The Pedagogic Research in Higher Education community at Anglia Ruskin University (led by myself and Mark Warnes) has been active in researching and developing higher education pedagogies for over a year. The community seeks to share their work across the HE sector through peer-reviewed academic publications.
In April 2017 Anglia Learning & Teaching provided colleagues with an opportunity to write while, at the same time, supporting participants in developing their own writing skills. This was achieved by providing a one-day writing retreat in the beautiful setting of Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge.
The value of residential writing retreats
The value of running residential writing retreats has been explored extensively by Rowena Murray and Mary Newton; Geraldine Davis, Hazel Wright and Debbie Holley also led a writing retreat for doctoral students at ARU and identified distinct benefits for participants. On that basis, we therefore arranged for Dr Geraldine Davis (from the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education) to facilitate our retreat for us.
Based on the work of Murray and of Davis et al., the 20 participants, that I had selected by working with faculty directors, were asked to bring a project along as the day was focused on generating writing for that project. Projects included articles, book chapters, and other papers to be submitted to peer reviewed publications, and included in the Anglia Ruskin Pedagogic Research Directory.
During the course of the day participants generated some 43,741 written words (with a mean of 2,187 words). They also reported developing persistence in writing and developing skills in free writing. An activity about how to write an abstract was particularly well received. 15 of the twenty participants stated that they had developed new writing skills. The structure of the day, with periods for writing, clear breaks between writing, and some specific skill development was positively evaluated by all. Although Wi-Fi was available, it was agreed that this should only be used to check source material or to support development. Participants were asked not to check emails, which, for some, was liberating.
Spending a day away focused on writing in a retreat environment that is quiet and relaxed, but with sufficient structure to enable participants to continue generating writing, proved to be very productive. We plan to continue to offer this opportunity to the PedRes community.
By Dr Simon Pratt-Adams and Dr Geraldine Davis
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