Writing for Social Purpose – Ideas for Sustainable Teaching and Learning (CILASS)

Community Engagement, Creative Writing, Inquiry-based learning


The University of Brighton has sustainable and creative teaching and learning at the core of its mission plan. We seek to implement a new teaching module for undergraduates that will inspire creativity and challenge students to consider their social consciousness and responsibility as writers. Having designed an innovative programme of study, we wish to evaluate the impact on students using focus groups and wider research. We intend to disseminate our findings internally but also nationally in order to demonstrate the potential impact of teaching and learning that promotes creativity and sustainability within higher education.
We hope to be able to suggest and implement changes to teaching at the University of Brighton and within the wider academy by encouraging other staff to devise modules that enable students to learn about sustainable living in a creative way. By marrying learning and personal development, we consider this project to carry its own sustainable outcomes and that it will develop students and staff in a variety of ways and further enhance the higher education environment.


This project will offer students from different disciplines the chance to raise their social and historical consciousness and develop confidence in their writing, research and presentation skills through collaborative IBL. Staff and students will explore the role of poetry, politics and poetics, drama, life writing and creative non-fiction, novels and short stories and cyber-writing in promoting sustainability. An inter-disciplinary teaching team will work with external experts in the field to offer innovative experiences of the topics under discussion.

Delivery will combine lectures and workshops with guest speakers who are experts in their fields as well as creative tutorials with lecturers from across the university.

Students will produce a piece of socially conscious creative work  alongside an introspective piece concerning the writing and feedback processes demonstrating knowledge of a variety of socially conscious writings, genres and forms as well their socio-historical contexts. This reflective commentary will include:

  1. evidence of reading and research around a relevant and appropriate social theme, genre and/or forms of writing that demonstrates the student’s awareness of the potential impact of politically motivated writing on social consciousness;
  2. a post-workshop introspection and response to tutor and other students’ comments including any editing/changes made to their work as a result; a self-assessment of their own piece of work with particular consideration of desired impact on a specific audience;
  3. peer assessments of their work and as well as their own observations/reflections.

Staff will work with interdisciplinary agencies to create innovative materials and workshops drawing on their own research interests in the field as well as networking with guest professionals. Researching, designing and convening module sessions, staff will disseminate their reflections through the university’s Teaching and Learning Conference (09/10 theme – sustainability) as well as through papers at IFL and Higher Education Academy conferences. In this way, we hope to support other members of staff who wish to pursue innovative approaches to teaching and learning that carry a sustainable theme/message and challenge students on a personal and academic level.

By collaborating with QueenSpark Books, we will have access to local writers and practitioners who will enrich the classes by drawing on real life experiences which we hope will enable students to make links between their learning and the world beyond.  We aim for students to make links between what they are learning and skills and approaches they may need in the workplace and in their personal development and to explore how their newly acquired knowledge can be transferred into their vocational lives post-university.

This project seeks to disseminate reflections on an innovative programme of study that will enable students to develop their creative writing skills and consider how writing can potentially impact on social consciousness.  We hope to encourage students to enhance their critical and creative capabilities and help them to make links between their learning and the skills and values they are acquiring during their studies that they can be taken forward into their vocational and personal lives post-university.  We hope to suggest that by inspiring students to be creative and asking them to reflect on their personal development in terms of social responsibility, we can provide meaningful and stimulating teaching.  We would then hope to share best practice at the University of Brighton and also to the wider Higher Education Academy.

Outside the classroom, students will be expected to post their creative work on a blog that will be situated online at the university’s virtual learning environment.  Here they can comment on each others’ work and give constructive feedback which will form their reflection as part of the assessment. Learning materials will also be available on-line including a module reader and contributions from external agencies. In addition, students will be central to the dissemination process, conducting workshop sessions with students lower down the university reflecting on their experiences.

Project leaders

Dr Katy Shaw and Jess Moriarty
School of Language, Literature and Communication, University of Brighton

Project status

Project completed – March 2010