«Final Report prepared for the Australian Learning and Teaching Council 31 August 2008 UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA In partnership with UNIVERSITY OF NEW ...»
prepared for the Australian Learning and Teaching Council
31 August 2008
UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA
In partnership with
UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND
QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY
CENTRAL QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY
AUSTRALIAN WRITING PROGRAMS NETWORK (CG642)Final Report prepared for the Australian Learning and Teaching Council 31 August 2008
UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRAIn partnership with
UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND
QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY
CENTRAL QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY
PROJECT TEAM MEMBERS
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TABLE OF CONTENTSAcknowledgments
1. Overview of the project
1.2 Project aims
1.3 The project team
1.4 Key terms and definitions
2. The project context and rationale
2.1 The context of the project
2.2 The rationale for the approach
2.3 Intended advances in existing knowledge
3. The project methodology
3.1 Protocols and procedures
3.3 Ethics approval
3.5 Timetabling and use of resources
4. Website development and dissemination
4.2 Website development
4.3 Dissemination strategy
5. Project outcomes
5.1 Anticipated outcomes
5.2 Additional and long-term outcomes
6. Analysis of project outcomes
6.1 Critical success factors
6.2 Factors that impeded the project
6.3 Transferable aspects of the approach/outcomes
6.4 Dissemination of project outcomes
6.5 Links with other ALTC-funded projects
Appendices A. The project team
B. Survey instruments
1. Questionnaire for current students
2. Questionnaire for graduates
3. Questionnaire for supervisors
4. Questionnaire for pilot group
D. Website (screen captures; site map; user statistics)
E. Research paper J Webb and DL Brien
ACKNOWLEDGMENTSThe research team would like to acknowledge the contributions of staff, students and colleagues who participated in the project in a variety of ways: as research assistants, respondents, “guinea pigs”, and participants online, and in workshops and conferences. We would also like to acknowledge the contribution of the reference group, and the expert input of a number of individuals and organisations. Key among these are Oxide Interactive, the Australian Association of Writing Programs, and Dr Jeremy Fisher. Projects such as this one, which are intended for the academic creative writing community, rely on the generous input and participation of that community. The project would not have been possible without the financial and infrastructural support provided by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (previously known as the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education), and the participating universities.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARYThe Australian Writing Programs Network (AWPN), commenced in January 2007, was funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, to build on the strengths and ameliorate the challenges of creative writing research training, at a national level.
The project involved the design, construction and maintenance of an interactive online Network to contribute to the learning experiences of postgraduate creative writing students. Specific elements to be included on the website included databases, archives of information, links to relevant sites, and online training seminars. The three stages of the project were completed on time over 18 months. Stage one included extensive research into the potential user community; stage two involved building and testing the website to near-completion; and stage three saw the completion of the website, hosted at www.writingnetwork.edu.au, and associated workshops and publications. The team continues to operate the project for the University of Canberra, the partner institutions and the Australian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP), an organisation that played a key role in the development of the project.
As the project has been a collaborative effort, wider uptake of the website content among creative writing programs, and by audiences beyond the tertiary education sector and Australia, is both a measure of the project outcomes, and in itself a process
and a mode of dissemination. The Network’s website fulfils two modes of dissemination:
the online bulletin board, and greater networking; and the repository of information encourages “repeat business” and investment in the project. Important short-term benefits have been delivered. The members’ database allows easy identification of experts and interested practitioners across a range of theoretical and form-based topics. An examiners’ database is on the website, and past and present postgraduate students have been identified at all reference group universities, and others across Australia. Interaction between supervisors has begun, with a very effective supervisors’ workshop which, with the annotated bibliographies deposited on the website, promotes knowledge building about supervisory best practice. The Network’s website is linked to the AAWP website, which has comprehensive information about grants, scholarships and prizes.
Additional outcomes have been obtained; for example:
• students have gained a better understanding of their rights, and of what constitutes good supervision • there has been sustained discussion of what constitutes research in the creative writing discipline • the website promotes greater awareness of the research areas being explored, and consequent opportunities for collaborative work and other linkages • there has been high uptake for workshops, indicating that these sorts of training fora and topics are not being addressed by individual institutions.
Many projected impacts and deliverables are long-term, and could not be effectively evaluated over the project. To this point, however, the project has achieved excellent results in building knowledge, capacity, and a national community. It provides a model for networking, community-building and professional training for the creative writing discipline. With ongoing support, it has the capacity to serve national and international communities, not only in writing but also in other creative disciplines.
1. Overview of the project
1.1. Introduction Creative writing research higher degrees are comparatively new in Australia and overseas: just a decade ago very few universities offered creative doctorates, and only a handful offered creative writing research masters. Now 20 Australian universities offer a full range of creative writing programs, from undergraduate to doctoral levels (AAWP 2005). This rapid growth has offered many opportunities to universities and students, but has also resulted in inconsistencies in curricula, supervisory relations and examination standards. The relative youth of the discipline has also caused some concerns about staff expertise levels: teaching staff come from highly diverse academic and professional backgrounds, with many practising writers appointed to positions in Australian universities to provide undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. While they are often highly appropriate teachers of undergraduate courses, many have little research training, or knowledge of what is involved in preparing a candidate to complete a doctoral program. Other supervisors are experienced researchers in cognate fields but have limited background in creative practice. Consequently, some students report inadequate supervision of their projects and uncertainty about appropriate approaches to research. As well, the small size of most writing programs and differences in institutional location mean some students feel isolated and lacking in direction.
Not surprisingly, many staff and students feel out of place, or out of their depth, at this level of academic practice. Indeed, staff and research students in this diverse discipline share, according to recent research, a sense of isolation from the research community and from one another. Nor is the concern within universities only; within the wider writing community professional writers and publishers have expressed concerns about the extent to which higher degree training fits graduates to function as professionals. Yet despite such issues, creative writing programs are in demand among students at all levels.
This project – the Australian Writing Programs Network, later renamed the Australian Postgraduate Writers Network” hereafter “the Network” – aimed to ameliorate the difficulties and build on the strengths of creative writing higher degrees programs at a national level. Thus it responds to two objectives listed under the Competitive Grants Program: to “develop effective mechanisms for the identification, development, dissemination and embedding of good individual and institutional practice in learning and teaching in Australian higher education”, and to “identify learning and teaching issues that impact on the Australian higher education system and facilitate national approaches to address these issues”.
It also addressed two current Funding Priorities of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. The first is innovation in teaching and learning, particularly in relation to the role of new technologies. The second Funding Priority it addressed was “research and development focussing on issues of emerging and continuing importance”.
1.2. Project aims The project aimed to design, build and maintain an interactive web presence that included: a forum for the discussion of areas of concern; searchable databases of relevant knowledge; and a training mechanism for both students and supervisors. The website thus created aimed to contribute to the learning experience of creative writing candidates by improving standards, consistency and information access, and by relieving the sense of isolation. The Network aimed to raise the profile and recognition of higher degrees learning and teaching, and facilitate strategic change at both institutional and national levels. Moreover, once embedded in Australian universities’ programs, the Network is designed to provide effective mechanisms for the identification, development, dissemination and embedding of best practice.
The specific outcomes the project sought to achieve were to:
• initiate a national postgraduate creative writing research and supervision network • promote a culture of collaboration across the creative writing higher education sector in Australia to reduce HDR student isolation and attrition and improve supervision quality • build a national and international research culture among postgraduate research students and their supervisors in creative writing • disseminate information about Australian creative writing higher degrees research, learning and teaching to potential students, early career supervisors, and the publishing community/industry • produce a sustainable and scaleable model for use by other creative arts and creative industries disciplines in Australia.
1.3. The project team (see Appendix A for brief CVs)