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Personal Development in writing groups

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A look at my study of personal development in structured writing groups. An interdisciplinary work in progress at the university of York. I welcome comments from those who facilitate writing groups for health, wellbeing and education.
http://writeingroups.blogspot.com/

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Personal Development in writing groups

  1. 1. Personal Development in StructuredWriting Groupsan interdisciplinary study by ChannaCuneEnglish and related literature &Health Sciences (UoY)write.ingroup@gmail.com
  2. 2. cultureholistic viewindividualgroupcommunitylanguage
  3. 3. location of the studyin Berkman’s model of social networks impacting health(2000)Social-structuralconditionsMACROSocial NetworksMEZZOPsychosocialmechanismsMICROPathwaysUPSTREAM DOWNSTREAMcondition the extentshape and nature of >which providesopportunities for >which impact healththrough >Berkman, Lisa, et al., “From Social Integration to Health: Durkheim in the New Millenium.” Social Science and Medicine 51 (2000): 843-57
  4. 4. What I hope to find• signs of ‘personal development’ in written andspoken expressions of participants.evidence for p.d. is increased flexibility + stable orincreased Sense of Coherence.Why ?• Flexibility + SoC improve coping with lifeand (mental) health.• Writing groups are a cost-effective activitywith community benefits beyond the personal.
  5. 5. Longitudinal datastart of group 12 weekly sessions group evaluationon last session6 monthfollow up1. Biog.questionnaire2. SoC questionnaire3. My World and I today4. Sample of writing1. structured writingexercises2. written feedback3. sharing +discussion4. oral feedback1. written evaluations2. SoC questionnaire3. My World and I today4. Recorded groupdiscussion5. Booklet of writings1. Interview byoutsider2. SoC quest3. My World and IMix of self report (e.g. the questionnaires) and behavioural data (the writings and drawings)Mix of qualitative and quantitative options for analysis
  6. 6. Sense of Coherence is:• based on Salutogenic Model (Antonovsky, 1979)A measure of the relationship between health, stress and copingConstrued of:ManageabilityComprehensibilityMeaningfulness• Questionnaire (short form) yields a single SoC score between 13-91In this study scores range between 41 - 86Participants complete this Q. 3 times: start – end – 6 months, thus showing atrajectory of three scores for a period of nine month total.
  7. 7. quantitative examples of interimresultsSense of Coherence Scale (Antonovsky 1987) shows a significant increasefrom pre-test to 6 months follow-up.Surprising, as earlier research points to the relative stability of SoC in adults over 30.The relative use of multiple pronouns and other textual markers of a more flexible viewof the world expected to have gradually increased.Computer analysis of all texts awaits doing… (using LIWC, by Pennebaker, 2007)Themes of different perspectives, sensory specificity, option-thinking expected to havegradually increased in the writing.Thematic content analysis awaits doing…(using my head and my definitions)
  8. 8. Personal Development isnot defined in the literature in an agreed formmy definition• Perceivable change towards sustained flexibility inbehaviour, cognition, emotion, coping skills,(inter)personal communication, occurring in a person.I use theoretical concepts that I can observe in the materialsproduced in the writing groups of the study.Personal development can only be assessed in relation toa learner’s baseline, the repertoire of behaviours in placebefore joining the group.
  9. 9. Themes I observe over time:expressions of• communication with self• communication with other• emotions, empathy, connectedness• movement through the group’s life span• causality: ascribing change to group-experiences
  10. 10. Generative Learning Levelsexamples• Learning 0 – no learningwriting did not help me cope, because I really stayed in thesame place – a wish to write that has not been fulfilled.• Learning 1 - change in specificity of response within a setof alternativesI read all (pieces) to the group and made some changeshere and there, things that could be improved.• Learning 2 - change in the process of learning, eg. a correctivechange in the set of alternatives from which choice is made.I learned to recognise humour and wit, sarcasm and joy,trusting my guts, to go with the flow. I unlearned being defensiveall the time. I commenced to laugh, even about myself.BATESON G. 1964. Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology(ed.)The logical categories of learning and communication, 279-308. University of Chicago Press
  11. 11. Generative Learning Levelsexamples (2)• Learning 3 - change in the process of Learning 2, e.g.a corrective change in the system of setsof alternatives from which choice is made....Through the writing I have become more creative in otherareas too; it has loosened something. I am more consciousof who I am as a person. I read more consciously.Learning at levels 1 & 2 occurs often in writing groups(based on previous study, 2010)Level 3 learning may be a sign of personal development.
  12. 12. Symbolic Interactionisma glimpse at the methodologyAll we perceive are symbols to be understoodaccording to culture, language, context, personal history.Interaction and communication are exchangesof symbols with more or less agreed meanings.The meaning we perceive is what counts in life, is whatdetermines our thoughts, feelings and actions.The ability to realise that my meanings may differ fromanother’s opens up new choices for interactionwith self and other more flexibility.

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