Improving Literacy through Narrative and Creative Writing

Steiner Education Australia (SEA) funded research shows improved literacy skills of Year 9 Steiner students through a creative writing program.

With the research question: ‘Can an immersive craft-focused creative-writing project lead to improved attitudes to writing and improved writing skills?’ the research team targeted a national priority for research in high school where often engagement, literacy and attitudes to school and learning present challenges to educators, students and families. 

Research findings indicate an overall improvement in attitudes to writing and writing capabilities and an increase in understanding of the creative writing process and its value.

This research is very important and timely, as there has been no significant improvement nationally in Year 9 NAPLAN results in writing since 2008. These falling standards continue, as shown in NAPLAN results released on 28th August 2019. 

The research proposed that students learn through narrative and student engagement and that an approach to literacy based on Steiner’s view of the developing child supports deep learning (Davidow, 2014; Haralambous, 2011, 2018; SEA, 2011, 3a).

The 10-week Year 9 literacy project initially focused on improving connectivity to deep narrative and literacy by embracing pedagogies and insights of Aboriginal storytellers and cultural teachers. This was followed by engaging all students in a progressive series of scaffolded creative writing exercises culminating in a narrative piece.

As SEA CEO Virginia Moller explains: ‘A century ago, Steiner proposed deep learning to be the result of an emotional engagement with the subject matter. It is our life of feelings — with its joys, pains, pleasures, displeasures, tensions, and relaxations — that is the actual vehicle for the enduring qualities of the ideas and mental images that we can recall at a later stage’. (Steiner 1996, p.18) 

Research in neuroscience supports this idea: student engagement and learning are sub-optimal in stressful environments, whilst safe, supportive and inspiring learning environments lead to enhanced cognitive capacity. The role of emotion in learning is significant (Davidow, 2014; Nagel, 2009) and informed the research undertaken. 

These are significant results. With declining writing levels in students, we must urgently review the ability of NAPLAN testing to improve student outcomes and instead look to ways to engage students in authentic learning. Creative writing as a craft must be scaffolded within a meaningful, integrated context which engages students and gives them a sense of agency. We know that students respond to this form of learning and the research results of this rigorous research provides evidence of improved writing skills as an outcome.

For more information please contact Steiner Education Australia CEO Virginia Moller: sea@steinereducation.edu.au

28 August, 2019

Literacy through Narrative and Creative Writing 15 July 2019

Aug 2019