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Karin Wetschanow and Elisa Rauter (AT)

“My writing is no longer a shot in the dark”: In-House Academic Writing Retreats as Spaces of Student Empowerment

Although a growing body of literature claims benefits of writing retreats, such as increased motivation, enhanced writer’s self-efficacy, and increased publication output, the individual effects for participants have not yet been comprehensively researched. Since writing retreats at universities have been primarily deployed at the PhD level, the research to date has tended to focus on expert writers as opposed to novice writers. Moreover, the theoretical framework of previous studies on the effects of writing retreats is still rather vague or solely competence-oriented. This study set out to investigate the perceived benefits of regularly offered writing retreats at the University of Klagenfurt to students of all study levels within the multilevel concept of psychological empowerment of Zimmerman (1995). We consider writing retreats as places of empowerment where students are given the opportunity to shape their writing process and gain greater access to and control over their individual writing strategies. In order to ask about individual empowerment outcomes, this study is based on a quantitative online survey (n=60) and on qualitative semi-structured interviews (n=12) with students who participated in at least one structured writing retreat at the University of Klagenfurt (on-campus or online). The most striking result from the data is that all students except one noticeably advanced their writing project during the writing retreat. Moreover, the participants felt that both the motivation experienced in a group setting as well as the change from a previously known unstructured “writing time” into dedicated working time and breaks was highly supportive. The institutional setting of time and space especially empowered the students to commit to their writing project, reflect on their time management and planning strategies, and improve their self-care strategies. Overall, this study strengthens the idea that writing retreats can empower students of all study levels by experiencing writing as a manageable task.

Short biographies

Elisa Rauter, BA MA, is a trained writing consultant and lecturer at the SchreibCenter Klagenfurt who studied German and Transcultural Communication as well as German Language and Literature at the University of Graz. From 2017 to 2019, she worked as a project assistant at the Center for German as a Second Language and Language Education Graz and completed her training as an academic writing consultant at the University of Klagenfurt. Since 2017 she has been working at the SchreibCenter of the University of Klagenfurt where she is currently exploring the empowering effects of writing retreats on students. Her main research focuses on academic writing in German as a first and second language and pre-scientific thesis writing (“Vorwissenschaftliches Schreiben”).

Dr. Karin Wetschanow studied linguistics, education, and psychology in Vienna. She is a senior lecturer at the Writing Center of the University of Klagenfurt and a freelance lecturer at the University of Vienna. She currently leads the writing consultation training at the Writing Center in Klagenfurt and is involved in the peer-mentoring program at the Center for Teaching and Learning (University of Vienna). She also works as a freelance writing consultant for academic and scholarly writing. Within the field of writing studies, she explores student genres (“Seminararbeit”, “Vorwissenschaftliche Arbeit”) and writing retreats. She is also an expert in Gender Linguistics and gives workshops in the field of performative biography work.


Dr. Doris Pany

Lehr- und Studienservices
Halbärthgasse 6/I
A-8010 Graz

Telefon:+43 316 380 - 1150

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