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PhD Summary

The working title of my PhD project (2021-2024) is Children’s writing and writing enjoyment in ‘author schools’ – exploring the potentials of free time fiction writing. The study is interdisciplinary, combining writing studies, rhetoric and L1 with children’s literature and culture studies. My overall research question is: What do children experience when they participate in voluntary out-of-school creative writing programs, and how could an understanding of these experiences contribute to discussions of writing in school settings?

Factors like interest, identity, engagement, and motivation are vital to the development of strong writing skills (Matthiesen, 2015; Krogh, 2012; Cremin & Myhill, 2012), but what kinds of writing instruction, teaching or writing practices can actually strengthen these factors is scarcely researched (Boscolo & Hidi, 2007; Camacho, Alves & Boscolo, 2020; Nolen, 2007). Some argue that fiction writing and literary participation might promote children’s desire to write and their overall development as writers (Healey, 2019; Molbæk, 2019). My project explores children’s fiction writing, and the aim of the project is twofold. Theoretically I explore the terminology for writing enjoyment (“skrivelyst” in Danish), and empirically I explore children’s fiction writing experiences, primarily in so-called “author schools” for children in Denmark (free time writing activities taught by professional authors outside of school) but also in school classes where authors act as visiting writing teachers. The project thus explores writing across different settings (Pahl, 2019), and will eventually discuss the possibilities and/or limitations for synergy between these different settings.

The overall method is qualitative, drawing on anthropological approaches to theory making (eg. Bundgaard et al., 2018; Cerwonka & Malkii, 2007). I carry out the empirical fieldwork as an explorative case study with ethnographic methods – that is extensive participant-observations, informal conversations and interviews (Bundgaard et al., 2018; Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 2011; Hoek, 2014; Spradley, 1979) and phenomenological, hermeneutical analysis, inspired by e.g. Healey (2019) and Healey & Merga (2017). I am currently in the process of finishing this field work in three different author schools for children and in two school classes (grades 5th and 6th), where authors act as visiting writing teachers. The main interest of my fieldwork is the writing practice that takes place, and the participating children’s experiences and perspectives (Spyrou, 2018). The empirical findings will feed into the development of terminology and theory (Bowen, 2006; Bundgaard et al., 2018; Hoek, 2014). This means that I actively include the children in the process of understanding and theorizing “writing enjoyment”. I draw a fundamental inspiration from children’s literature studies as well, adopting Marah Gubar’s kinship model understanding of children and childhood when I work with the children in my project (Gubar, 2013).

Preliminary analyses of my conversations with the children show a considerable significance of community, agency, imagination, and writing as craft.

Selected publications from this project and previous pilot

Heger, S. (2023) ”Children who write ‘off the beaten track’ and what we can learn from them”. Qualitative Studies. [Manuscript submitted for publication]

Heger, S. (2022) ”Skrivelyst i fritid og skole”. DANSK. Vol. 2/22

Heger, S. (2020) ”Når skrivelysten blomstrer”. Klods Hans. Vol. 1/20. p. 6-10.

References (summary)

Boscolo, P.; Hidi, S. (2007). Writing and Motivation. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Bowen, G. A. (2006). ”Grounded Theory and Sensitizing Concepts”. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. 5(3). 

Bundgaard, H. (2018). Antropologiske projekter – en grundbog. Forlaget Samfundslitteratur.

Camacho, A.; Alves, R.A.; Boscolo, P. (2020). “Writing Motivation in School: a Systematic Review of Empirical Research in the Early Twenty-First Century”. Educational Psychology Review. (2021), 33, 213-247.

Cerwonka, A.; Malkki, L.H. (2007). Improvising Theory – Process and Temporality in Ethnographic Fieldwork. Chicago and London. The University of Chicago Press.

Cremin, T.; Myhill, D. (2012). Writing Voices – Creating Communities of Writers. Routledge.

Emerson, R.M.; Fretz, R.I.; Shaw, L.L. (2011). Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. 2nd Ed. The University of Chicago Press.

Gubar, M. (2013). “Risky Business: Talking about Children in Children’s Literature Criticism”. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 38(4), Winter, 450-457.

Healey, B. (2019). ”How Children Experience Creative Writing in the Classroom”. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy. vol. 42 (3). 184-194.

Healey, B.; Merga, M.K. (2017). “A phenomenological perspective of children’s writing”. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy. vol. 40 (3). 199 – 209

Heger, S. (2020). Master dissertation. Skrivelyst – en teoretisk begrebsundersøgelse med praksisperspektiver. Center for Children’s Literature and Media. Aarhus University:

Hoek, L. (2014). ”Sorting Things Out”. IN: Konopinski, N. (ed.). Doing Anthropological Research – A Practical guide. Routledge.

Krogh, E. (2012). ”Literacy og stemme – et spændingsfelt i modersmålsfaglig skrivning”. In Ongstad, S. (Ed.) Nordisk morsmålsdidaktikk. Forskning, felt og fag. Oslo: Novus Forlag.

Matthiesen, C. (2015). ”(U)synlig læring og modeltekster – erfaringer med elevstyret imitatio i modersmålsundervisning”. Rhetorica Scandinavica, 70.

Molbæk, M. L. (2019). Skrivning i skolen som autentisk praksis – potentialer og udfordringer. Ph.d-afhandling. DPU, Aarhus Universitet.

Nolen, S. B. (2007). Young Children’s Motivation to Read and Write: Development in Social Contexts. Cognition and Instruction, May 1. 25(2-3), 219-270.

Pahl, K. (2019). ”’Writing Across’ as a Mode of Research”. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction. (2020). 24. 

Skyggebjerg, A. K. (2016). “En forfatterskole for børn. Fritidslivets bud på et praksisfællesskab.” Barnboken – tidsskrift för barnlitteraturforksning. Vol. 39.

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The Ethnographic Interview. Wadsworth.

Spyrou, S. (2018). Disclosing Childhoods. Research and Knowledge Production for a Critical Childhood Studies. Palgrave Macmillian.

Warming, H. (2019). ”Børneperspektiv – en populær flydende betegner”. Nordisk tidsskrift for pedagogikk og kritikk. vol. 5. Barneperspektiv. 62–76

Young, R; Ferguson, F. (2021) Writing for Pleasure. Routledge.