English, Department of


First Advisor

Shari Stenberg

Second Advisor

Stacey Waite

Third Advisor

Debbie Minter

Date of this Version

Spring 5-1-2023

Document Type



A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Shari Stenberg. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Leah M Hedrick


This thesis serves as a primer text for creative play pedagogy, a new approach to teaching arts subjects. In accordance with the author’s teaching experience, this text is primarily concerned with the application of new pedagogical shifts to center creative play in the community college creative writing classroom.

Part One lays out a definition and rationale for creative play as a concept for teachers. The research outlined in this section illustrates how engagement with the arts benefits students’ mental-emotional and social well-being. Following this research, the author investigates barriers to creative play that exist in traditional pedadogies as well as institutional structures. This section also includes some theory on emotion in the classroom.

Part Two focuses on revising some of the traditional pedagogies of the creative writing classroom, both to update them for the community college context and to make space for creative play. The section includes common catchphrases that are used in the creative writing classroom, explores the harms and limitations of these catchphrases, and offers revised methods for addressing key lessons. Also in this section, the author ponders grading and feedback practices, and explores the effects of reactive vs. proactive teaching as it pertains to creative writing.

Part Three outlines examples from the author’s own classroom. This section begins with the broad concerns of course design and learning objectives. Then, it moves toward student self-determination and, using quotations from the author’s students, offers rationale for why students choose creative writing at the community college. Overwhelmingly, students are looking for a fun class in which they can be part of a writing community. Lastly, the text in this section suggests some classroom activities that may foster fun and community.

Advisor: Shari Stenberg