Student responses to Creative Writing: Coherence, Progression and Purpose

Creative Writing

Brief description

We all devise and deliver our courses with the best of intentions. However, it is only our students who experience the totality of our efforts. This project deals with courses involving Creative Writing. It records students’ understanding of and responses to their courses as a whole, and addresses issues of coherence, progression and fitness for purpose from the point of view of those who have to make sense of the provision we offer.


Creative writing is the fastest growing element in English. As Head of Department of Creative Studies in English at Bath Spa it has been my task recently to assess the coherence of our creative writing provision.
This process has involved (among other things) a lot of time talking to students and getting them to articulate their impressions of existing provision in terms of coherence, progression, and fitness for purpose.
It seemed to me that it would be extremely useful for anyone involved in the teaching of Creative Writing if this research was extended into a variety of institutions.

Aims and Objectives

As teachers we all know (or at least have some idea) of what we are trying to achieve with our courses. Only students can tell us how far we’re achieving our aims. This project puts together a student-orientated picture of Creative Writing as a subject in its own right and in relation to other programmes. This will serve as a reference tool for anyone introducing or developing Creative Writing in a University context.


My aim was to develop an approach that avoided:

  • a tickbox or questionnaire approach
  • local and limited responses to do with individual courses, modules or tutors
  • responses that were tied to purely academic concerns
  • an oral basis

I wanted to encourage:

  • a sense that I cared about what participants said
  • a sense that what they said could make a difference, if not to their course, but to courses in future
  • an environment where they felt free to say (or not say) whatever they wanted
  • responses which involved them as people, including their aims and aspirations.

I transcribed some key student quotes gathered in a previous ESC project, and took them into a class of first year creative writing students at Bath Spa. The quotes I used were mostly related to motivation for taking, and expectations of the course. I then led a discussion of the quotes, neither in order, nor exhaustively, but trying to follow the interest of the group as we moved from topic to topic. Then I invited the students to write down anything they wanted to do with their experience of Creative Writing.

I then moved across the years at Bath Spa, taking the first year responses in to second year students, and second year responses in to third years. The exercise normally took about 20 minutes, split into ten minutes introduction and discussion of “seed” quotes, and then ten minutes of student writing.

I then approached a number of institutions teaching Creative Writing in a variety of forms, and repeated the process with their students.

Outcomes / Results

A set of web pages presenting all the project outputs is also available.

Project Leader

Dr Steve May
School of English and Creative Studies
Bath Spa University

Project status

Project completed October 2008