningin higher education has focused on a keydistinction between surface reproductionof `knowledge' and a deeper understandingof it. This distinction has also been found inresearch on student practice and understandingof essay and discursive writing. This paperreports on results from a study of 40interviews conducted with students takingcreative writing courses at three differenthigher education institutions in the UnitedKingdom. Interviews were conducted withstudents of various levels of experience andexpertise in creative writing and includedstudents taking a single undergraduate modulein creative writing and students enrolled in ahighly selective Masters program in CreativeWriting. The interviews focused on thestudents' conceptions and practice of creativewriting while taking their respective courses. The analysis of the interview transcriptsrevealed an underlying subjectivistepistemology in the students' generalassumptions and perception of the nature ofCreative Writing vis-à-vis other forms ofacademic writing. Linked to this epistemology,the analysis disclosed a typology of fourdiffering conceptions of student understandingand practice of creative writing within twooverall transcribing and composingcategories of conception. These categoriesclosely resemble student's conceptions ofwriting practices in other disciplines.

academic literacy conceptions of learning conceptions of writing creative writing personal experience phenomenography public expression readership student learning