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Creative writing boosts kids' confidence and creativity

20 October 2015
Study reveals the power of creative writing for children

Initial findings from an evaluation of Redfern's Sydney Story Factory reveal the value of creative writing experiences in fostering children's imagination and writing.

A recent Sydney Story Factory guest workshop with international bestselling author Markus Zusak. Image: Anthony Browell for Sydney Story Factory. 

Established four years ago, Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to nurture the creativity, confidence and wellbeing of young people, aged 7 to 17, through creative writing and storytelling workshops.

Designed particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and children from non-English speaking backgrounds, Sydney Story Factory’s workshops are open to all, with each student receiving one-on-one assistance from volunteer tutors. Workshops are designed to foster creative thinking and engagement in learning, improve writing skills and boost confidence in a fun environment.

A team of academics from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Education and Social Work is currently undertaking an evaluation of the impact of Sydney Story Factory workshops.

“The Sydney Story Factory evaluation focuses on the importance of creative writing in helping to develop children’s imagination, creativity, confidence and writing skills over time,” said Robyn Ewing AM, Vice President of Sydney Story Factory and Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts.

Strong creative thinking and learning skills are critical to students’ social and emotional wellbeing, academic achievement and lifelong learning
Professor Robyn Ewing

Professor Ewing is overseeing the research project undertaken by colleagues Associate Professor Jackie Manuel and Honorary Associate Professor David Smith. Researcher Amy Mortimer, a Sydney primary school teacher, will also complete her PhD on Sydney Story Factory later this year.

The team’s evaluation is underpinned by the five dimensions that research suggests are essential in fostering the development of creativity: inquisitiveness, imagination, collaboration, discipline and persistence.

Analysis of students’ writing samples, self-report questionnaires, student interviews and observation schedules are being used by the researchers to develop 10 case studies of children that will illustrate the flow-on effects of regular participation in Sydney Story Factory workshops over a minimum two-year period.

Early findings point to the positive impact of participation in Sydney Story Factory workshops for children, including:

  • significant improvement in writing quality
  • increased engagement with writing, for longer
  • better planning, organisation and ideas
  • enhanced ability to reflect and self-evaluate
  • increased confidence to work with others, and
  • more willingness to talk to people, particularly adults.

Children participating in a Sydney Story Factory workshop. Image: Anthony Browell for Sydney Story Factory.

Professor Ewing said these results had clear implications for current classroom approaches to creativity and problem-solving, and provided rich research-based evidence to transform how writing is taught in schools.

“In many schools storytelling and creative writing are not prioritised as much as they should be, given the emphasis on high-stakes tests like NAPLAN. These interim findings suggest that providing time for the creative writing process is imperative in every classroom. Strong creative thinking and learning skills are critical to students’ social and emotional wellbeing, academic achievement and lifelong learning,” she said.

“Sydney Story Factory provides a much-needed respite to the institutionalised, over-structured and often reductionist literacy focus currently being mandated by both state and federal governments.”

Preliminary findings from this evaluation and future research plans will be explored at a Sydney Ideas panel discussion on Wednesday 28 October. Sydney Story Factory: igniting creativity in children and young people one story at a time will explore how Sydney Story Factory is achieving its vision to help young people find their voice. The event will be chaired by Dr Catherine Keenan, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Sydney Story Factory and Honorary Associate in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Education and Social Work.

The Sydney Story Factory evaluation project will be completed in mid-2016.

Jennifer Peterson-Ward

Assistant Media and PR Adviser (Division of Humanities and Social Sciences)