Original Research

'You're in FunDzaland': Pre-service teachers (re)imagine audience on a creative writing course

Belinda Mendelowitz
Reading & Writing | Vol 7, No 2 | a106 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v7i2.106 | © 2016 Belinda Mendelowitz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 September 2015 | Published: 15 July 2016

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Belinda Mendelowitz, School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


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Abstract

This study explores how collaborative writing for a digital platform can enable students to (re) imagine audience. Although in the context of process writing peer feedback is foreground, in practice, its effectiveness is uneven. The digital revolution offers new opportunities for alternative peer feedback through collaborative writing and re-imagining self and other in the process. This study examines data from a creative writing course in which pre-service teachers wrote collaborative short stories for the FunDza digital site and individual reflective essays about the process. The study’s research questions are the following: (1) what were the affordances of this multilayered audience for engaging the students’ imaginations? (2) How did this process of (re)imagining audience impact on students’ conceptions of themselves as writers? The data set comprised 16 collaboratively authored stories (published on the site) and 34 individual reflective essays. Six of the latter were selected for detailed analysis. Hence, the data for this study encompass detailed analysis of two groups’ reflective essays on the process of writing their stories. These groups were selected because they exemplified contrasting collaborative, imaginative writing processes. Group 1 was familiar with the FunDza audience and context, while Group 2 struggled to imagine it. Thematic content analysis was used for analysis. Each essay was read first in relation to the entire data set, then in relation to the other reflections in the author’s group. The combination of gearing stories towards the FunDza audience and writing stories collaboratively created two sets of audiences that writers needed to hold in mind simultaneously. Analysis indicates that both audiences challenged students to make imaginative leaps into the minds of an unfamiliar audience, deepening their understanding of the writing process. It also highlights students’ mastery of writing discourses and increasing awareness of the choices authors make for specific audiences. Theoretically, this study theorises audience in relation to imagination. A number of concepts have emerged from this research that may enable a more fine-tuned analysis of the audience – imagination nexus. Structured freedom is an important thread that connects the central concepts of audience, imagination and collaboration, foregrounding the idea that imaginative freedom needs to be understood and worked with in nuanced ways. While freedom and imagination are closely related, the provision of free pedagogic spaces with specific constraints in creative writing courses can be extremely productive, as illustrated by the data analysed in this study.


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