Redefining the undergraduate learning experience in Creative Writing

Transformative Learning | Strategy 11: Education Renewal
Theme: Collaboration
The reflecting pool outside of the Buchanan building complex, which houses the School of Creative Writing | Photo credit: Don Erhardt / UBC Brand & Marketing

The Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (TLEF) supports UBC’s Strategic Plan by advancing transformative learning at the university. UBC’s School of Creative Writing instructors utilized TELF resources to redefine the learning experience for their entire department, resulting in a stronger and more cohesive teaching and learning experience.

In 2018, the School of Creative Writing received a three-year Large TLEF Transformation grant to support the renewal of its Minor Program curriculum by redesigning 11 courses to each consist of a completely hybrid learning format. The purpose of the project was to increase student engagement and learning flexibility.

Project PI John Vigna, Assistant Professor of Teaching, and his team wanted to explore the effects of hybrid learning, synonymous to blended learning, in the School’s Minor Program’s large lecture classes. Hybrid learning is a delivery format where learning activities are a mixture of on-campus/in-person and online activities, where the online portion of the course contribute to a significant fraction of the total credit determined by instructors. The School of Creative Writing decided to adopt a model that use both models evenly, and designed courses that make the best of both formats to support student learning.

“I was very new to this idea of hybrid learning,” says Sheryda Warrener, lecturer in Poetry in the School of Creative Writing. “I was interested in learning more about what was possible.” Her poetry courses were part of what was included for redesign in the first year of the TLEF project, and she soon realized that this approach made learning every concept better. “For example, with the concept of ‘image’, we filmed a conversation where we share a few of our favourites with one another and describe why the images are so compelling. Then we invite students to bring their favourites to the in-class session to share in small groups.” As a result, students come to class much more prepared and engaged. “It’s a great foundation that moves the conversation forward about what a poetic image is, how it works in the organization of a poem, and how it makes us feel.”

As Director of the School of Creative Writing, Alix Ohlin witnessed the project take shape. Her words summarize this three-year adventure. “The Creative Writing TLEF project enabled us to build rich and innovative courses that engage students across multiple modalities. Because multiple faculty members across our unit worked on the project, often in teams, the courses feel very connected to one another, and the project fostered important conversations about creative writing pedagogy. This experience with hybrid courses was also essential to our successful teaching during the pandemic. Overall, this project has led to deeper, more multi-faceted student learning and a stronger undergraduate curriculum.”

Please visit the TLEF website to read the full story.

Under Strategy 11: Education Renewal, the university is supporting faculty in the ongoing integration of evidence-informed pedagogies into their classrooms, and encouraging innovations that have the potential to improve upon traditional learning approaches.