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This paper examines a residential writing retreat for final year human geography and planning students held in a youth hostel in North Yorkshire, considering how it is experienced by students. This is a curriculum innovation for the dissertation module that combines aspects of geography fieldtrip and writing workshop to support the dissertation writing process and build community, applicable to dissertation and other modules on all kinds of courses.
Drawing on the concept of ‘the slow university’ (Berg & Seeber, 2016; O’Neill, 2014) where the ‘slowing down’ and ‘stripping away’ of the usual structures and patterns of teaching and learning create a critical and creative space for thinking and writing, we explore whether and how the Malham retreat makes space for writing. The study is also informed by our spatial approach to the processes and content of research and teaching as geographers (Massey, 2005).
Qualitative focus group evidence was gathered on the student and staff experience and used to evaluate the field trip (Breen, 2006; Krueger & Casey, 2009; Stewart & Shamdasani, 2015). This paper presents the results of this evaluation and it is argued that the retreat made space for writing in three ways:
1. The space of countryside, nature and youth hostel.
2. The formal and informal learning spaces staff and students constructed during the retreat
3. ‘Head space’- the social, psychological and emotional room the retreat made for staff and students
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