Author Archives: Team

  1. Case Study 2 – Gordano School, Bristol

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    The hidden magic that emerged at a school writing workshop


    Dani was approached by Gordano School in Bristol to work with a class of history A-level students who needed extra support. It was a mixed class of students, most of whom were extremely articulate verbally but struggled to express and organise their ideas on the page.

    Our approach

    Dani says, ‘I worked with this class over several sessions, helping them make the transition from the spoken to the written argument – in the context of their current topic.

    ‘The power of evidence is crucial when studying history, so I taught them how to produce and consider evidence and understand arguments in history.

    ‘The students worked in pairs and in small groups, which changed the dynamics of the group considerably. The more vocal students were less likely to dominate, and it gave everyone a chance to find their voice and express what they thought.

    ‘One of the activities I asked the group to do was to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10, in terms of how much they agreed with a particular argument. They then had to embody that position and really justify it.

    ‘It’s a fun process, and an excellent way to encourage people to clarify their thinking and explain their reasons. The students then work with like-minded people on the scale and are taught how to argue each point, develop counter arguments, and explore everyone’s differences.

    ‘It’s vital that we create the space for this kind of learning. The exam process doesn’t allow for such in-depth discovery work – it is impossible to organise such glorious noise in an hour-long exam!


    ‘The students were enthusiastic learners and while many of them were already wonderfully eloquent when talking, they could now understand how to express themselves on the page. They started achieving better results and it gave the teachers an insight into how to integrate this learning opportunity into their everyday lessons.

    ‘The hidden magic that emerged as a result of the workshops was the leap in confidence we saw – among both girls and boys. Some of the students hadn’t realised their opinions had value until they were in a setting that encouraged everyone to contribute. They found their voice and became much more confident at expressing and defending their views – which had an overall positive impact on all their other subjects.’

  2. Case Study 1 – Exeter Doctoral College

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    Helping PhD students think critically and argue with clarity


    For the last few years, Dani has delivered writing training days to students at Exeter Doctoral College, as part of the team’s Research and Development programme.

    The workshops are offered to students who feel less comfortable with their relationship with words – particularly when faced with writing a long thesis. This includes medics, nurses, engineers, and others studying largely numbers-based subjects, as well as international students.

    The key challenge for international students is understanding the western academic argument when their culture’s approach to writing is often fundamentally different.

    Our approach

    Dani says, ‘We often start by asking students to fill out a questionnaire, to understand the specifics of what they are struggling with. Doctoral writing can present many challenges – fitting multiple ideas together, gaining clarity on your uniqueness, and simply the enormity of writing a 100,000-word argument – especially when English is not your first language and your tendency is to argue in a very different way.

    ‘We present the western concept of an argument, and how it differs from a ‘row’, and introduce students to the gentle art of persuasion.

    ‘Then we show them how to develop a formal writing process, which is often the missing piece in the jigsaw. Students learn how to prepare a formal draft, clearly consider, and communicate different perspectives and then incorporate rounds of edits.

    ‘Another important part of the process is to establish a critical friend network, for students to provide feedback on each other’s work in a trusted and secure environment. It is a really constructive way to identify weaknesses and gaps, and ultimately improve.   

    Outcomes ‘Our feedback has been brilliant. Students are thinking much more clearly, have a better understanding of what they need to do and feel they can move onto the next stage with more confidence.’