There are many ways of developing and sustaining communities of practice around writing. This workshop will focus on writing retreats, writer’s groups and the micro-groups that often spin off from retreats.
Students and staff choose to write in this way, for at least some of the time, for a variety of reasons: to write thesis chapters, journal articles and other projects, to get into the writing habit, to make more time for writing, to make it easier to get started and to develop a writing ‘discipline’ for the long term.
The form of structured writing retreat I use is the ‘typing pool’ model, where we all write in the same room, with a fixed programme, using goal setting and monitoring in brief peer discussions. This creates dedicated writing time, where writing is privileged over all other tasks. Likewise, for writer’s group, we focus on doing – rather than discussing – writing. Micro-groups (Murray 2014a) spin off from these retreats all the time. Student-led groups meet on all our campuses, using the retreat programme in other environments. The ‘RetrEat’ group includes over 50 students and staff from all the universities in the Glasgow area, and the ‘ReTrain’ group uses train journeys across Scotland as dedicated writing time. This approach has been ‘internationalised’ at a retreat for PhD students at Osaka University in Japan. We presented the results of an evaluation at the SRHE conference in 2013 and will do some long-term evaluation this year (funded by the Carnegie Trust).
These approaches benefit research productivity: structured writing retreat participants are more than twice as likely to have research output if they attended more than one retreat, and there is a trend towards writing groups increasing productivity. Using containment theory we showed that structured writing retreats can contain writing-related anxiety, make writing the primary task and prevent anti-task behaviour (MacLeod et al 2012).
Perhaps it is time to see such groupings as modes of social writing, whereby social processes facilitate rhetorical practices and grow communities of writers and research clusters. I will develop this theory further during this workshop, and will present the Social Writing model from my new book, Writing in Social Spaces (Murray 2014b).
For more information on this aspect of my work, including collaborations, see the following books, chapters and articles and the web site rowenamurray.org:
MacLeod I, Steckley L & Murray R (2012) Time is not enough: Promoting strategic engagement with writing for publication, Studies in Higher Education, 37(6): 641-654.
Murray R & Moore S (2006) The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach. Maidenhead: Open University Press-McGraw-Hill.
Murray R & Newton M (2009) Writing retreat as structured intervention: Margin or mainstream?, Higher Education Research and Development, 28(5): 527-39.
Murray R (2012) Developing a community of research practice, British Educational Research Journal, 38(5): 783-800.
Murray R (2013) It’s not a hobby: Reconceptualizing the place of writing in academic work, Higher Education, 66(1): 79-91.
Murray, R (2014a) Doctoral students create new spaces to write in C Aitchison and C Guerin (Eds) Writing groups for doctoral education and beyond: Innovations in theory and practice. London: Routledge.
Murray R (2014b) Writing in Social Spaces: A Social Processes Approach to Academic Writing. London: Routledge.
Presented by Rowena Murray
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