Professor Patrick Leman is a developmental and educational psychologist, Associate Dean of Science and Head of Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and Chair of its Developmental Section. He also edits the British Journal of Developmental Psychology. Patrick has an MSc in Psychology and Philosophy from St Edmund Hall, Oxford University and a PhD in developmental psychology from the University of Cambridge.
Dr Yvonne Skipper is a lecturer in psychology at Keele University, who also has extensive research expertise in social, developmental and educational psychology. She has BSc and PhD from University of Kent and previously held positions at University of East London and Royal Holloway, University of London.
The research reported here was collected from participants in the White Water Writers programmes in 2012 and 2013 with the assistance of Claire Sears and Abigail Domone, both undergraduate students of psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Summary of key research findings
White Water Writers’ Self-evaluations before and after the camps…
We asked the writers (N=36) to evaluate their knowledge and skills before, and then after the writing camps on a 6-point scale… All but one of the measures (“how good are you at researching”, which is not a skill linked to the camps) showed statistically significant improvement over time (p<.05). The most marked improvements were in terms of writers’ understanding of how to write a novel, the ability to work under pressure, the ability to communicate their ideas both in writing and verbally, working in a team, and giving and receiving constructive feedback.
Locus of Control
A key measure of interest was what psychologists refer to as “locus of control”. Locus of Control (LoC) refers to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them. For instance, individuals with a high internal locus of control believe that events in their life derive primarily from their own actions: for example, when receiving test results, people with an internal locus of control would tend to praise or blame themselves and their abilities, whereas people with an external locus of control would tend to praise or blame an external factor such as the teacher or the test. We anticipated that completing the task would leave to significant improvements in this measure because writers will have a greater sense of responsibility and confidence in their abilities after the camp. The hypothesis was confirmed (p<.05).
We also explored, related to LoC, if writers changed in how they viewed their intelligence. Psychologists have found that thinking of intelligence as something which can be changed, through effort, is important because it motivates individuals to work and helps them to view their ability to learn new things in a more positive light. Those who tend to think of intelligence as a fixed thing (i.e., you are either intelligent or not, or have ability in a subject or don’t) is a key predictor of school engagement and, in turn, academic performance. Our writers, over the course of the week, showed a huge improvement on this measure. That is, they were more likely to judge that intelligence was something that can be changed, through effort, than something that is fixed and unchangeable. Again, this measure was associated with significant positive change in before and after measures (p<.05).
Skipper,Y., Leman, P. J. & Reddington, J. (2014). White Water Writers: Giving young people the chance to become published authors in a week, Poster presented at the British Psychological Society Developmental Section Annual Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands, September 2014.