Using creative writing to explore identity formation: a participatory study with adolescents in post-conflict Colombia

Fuentes Díaz, C (2020) Using creative writing to explore identity formation: a participatory study with adolescents in post-conflict Colombia. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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This thesis explores Colombian adolescents’ identity formation through a creative writing programme within a school context. This research investigates how this programme aids the exploration of adolescents’ identity formation focusing on the youth participants’ perceptions, as well as on the identity formation aspects they portray in their creative writing. Underpinned by social constructionism, this study stands on the ontological premise that social interaction precedes the construction of knowledge, and places language at the centre of identity formation. In particular, this study uses Dan McAdams’ narrative identity theory and Kenneth Gergen’s concept of relational being as key conceptual schema. The fieldwork took place in a public school in Colombia and lasted for 19 weeks. Fifteen ninth grade participants (14-16 year-old students; or equivalent of UK Year 11) volunteered, eleven women and four men. The research design was built upon a participatory mixed qualitative research design, which joined methods from arts-based research, educational practice and the social sciences. The six creative writing workshops were designed within a project-based learning structure and were complemented by more established qualitative research techniques like interviews and focus groups. The book, together with the interviews and the participants’ reflective narratives on the process, were chosen as the main data for analysis. The findings highlight the fact that creative writing programmes aid identity formation by providing opportunities for authentic self- expression. The role of the researcher as a facilitator is highlighted. The adolescents’ creative writing reveals identity is constructed around trust and the constant negotiation of inner emotions with outer expressions of the self. The findings evidence implications for research design, data use and analysis and educational practice. Most importantly, this research argues for shifting the focus to authentic expressions of identity (versus notions of positive identity), by valuing agency in mid-adolescents.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

This thesis was supervised by Dr Laura Green, Professor Maggie Gee, Dr Stuart Read and Dr Mary Stakelum.

The appendices and creative content are available at the URL below.

Keywords: creative writing, Colombia, Colombian public schools, post-conflict education, identity formation, adolescent identity, adolescent agency, self-expression, creative writing education, creative writing workshops, social constructionism, Dan McAdams, Kenneth Gergen, participatory research, qualitative research, interviews, focus groups
Divisions: School of Education
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Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2020 16:46
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2023 13:35
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