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2018 Transformative Learning Conference

March 8–9, 2018

Oklahoma City, OK


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Draw-and-Write Method Deepens Student Engagement and Prompts Transformative Writing and in Measurable Ways

Friday, March 9, 2018 at 10:20 AM–10:50 AM CST
Everest B

Attendees of this session will experience the draw-and-write research method throughout the presentation. The presentation describes a study that investigated changes in sentence structures related to the draw-and-write technique. The study design asked four UCO sections of Composition I students to volunteer participation. The participants wrote and submitted an essay; drew examples used in that essay; and, finally, revised the essay. The aim of the study was to examine and measure the effect of drawing on three areas of student performance: 1) description changes, 2) sentence structure changes, and 3) students’ engagement and attitude toward the assignment. Comparative content analysis and reflection questionnaires were data collection instruments. Content analysis  divided data into categories of student changes in writing between the original and revised essays. The changes were easily distributed into two areas of learning outcomes: 1) Objective: students analyzed the connections between their experiences and the lesson learned and 2) Subjective: once students drew their experiences, usually in greater detail than noted in the original essay, many added emotions and opinions regarding the experience. Ultimately, students discussed how their writing changed, ways they learn, attitudes toward various assignment types, and multidisciplinary applications of drawing. Attendees will also discuss multidisciplinary applications.


Before the session, I place paper and drawing pencils under chairs.  As my talk begins, I introduce myself and my study.  As I talk about my study, I ask participants to write a description of themselves in the rain.  After ten minutes, I ask participants the draw themselves in the rain.  I continue to talk.  After ten more minutes, I give my conclusion and ask participants to revise their original descriptions. We talk about changes they made between written descriptions and if the drawing influenced any of the changes.

Research Questions and Purpose: Does drawing an example help students create more concise, descriptive writing? Does drawing change student attitudes and engagement with a writing assignment? The aim of the study was to examine and qualitatively measure the effect of drawing on three areas: 1) description changes, 2) sentence structure changes, and 3) students’ engagement and attitude toward a writing assignment.

Research Design: Four sections of UCO Composition I students (100 students in total) between the ages of 18 and 22, volunteered to participate. I assigned a narrative essay, asking students to write about a specific experience that taught them a lesson. After essays were submitted in class, students drew the experience(s) used in their narrative essays. Stick figures were allowed as enhanced understanding was the aim, not artistry. Once essays were graded, I returned them and assigned revisions. Students were to make grammatical and mechanical corrections as well as tighten their overall argument and examples. Students could reference their drawings, but reference was not required.

Data Collection and Analysis: Comparative content analysis and reflection questionnaires were the qualitative data collection instruments. Content analysis divided student revisions into categories. Questionnaires revealed student attitudes toward the assignment. A common, dominant category in both collection instruments was determined, proving the effectiveness and validity of the draw-and-write research method.

Multidisciplinary Applications: The mind connects ideas in many ways. Moving beyond the writing classroom, drawing may enable deeper connections and understandings about assignments, disciplines, and selves. Could students discover much about their thinking processes if they drew themselves working through a math, physics, or engineering problem? What if students drew themselves working with a clinical patient, or a marketing client, or in a laboratory? Drawing may be a helpful, transformative action for students of many disciplines.  For many students in my courses, drawing ideas before verbalizing or writing them, clarified the ideas and, more importantly, the subsequent writing.

Transitive Learning Outcomes: Objective /Rational and Subjective/Emotional. The categories of student changes in writing between the original essay and the revision essay easily distributed into two areas: 1) Objective: students analyzed the connections between their experiences and the lesson learned; writing is changed and 2) Subjective: students drew their experiences, usually in greater detail than noted in the original essay.  For some, the drawing helped express emotions and opinions regarding the experience.

As a class, we discussed these two ways of learning and how these ways work together to teach us.


Literature Review: In this study, I employed the draw-and-write research method to encourage student clarity in writing. Literature review shows that the draw-and-write research method has been used in health sciences, social care, and elementary education research for several decades. Current uses include application to business and industry education, health professional education, community education such as courses offered by the YMCA, and informal settings such as self-help groups. I applied the method using college-level participants in the Humanities, a combination not found in the literature.

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Torosyan, Roben. (2007). Teaching for Transformation: Integrative Learning, Consciousness Development and Critical Reflection. Unpublished manuscript.

Format of Presentation

30-Minute Research Session

Conference Thread(s)

Critically Reflecting in Transformative Learning

Primary Presenter

Linda J Breslin, University of Central Oklahoma

Secondary Presenters