Annotated Bibliographies for Fall 2004
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Harris, Pauline, Phil Fitzsimmons, and Barbra McKenzie. “Six words of writing, Many Layers of Significance: An Examination of Writing as Social Practice In an Early Grade Classroom.” Australian Journal of Language and Literacy. 27.1 (2004): 27-45.
In their study, Harris, Fitzsimmons, and McKenzie observed a first grade classroom in a Northern California school for three months to investigate the act of writing of young children as a complex process influenced by classroom and out-of-school contexts. Using Luke and Freebody’s model of reading, the researchers wanted to examine writing as a “social model of writing” by focusing on how children “represent texts, compose meaning, achieve social purposes, and position readers” and reflect situational and cultural contexts in their writing (28, 27). After evaluating months of observation, the researchers chose to focus on an episode involving one student, Charlie, as they felt his behavior was representative of “several issues” faced by many children in the classroom setting (31).
The researchers chose to describe and analyze Charlie’s writing process for an assigned task, as whether the activity was free choice or teacher-assigned significantly influenced Charlie’s approach to writing. When assigned to draw a picture and write a caption for his favorite Pat Hutchins story, Charlie exhibited resistant behavior, such as expressing his “hate” for the stories, avoiding the assignment by focusing on a pack of markers, and then eventually completing the assignment in a hurried manner (32). Along with a drawing of “One-Eyed Jake,” Charlie wrote in heavy, black marker “One-Eyed Jake had a TELLIBLLLLE temper!!!” (33). Guided by Luke and Freebody’s model of reading, the researchers examined Charlie’s compositional practices as they related to “code, meaning, purpose, and position” (42). They found Charlie’s choice of subject, medium, and language to be expressive of his negative attitude towards the assignment, essentially “redefin[ing] his teacher’s set purpose” of an enjoyable activity to instead convey his position towards the task (42). Through also investigating the broader context of school and family, the researchers concluded that Charlie’s negative attitude towards the assignment was due in part to his family-influenced preference for reading scientific texts as opposed to literature. In free choice activities, Charlie’s enthusiasm and dedication in representing factual texts, such as those on the subject of marine life, attest to the influence of social context in his writing. Motivated by their findings, Harris, Fitzsimmons, and McKenzie feel that educators must view student writing as reflective of broader social contexts and thus, work with children’s “predispositions, knowledge, skills, and aspirations” in order to “build bridges to new learning, without displacing old learning and without alienating the child in the writer or the writer in the child” (44).
Several parallels may be drawn between Harris, Fitzsimmons, and McKenzie’s study and that of Donald Graves’s 1975 study of the writing processes of seven-year-olds. In an unassigned task, Michael, the primary subject of Graves’s study, chose to create a fictional story, perhaps influenced by his family’s exposing him to of themes of factual as well as fictional nature, such as “King Arthur, sports, ghosts and witches, camping and hunting, fires and explosions” (Perl 33). However, as researchers cannot produce an accurate and all-encompassing report of a child’s exposure to thematic elements, it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly motivates a child’s selection of subject matter in free choice writing. Nevertheless, both studies confirm that a child’s engagement with unassigned tasks exceeds his engagement with teacher-assigned tasks, as personal relevance makes the task more enjoyable to the child. Emotion undoubtedly influenced Charlie’s writing, supporting Brand’s assertion that “affective content and motivation” guide writing (442). Although Brand’s study does not focus specifically on children, Charlie’s writing serves as a valuable example supporting her emphasis on emotion as an active influence on composition, as children do not seek to eclipse their emotional self with an academic self.
Harris, Fitzsimmons, and McKenzie’s article attracted my attention because I thought it might serve as an expansion of Graves’s study by producing contemporary research on the writing process of young children. Graves concluded that family and home, teachers, developmental characteristics, and peers influence “writing cause, thematic origin or writing, prewriting, composing, and postwriting,” and the more recent study further examines the extent that variables rooted outside of the classroom influence a writer’s attitude and position and therefore, affect the actual text, meaning, and purpose of composition (Perl 35). Although the subjects of Harris, Fitzsimmons, and McKenzie’s study are the mere age of six and have limited experience with writing, the study reaffirms that writing is more than just words on a page, but a powerful mode of expression. The study challenges us as tutors and possible future teachers to view writing as the confluence of the writer’s experiences and thus, possibly to take on the responsibility of “build[ing] bridges to new learning” for the resistant writer (Harris 44). —Stephanie Seale, 09/14/04
Haas, Christina. “Does the Medium Make a Difference? Two Studies of Writing With
Pen and Paper and With Computers.” Human-Computer Interaction 4 (1989): 149-169. Available via Academic Search Premier. 2002. 13 Sept. 2004. <http://bll.epnet.com/citation.asp?tb=0&_ug=sid+1555E278%2DF8EF%2D4818%2DA218%2DB0EB79192BFB%40sessionmgr3+3C1C&_us=SLsrc+ext+30AB&_usmtl=ftv+True+137E&_uso=hd+False+db%5B0+%2Daph+1BEE&bk=S&EBSCOContent=ZWJjY8bb43ePp7Rrwtvva6Gmr3%2BPprCFn625fqOWxpjDpfKDqK%2BygqiqrbjQ3%2B151N7uvuMA&rn=&fn=&db=aph&an=7306216&sm=&cf=1>.
This article presents a lengthy analysis of two studies conducted to determine whether advanced technology, in the form of computers and workstations, affects the processes and products of a select group of writers. Prior to explaining either of the studies in a detailed manner, Haas summarizes key points in prior research that she feels may be applicable to either the methodology or the conclusions of her own studies. Most importantly, Haas uses this brief summary of past experiments to draw special attention to those done by J. Gould, a researcher whose experiments Haas mirrors in her first study. Thus the results of his study are especially significant as a means of comparison. Haas frequently reiterates that research in this area is especially significant for teachers who “have looked to computer technology as a potential tool for helping students of all ages write – and learn to write – better” (151). Through this brief summary, Haas introduces a variety of unanswered questions and establishes a historical context for her studies.
The first of the two studies deals with a relatively small sample size of 15 experienced writers (11 men and 4 women) from Carnegie Mellon University whose daily use of the technology in question eliminates any variation in results due to a lack of familiarity with the given technology (152-153). Each subject was given one of four topics and instructed to write a persuasive letter “as quickly as possible” according to the conditions of the proposed topic (153). The first variable of the study pertains to the audience of the letter: two topics had specific audiences in mind and two had general audiences, but ones that the writer would feel comfortable addressing a letter to. For each day of the study, participants wrote two letters. The second variable of the study was mechanism by which the participant was to compose each letter: pen and paper, personal computer, an advanced workstation with a large screen, and an advanced workstation with a small screen (154-155).
In this first study, Haas was able to explore the relationship between quantity and quality of the product. As one would expect, those writing using the pen and paper method produced much shorter products than those using either form of technology. But even though those using the advanced workstations wrote, on average, about a hundred words more than those writing with pen and paper, they also spent roughly three minutes more doing so. In the end, the groups using technology and those using pens and paper composed at roughly the same rate (155). The results of the examination of quality produced similarly unexpected results. When ranked on a numerical scale, letters composed at the advanced workstation and by pen and paper were extremely similar in content, mechanics, and total quality (156). Although I am not quite sure how, Haas finally comes to the conclusion that when dealing with experienced writers, the “advanced workstation is better than the pen and paper or the personal computer” (158).
In the second study, Haas answers the question, “In what ways do text-editing technologies influence the cognitive processes by which writing is revised?” (159). The sample size of this study is even smaller than the first: only 8 of the original 15 participated. Here subject were instructed to “think aloud as they revised two of their original letters to be ‘longer and somewhat more formal essays’ on the same general topic” using the same medium in which they had originally composed the letters (159). All 8 subjects revised their pen and paper letter, and then were broken up into groups of 4 to revise either their personal computer letter or one of their advanced workstation letters (as a result of the two advanced workstation groups merging in the first study).
Experimenters concentrated on the following conditions when evaluating results for the second study: planning, initial planning, rereading, and attending to the medium. A comparison of the three variables shows that substantially more planning was involved in the revision of pen and paper letters than in either the workstation or personal computer versions. In addition, “not only were writers doing more planning in sum with pen and paper, but they were doing more planning ‘up front,’ before they made any changes to the text” (162). In contrast, writers tended to reread more frequently while using the computer and also tended to be more aware of their medium when using technology.
Despite its repetitive nature, this article was not only interesting to read, but presented some unusual results. I did, however, have a slight bit of difficulty understanding the graphic representations and charts included within the text. There was no clear explanation of how the experimenters reached the numerical values in the tables, and I could not understand why the values in the text did not always match the values in the tables, but this may simply be reader error. Despite all of this, I was however able to see the trends to which Haas refers.- Christina Abel 9/14/04
Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Sexuality, Textuality: The Cultural Work of Plagiarism.” College English 62.4 (2000): 473-91.
Rebecca Moore Howard, throughout this piece, presents her idea to eliminate the use of the word “plagiarism” due to its history as a word associated with women. She proposes instead three separate categories: fraud, insufficient citation, and excessive repetition. She feels that these words function more appropriately as they refer only to the textual aspect of plagiarism, not the sexual aspect. As the piece progresses, she presents numerous historical examples that connect originality with men and plagiarism with women. While, she explains, women tend to collaborate, men see any need for collaboration or help as weakness and lack of originality. In this way the sharing of ideas turns into the theft of ideas, or plagiarism. One of the examples she discusses involves the comparison between plagiarism and sexual disease. In his 1926 composition guide, The Fine Art of Writing for Those Who Teach It, Robinson Shipherd wishes to instill the idea that plagiarism is morally wrong in his students and therefore compares it to sexual disease. Howard explains the repercussions this has for women: “Disease is, of course, of the body, and a prominent tradition in the West says that the body is feminine” (480). Over the course of the essay, Howard presents ample evidence of a sexual aspect to the word and concept of plagiarism as well as a simple and effective alternative that focuses solely on the textual aspect, therefore freeing women from negative associations with the subject.
The subject of plagiarism has always struck me as extremely delicate. It seems to be a topic that turns the faces of all college students to stone and therefore stirs my curiosity. The title of this article caught my eye immediately not only because the idea of plagiarism interests me but also because I had never thought about plagiarism in any sort of gendered context. The points that Howard makes raised my awareness about women’s rights in writing. Living in society today with nothing standing between me and a successful writing career but myself, I forget that, like the right to vote, women have not always had the freedom to write. However, as clearly as I see why Howard feels the way she does, I don’t feel that the issue of associating plagiarism with women exists in our society. Perhaps I simply haven’t seen it, but some of Howard’s examples seem outdated. She certainly made me stop and think about connections between gender and writing, but I think perhaps the idea of plagiarism is not as sexualized as she thinks.
By discussing the association of individuality with men and collaboration with women, Howard opens the subject of the differences in writing style between women and men. Though she uses the differences to show how women were connected with plagiarism and men with originality, the idea that men and women write differently is an interesting one to consider. A study done by Donald H. Graves shows that gender differences in writing begin as soon as children are able to write. According to Graves, seven-year-old girls tend to write about their primary territory while boys seem capable of writing about subjects beyond their everyday life at home and school. This, Howard might say, can be seen as further evidence that males are associated with originality.
Although Howard’s piece does not apply directly to a tutoring situation, her suggestion for replacing the word may help student writers avoid plagiarism. The three aspects of fraud, insufficient citation, and excessive repetition create an excellent checklist for someone who may be unclear about whether or not he or she is plagiarizing. It is an added benefit that these terms avoid sexualizing theft of ideas and refer only to the text in question.—Mariah Healey, 15 September 2005
Huff, Ronald K. “Teaching Revision: A Model of the Drafting Process.” College
English, Vol. 45, No.8 (Dec., 1983), 800-816.
Ronald K. Huff’s article utilizes the information of other composition theorists and attempts to create a practical, pedagogical solution to the issues brought up by the process of revision. Huff firstly discusses the research of Sharon Pianko, who studied average and remedial college writers to observe their use of reflection while writing. She found that while the more experienced writers paused and considered their work multiple times, the remedial writers took less pauses and also used those moments to focus on sentence and language issues. Also citing research conducted by Linda Flower and John R. Hayes, Huff suggests that immature writers revise on the grammatical and sentence level while more able writers focus on “rhetorical problems,”(800) therefore addressing the issues that improve the essay as a whole. Huff defines a mature writer as someone who does not dwell on the detailed rules of writing but instead focuses on the bigger picture of the paper: the audience, the thesis, and the organization of the writing.
Throughout the article, Huff emphasizes that it is essential for students and teachers to look at the drafting process as a continual part of the composing experience. With this, Huff outlines a three-step strategy for drafting which he used on a freshman composition class of twenty-three students. The first stage is “zero drafting,”(803) where the writer completes a draft of the essay without concern for details so that they can step back and begin to narrow down ideas and strengthen their arguments. When using “zero drafting,” Huff says it is important for the writer to remember that the process is not about making a final draft the first time but to instead enjoy the freedom of possibility this action creates. With this, Huff makes an important point that it is almost impossible for writing to develop when the writer is focused on the “ ‘correctness’ of their spelling, grammar, punctuation, word choice, and the linear progression of one sentence to another”(805). Huff is successful in identifying an essential element of what makes a good writer: the ability to absorb the rules of writing so that one may work freely without concern for the restriction of being correct.
Writers should then move on to “problem-solving drafting,”(806) where the writer finds problem areas which are necessary to address for the full quality of the paper. Huff suggests that solving these specific issues will usually lead to a “global”(811) improvement of the piece. Finally, the writer creates the “final draft”(811) which should not be seen as a quick look over but instead as a search for the “best possible solution” to the important issues of the work.
Huff’s article does a nice job of combining the important work of both Pianko and Flower and Hayes. He utilizes the key conclusions in their research, focusing on the behaviors observed of the mature writers, and then creates a useful strategy through which a teacher or tutor could encourage such behavior. His technique for drafting is a valuable one, however I question how an unconfident writer would feel when confronted with the idea of “zero drafting.” Although Huff states that the teacher should emphasize that this step is not an attempt to write a final draft, a tutor working closely with a troubled student might have a hard time convincing them to ignore the pressures of creating an entire paper in one sitting. When dealing with such a student, it might be important to create a kind of outline of ideas before even attempting a “zero draft,” even if this only involves speaking about the subject out loud before beginning.
The essay also includes powerful examples to display the effectiveness of Huff’s strategy. Huff provides portions of the students’ work and shows the progression of their writing through using the strategy he designed. Not only do these examples further cement his assertion, they also serve as tools for tutors to help them recognize when such a strategy might be useful and how the process could evolve a page of jumbled ideas into a concrete, organized, and powerful piece of writing.
Finally, one of the most important yet simple points that Huff emphasizes is the idea that to be a good writer one must own the work that they do; they must feel invested in the work and take their writing from a “school- sponsored” duty to a “self-sponsored”(801) opportunity. Although this is not a particularly scientific conclusion, it is a piece of advice and encouragement that all writers should hear. – Sarah Capua 9/15/04
Boice, Robert. "Writing Blocks and Tacit Knowledge." The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Jan.- Feb., 1993), 19-54. http://links.jstor.org/sici=0022-1546%28199301%2F02%2964%3A1%3C19%3AWBTK% 3E2.0.CO%3B2-S
The author is a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and is the director of the school's Faculty Instructional Support Office. The article is a comphrensive survey of the available literature on writer's block, along with Boice's experience working with professors plagued by writer's block, and his recommendations for helping those experiencing it to change their habits in order to move beyond it. While the test subjects of Boice's theories, and consequently the focus of his paper, are college professors, much of the information presented also applies to students working on college-level academic papers. Indeed, much of the research the author surveys looks at younger writers, beginning with elementary students.
Boice opens by noting that writing blocks are not well-studied, and briefly explores the reasons why. He asserts that "writing fluency is a kind of practical intelligence whose basics remain traditionally untaught" (20). While much research has been done on how to write, there has been precious little information accumulated "on the most basic of tacit skills such as finding ideas, motivation, and momentum" (22). It is just these tacit skills, Boice argues, that are what separates "fluent" writers from those who frequently fall victim to writer's block. Yet they are left untaught, he says, because our culture rewards those who thrive with little or no guidance and are instantly ready for grander problems. After reviewing some of the current psychological thought existant on writing blocks, he discusses the results of his own survey of professors facing this issue. The "blockers' maladaptive thoughts about writing" show several distinct problems which nevertheless often act in concert with one another (28). They include: apprehension about the work involved in writing, procrastination, feelings of depression associated with the task of writing, impatience to have things done and over with and move on, perfectionism, evaluation anxiety, and "rigid rules" (28-9). Boice notes that good writers also experience some of these same issues, but are able to move beyond them. He then surveys the various methods in use to combat writer's block, and their general effectiveness. None, by themselves, however, has been shown to have a significant and lasting effect on a writer's overall fluency. The author instead prescribes a combination of these "four elementary components of tacit knowledge," which he has studied and found successful for the blocked professors with whom he works (41). The "IRSS" model integrates the separate approaches used by other psychologists, and stands for involvement, regimen, self-management, and social networking. Involvement in campus activities and work and discussion within a discipline or major, Boice says, helps students to 'learn in a social context and internalize' the information and language conventions they will later need to put into papers (41). Regimen is simply the behaviorist process of creating a writing routinue for yourself that is controlled by a system of punishements and rewards. Self-management requires discovering what one's individual negative writing behaviors and thoughts are, so that they may be adequately addressed. Social networking, as the final piece of the puzzle, is the participation in some type of peer-tutoring program, allowing blocked writers to learn from more fluent colleagues. To Boice, successful writers are those that engage in all of these "tacit" behaviors in some way.
The premise of this article was very interesting. If we are to tutor, we should have various strategies on hand to suggest to those students struggling to put words on paper. Boice notes that "most of the writers who reflect on how they write seem inscrutable and mysterious" (22). The difficulty with which most of us attempted to articulate our own prose endeavors bears this out, and does not bode well for those who will come to us asking, "How do you do it?" While it is nearly impossible for a peer tutor to efficiently impose a regimen, or most of the other parts of the IRSS upon fellow students, it will certainly help to be able to offer a tested answer, which those who are truly serious about overcoming their blocking problems can implement on their own.
Boice's theory of the tacit behaviors involved in good writing makes a great deal of sense. Certainly teachers prefer not to have to cover the most basic behaviors of a skill, as they often seem terribly self-evident, especially to those so comfortable in a subject that they choose to teach it. For students who aren't very motivated in that particular direction, this fundamental lack of coping skills only further alienates them from the subject and undermines the progress they might otherwise have been able to make. If we accept Boice's premises, the article should have profound consequences for the way remedial classes and basic level courses are taught. I agree with much of the author's conclusions, and believe that it will certainly be valuable in tutoring and teaching. However, some of the examples, omitted from the above summary of the piece, given at the end about the psychology of dieting and agoraphobia were a bit redundant and not particulary well tied in with the rest of the work. In addition, it would have greatly helped if the programs for integrating the IRSS method were described in greater detail.
The article tied in rather nicely with the Flower and Hayes piece, dealing as it did with the cognitive process of writing, and indeed, Boice references some of their other work. Boice's recommendation of free-writing to help with getting started writing seems to echo Flower and Hayes' findings about the "representations" -- images and phrases -- that they see as being "translated" onto the page. And while it has no in-depth analysis of the affective aspects of writing as Alice Brand calls for, it certainly does show that a great deal of blocking stems from the emotional and affective issues of individual writers.--Jessie Dixon, 9/15/04
Sommers, Nancy. “Responding to Student Writing.” College Composition and Communication. Volume 33 Number 2 (May 1982), 148-156.
In this article, Sommers uses research results to explain concerns with written teacher commentary on student writing. Sommers and her colleagues Lil Brannon and Cyril Knoblach executed a study of 35 teachers’ written commentary from New York University and the University of Oklahoma. A portion of these teachers and their students were also interviewed. The study focused on comments that were written in an attempt to motivate students to revise their work. The goal of the study was to understand the messages students receive through teacher commentary, and to discover the reasons students use certain comments to assist their revision, while disregarding others (148).
The study found that teacher commentary warps the revision process; the student tends to revise not based on his or her own goals for the paper but rather on what appear, through the written comments, to be the teacher’s goals (149). Sommer specifies this finding by comparing interlinear and marginal comments. The interlinear comments, the ones that appear within the text of the paper, tend to treat the text as a “fixed piece,” simply pointing to grammatical errors or asking for the student to elaborate his or her point (151). The marginal comments, however, imply that the text does not have a fixed meaning, and tell the student, “you need to do more research” or “think more about your reader” (150, 152). Through the interlinear comments, the teacher is asking the student to brush up the text given the current structure and intentions, whereas the marginal comments communicate a need to revamp the paper. As Sommers points out, such contradictory comments fail “to direct genuine revision of the text as a whole” (151).
Sommers explains that when teachers comment in this way, they treat the first draft as though it is a finished draft and veer the revision away from the direction natural to the writer (151). A main problem with this form of commentary is that students tend to “see their writing in parts—words, sentences, paragraphs—and not as a whole discourse” (151). Thus, the student sees his first draft as a final draft, failing to pay attention to the overarching theme or structure, and simply “revising” sentence-by-sentence. Sommers notes that through the teacher commentary, the “processes of revision, editing, and proofreading are collapsed and reduced into a single activity, and the students’ misunderstanding of the revision process as a rewording activity is reinforced by their teachers’ comments” (151). When looking at the revised drafts, it is clear that students change a large portion of what is commented on, but “do not take the risk” of making other changes in their revision, even if they “sense that other changes are needed” (152).
The second finding of the study was that most of the teachers’ comments are not specific to the student text in question; rather, they adhere to “abstract rules” for writing (153). Furthermore, nowhere in the teacher commentary are suggestions for ways in which the student can fix the problems pointed out. To tell the student, Sommers explains, “‘to be specific,’ or ‘to elaborate,’ does not show [the] student what questions the reader has about the meaning of the text, or what breaks in logic exist” (153). This vague teacher commentary suggests to students that they simply need to follow a specified set of rules in order to improve their writing. While the “abstract rules” may sometimes be applicable to a possible revision for a text, the study found that teachers’ comments are full of these rules even if the student work will not necessarily benefit from such commentary (153).
This problem originates, Sommers proposes, in the fact the teachers do not receive extensive training in how to respond to student papers. Indeed, teachers often do treat first drafts as though they were final papers because they were not taught how to change their commentary based on the status of the draft (154). It should be clear that a comment used to explain a grade is likely to prove unhelpful if the student is looking to revise his or her paper. The teacher, however, who is used to reading a paper with the ultimate purpose of assigning a grade, looks foremost for spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors within a text (154). Where, I wonder, were the classes like 221 when these teachers were in school? I am certain had the teachers gone through a course on the “Theories of Composing, Tutoring, and Teaching,” they would have a much better sense of what sorts of written comments are appropriate for each stage of the writing process. I do not think it is possible for one to be taught how to “respond to student writing. It is most important to understand the theories behind teaching and tutoring, and to use this information to best judge how to respond to each piece of writing.
Sommers’ last and very brief point is that the most success will come from the written comments if the teacher echoes his or her suggestions and form of commentary within the classroom itself. While Sommers recommends exercises that look at the process of revision in a sense broader than simply editing common errors, she does not elaborate on this suggestion. From the perspective of a writing tutor, however, the ties to the classroom are not the foremost concern. Even though the writing tutor may not write comments on the student’s paper, the concept of reading the paper as a unit and not as individual sentences that may need revision still applies. All papers that are brought to the Writing Center will go through some sort of revision. It is important for tutors to understand that there are many types of revision, and to read each paper with this in mind. Indeed, it is true that a paper may be well near its finished stage, and the main problems may be with punctuation and grammar. However, while punctuation and grammar may need refining with a rough draft of a paper, they are of lesser concern in comparison the overall paper’s overall layout or meaning. While tutors must be attentive to the mechanical errors of a text, they must also consider the text from a “first draft” perspective, and challenge, just as teachers should, whether a more overarching approach to revision would be helpful. It seems, in fact, that many of the problems Sommers’ observed would be solved the teacher and student engaged in a spoken dialogue. And so perhaps Writings Center tutors are at an advantage over the teachers in Sommers’ study; the Writing Center environment encourages the tutor to ask questions and word suggestions verbally, which is likely more effective—especially in the preliminary stages of writing—than if the student were to receive such comments in the margins of his paper.-Phoebe A. Westwood, September 14, 2004
Glau, Gregory R. “Mirroring Ourselves? The Pedagogy of Early Grammar Texts” Rhetoric Review, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Spring 93), pp 418-435.
Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0735-0198%28199321%2911%3A2%3C418%3AMOTPOE%3E2.0.CO%3B2-P
This thoroughly researched essay by Gregory Glau, at the time of publication a Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona, seeks to provide an analytical history of grammar in pedagogy. His thesis is simple: current and time honored, rule based approaches to grammar instruction encourage the view of students as passive and deficient. In deriving this broad based argument from the past two hundred years of pedagogical practice, Glau supplies a more than adequate accounting of the evolution of method which slowly took place until, he contends, the craft made full circle and began to suffer from the very mistakes it set out to correct.
Glau’s history of English pedagogy begins in the mid 18th century, when literacy first began to blossom outside the ranks of the elite and caused a tremendous growth in availability of reading material and interest in reading. This concerned those in power, since levels of education were tied to different social classes. Without support from the Church or government, campaigns to educate the masses were kept afloat through voluntary efforts. Despite the introduction of government funding in 1830, teachers continued to be ill-paid and untrained.
Simultaneously, the realm of wealthy private education came under the influence of rote Latin memorization and encouraged the practice of drilling English. In attempts to create parallels between the structures of each language, “correctness” was soon defined on Latin grounds.
In the collision of these two worlds, the emergence and promotion of working class literacy with the revival and classic and Latin schooling traditions, there emerged a strict concentration on rules along with the notion that ignorance of such Latin based grammatical rules implied abnormality and the need for repair.
Glau identifies this as the point when unnecessary discipline and misconceptions about student shortcomings took hold. Reactionary efforts on behalf of the populous, most notably William Cobbett’s A Grammar of the English Language (1818), emerged as the first counterpoints to this trend, and concentrated of educating the working class through everyday writing, rather than rule based prescriptions.
Glau also recognizes a third school of thought, associationism, as materializing from aforementioned conflict. Created by instructors who sought a theoretical base on which to ground their pedagogical practices, associationism supported a simplified atomistic pedagogy that claims people build ideas through accumulative association of simple ideas, eventually stringing them together to create chains of recollected information. Early grammar examples of this, like beginning with the study of letters before moving on to syllables, words, sentences etc. are still continued today.
Glau documents all these trends through the 1980s, where he shows examples of their continued existence and competition, with combative and opposing research published constantly. Undoubtedly, Glau feels views of the “deficient student” continue to dominate, and he regrets the unaltered and unnecessary concentration on formal grammar structure, which many are quoted as finding negligible or even harmful to the goal of improved composition.
Overall, this is an interesting read for anyone curious about the origins of our widely accepted views on ‘good” and “correct” writing. However, one must be prepared for occasionally excessive pools of historical evidence.—Michael Meno, 15 September 2004
Damasio, Antonio R. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. N.Y.: Grosset/Putnam. Chapter 7, 127-164
Damasio, in chapter seven “Emotions and Feelings,” assesses how our emotions and feelings are linked with our cognitive processes, especially when making decisions. He offers two accepted ideas: one being that our decisions are automated, elementary responses that does not involve “an aware self” but rather simply the neurological routes that cause the reaction; the other is slightly more complicated as it uses the basis that our brain is separated into a modern and a primal section, and that these do not interact. The “upstairs,” new brain is where reason comes from, and therefore decisions, and the “d1ownstairs” contains all the rudimentary biological functions, such as emotions and “all that weak, fleshy stuff,” (128). Damasio draws his arguments from both ideas, in that one part of the brain cannot function without the other, that they are interconnected and inseparable. His idea is that our emotions and feelings link our rational and non-rational (what some may think as the emotional) pieces of our brains, and also explores the notion that emotions and feelings are not the same thing. He comes to these conclusions by using several studies done throughout the past by himself and others in the neurology profession, using both the biological processes of the brain, and the visible, outer reactions that one can observe in another human.
The chapter addresses results of research of the biological processes, and the actual parts of our brains that causes certain emotions to be felt, and these were difficult to make sense of. However, it was fascinating to consider the many scenarios he introduced to understand how he came to his conclusions that the mind-body-emotion pieces in humans is inseparable. For example, he uses the most basic emotional responses we may experience, fear. If X causes fear, this response could be out of our control in one sense. Maybe it has been biologically ingrained in us, and we will respond the same way every time. But if we look at it another way, then we could see that our experience with X can actually teach us how to avoid this emotional reaction of fear, maybe by learning how to circumvent the environment in which we will come into contact with X (133). This is the connection with the cognitive and the emotional in the most basic primordial sense, it saves us from feeling a certain unwanted emotion again. How does this relate to writing? What if X was a writing assignment given to us, if we do not think about what causes our fear, or apprehension, in tackling the assignment, we will continually fear each and every assignment. It would take a lot to think about what causes the emotion, but it is something that can be changed. By involving our cognitive processes with emotion, then we should be able to address the source of the problem. In a sense it is learning from experiences.
Most important however, is the in the discussions of feelings, and fooling the brain when we experience certain “feelings of emotions,” (145). Damasio defines feelings as the “monitoring” that our body does while we think about certain events, and the change that the normal body state may experience while these thoughts go by. There is a way, however, that we can fool our own brains and replicate the same “feeling.” The experiment he mentions uses subjects who are asked to “roughly and incompletely composed happy facial expressions.” It is found then, that mimicking the bodily function produced in them “happiness.” This was continued with several other feelings, such as anger. So it is then, that we can use our body to help create certain feelings, as the mind is following the movements of our bodies, and then processing these actions into certain feelings. I believe that this is important when we are looking to change our writing, and writing process. We can choose to modify the way we think about our writing by changing how we approach our methods of writing. We saw the idea of having a different writing output because of the way the assignment was perceived in Graves’ experiment. The children who were given assigned writing did not write as much as those who just picked up a pen and paper for themselves. Is there a way to make each assigned piece of writing like the unassigned? Can we “fool” our brain into not experiencing the feelings of angst and dread before we write?
I do not think that this chapter explores the link between our cognitive process and our emotions enough in the sense that it could be essential to changing or helping one’s writing. My point in reading this was to begin to understand the function emotions have in our writing. Damasio does make it obvious, with supporting evidence, that there cannot be emotions without the cognitive process, and vice versa, something that Brand did not accomplish in her piece. It seems that because Damasio relates emotions and feelings to the cognitive process, it is difficult to connect the chapter with how one may improve or work on the writing process with this new information. I think it is important to look at it the other way around, as see how the cognitive process relates to an emotional state or the feelings of emotions.
I cannot finish without returning to the opening of the chapter where it seems that Damasio talks about what causes to make our decisions. Here, the progression of the chapter can be useful, as it reveals that emotions and feelings are linked to the decision process. When writing we then cannot ignore the ways in which our environment, topic, audience, own opinions about our writing, etc., can affect the product and the decisions we make when creating our writings. ---Katherine Caouette, 9-16-04
Gebhardt, Richard C. “Initial Plans and Spontaneous Composition: Toward a
Comprehensive Theory of the Writing Process” College English. Vol. 44 No. 6 (1982): 620-627.
Richard Gebhardt attempts to explain and compare the relationships between linear and nonlinear theories on the writing process. He begins his essay with two “plainly contradictory” quotes from writing process scholars. The first quote, from Martha L. King, is representative of the more structured, or linear approach to composition. She offers three stages of the writing process: pre-writing, articulation, and post writing (620). Gebhardt quickly presents the reader with Barrett J. Mandel’s more free-form theory on writing where “words flow from a pen, not from a mind: they appear on the page through a massive coordination of a massive number of motor processes” (621). The author uses these two examples, as well as various other relevant sources throughout the article as a means for suggesting that the education of writing should be “healthy and comprehensive…accommodating both linear and recursive ideas of composing” (626).
This article was beneficial and supplemental to my understanding of the writing process. Although Gebhardt was obvious in his criticisms of King and Mandel, his insights were thought-provoking and well-supported. For example, Gebhardt comments on Mandel’s assumptions that “writing is not the result of or effect of what we normally call thinking,” with a short quote from William Styron, a revelation he had right before writing his novel, Sophie’s Choice. Styron talks of his novel appearing in outline form in his brain, the result of a few ideas he had been contemplating for a good amount of time. Gebhardt furthers the idea of thinking while writing with his own personal experience of composing a book review. He thought of a thesis and then just went with it, thinking his words onto the paper, resulting in a solid paragraph of “though-comes-first” sentences. He even comments on his constantly changing literary directions while writing this article (623).
These insights are intensely familiar to our class, simply because the author wrote about his own writing experiences as they have happened in the past and while they were currently happening. In all our posted responses I’ve read, there has been some sort of personal reflection in our analyses about the struggles or successes of writing. In particular, revision while writing is definitely a process that many of us use, whether we know it or not. According to James Britton, “as words flow onto paper, writers have a general sense of intention for their writing” (626). Assuming that this intention is malleable, how much does this intention change throughout a writer’s piece? Our cognitive and revision process while writing can lead our words into very strange places.
Overall, this article offers readers important truths and analyses, with the aid of optimistic scholars such as Linda S. Flower and John Hayes. Gebhardt praises their “planning, translating and reviewing” process, commenting that they “recognize that general ideas or initial plans can initiate writing and help carry composition forward” (626). That does sound simple and unfocused, but that seems to be the way, without strict linear planning, that writing occurs.—Paul Des Marais, 15 September 2004
McLeod, Susan. “Some Thoughts About Feelings: The Affective Domain and the Writing Process.” College Composition and Communication Vol. 38, No. 4 (Dec. 1987): 426- 435.
I chose this article because the Alice Brand one left me very unsatisfied! I wanted to learn more about how emotion affects the writing process.
McLeod begins her article with a common example of how emotion obviously affects writing: an exam scenario (426). She notices the sweat on freshman brows, how they fidgeted in their seats, and the truly disturbed expressions on their faces. She defines “affective” so that it encompasses preferences, moods, attitudes, and other emotional states that cause physical reactions like tense muscles, increased heartbeat, and sweaty palms. The most common emotion associated with writing seems to be anxiety, unfortunately. John Daly has done extensive studies on this, finding that undergraduate females are less anxious than males, and that anxiety-prone students are a great deal less likely to enroll in writing-intensive courses (427). McLeod criticizes these studies for focusing on the anxiety itself rather than causal and/or preventative information.
According to the work of Reed Larson, anxiety may not be an altogether bad thing (428). In a small experiment, he proved that college students with a “non-disruptive” amount of anxiety perform better than apathetic students. Reed’s colleague Mihali Csikszentmihalyi came to similar conclusions in his book Beyond Boredom and Anxiety. He found that a balance between the students’ personal skills and the students’ perception of the task is necessary to create this happy-medium type of anxiety (428).
McLeod continues to challenge Flowers’ and Hayes’ ideas about motivation. She mentions the work of John Nicholls (429), who believes that internal motivations have a greater effect than external ones, the ones which Flowers and Hayes focused on. The two main motivations Nicholls mentions are “ego-involvement” and “task involvement.” Ego-involvement refers to the student’s self-esteem as related to the assignment. The student may worry about appearing dumb or silly in front of other students. Task involvement refers to the extent to which the writer internalizes the assignment, according to how “valuable” the task is to the individual.
Personal beliefs and philosophies also come into play when writing. Researcher Mary Budd identifies two groups of students (429). “Gamblers” have a more hopeless philosophy of the world. They believe that they have little or no control on the world around them, so they put forth less effort. “Bowlers” believe that they have the power to change things, so they are willing to put more time and energy into their work. McLeod refers to this phenomenon as the locus of control (429). “Gamblers” have an external locus, while “Bowlers” have an internal locus. I think this is partly psychological and partly philosophical. People with low self-esteems are always more prone to being “Gamblers” because it requires less personal risk. Similarly, those same people are likely to adopt a philosophy that functions in the same way.
McLeod goes on to define two more classifications of belief. Some students have succumbed to “learned helplessness” after repeatedly failing a specific task. The more successful students become “mastery-oriented” (431). I have seen this process come into play numerous times. I have many friends who call themselves horrible writers because one teacher told them they were. Negative feedback like that really affects your writing in the long run.
Finally, McLeod tries to encompass all of these factors into a tangible affective theory. She borrows the idea from George Mandler that emotion comes down to physiological and cognitive reactions to stimuli (431). But McLeod reminds the reader that the causes of these reactions are most important. She remembers her excitement in writing the present article, and how her interest in the task was the force that blocked anxiety.
McLeod asks that teachers consider the emotional states of their students and be aware of emotional reactions. I think that this article was very well done and thorough. She included such a broad variety of information as it pertained to emotion and writing. Every paragraph sparked a memory of when I was in a similar situation to the one she was discussing. My writing and I have been affected by teachers, my self-esteem, my involvement with the task, my attitude, and countless other emotions. In fact, I wrote about all of this specifically in my “How Do I Write” paper, as did many others. McLeod did a wonderful job of breaking it all down.—Kelly Gilpin, 15 September 2004
Dohrer, Gary. “Do Teachers’ Comment on Students’ Papers Help?” College Teaching.
39.2 (Spring 1991): 48-54. Persistent Link in Academic Search Premier: http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,uid&db=aph&an=9706201374
Gary Dohrer begins his exploration of the effectiveness of teacher commentary on student assignments from an educational vantage point. Frustrated that his students did not seem to be embracing or even paying attention to the written commentary on their graded papers, Dohrer resolved to search for a means by which he might improve the effectiveness of written commentary (48). A plethora of research already conducted by Stiff; Gee; Bata; Schroeder; Marzano and Arthur; Knoblach and Brandon; Ziv; and Hillockson this subject indicating that commentary on papers has little educational impact when students are not given the chance to revise their works (48). However, both Beach and Hillocks report that, when given the chance to revise, students were more receptive to the comments made by their teachers (48).
Intrigued by these results, Dohrer takes his research to the next level. He decides that he will study the effectiveness of two variant forms of commentary on student papers: surface changes which do not alter meaning and text-based changes which change content (49). Despite the possibility for a relatively large group of subjects , students were reluctant to commit to the study and the actual number of participants was less than ideal [5 males and 3 females] ranging from nineteen to twenty-one (49). The study is divided into four sections: “(48) What do the students understand to be teachers’ purposes in making comments on their papers? (48) What is the relationship between teachers’ comments and students’ responses? (49) Do the students make changes independently of those prompted by teachers’ remarks, and, if so, what kinds of changes? and (50) What kinds of problems do students encounter as a result of the teachers’ comments?” (48). Copies of first drafts with teacher commentary, revisions, notes made during revisions, and two transcripts: one involving verbalized revision processes and one of a post-revision interview were used to collect the data for this study (48).
When interviewing the subjects of the study about their notions of revision, one thing became strikingly clear: “Although students claimed they understood the purpose of teachers’ comments [to provide feedback that would help them learn from their mistakes, discover their topics in a new light], they quickly abandoned the goal of improving their own writing skills for the more immediate goal of getting a higher grade” (50). In her 1982 article “Responding to Student Writing,” Nancy Somers contended that teacher commentary might even work to distract students from embracing a revision process, a conclusion supported by Dohrer’s own study. According to Dohrer, students, fearing the consequences of truly owning their work, consistently refused to make large macrostructural [text-based] changes during the revision process (50-51). Throughout the study, Dohrer found that students were more likely to make simple, surface changes than to reevaluate and reorganize a paper that is thematically weak (51).
Perhaps the most interesting results stem directly from Dohrer’s analysis of the commentary itself. On average, 72% of teacher comments pertained to surface level changes (50). Student observation of the over abundance of cosmetic corrections lead students to feel that teachers were more concerned with these surface alterations than with more intensive, authoritative macrostructural changes. When researchers observed the number of changes made independent of teacher comments, the trend was undeniable. Seventy-five percent of all independent changes failed to alter the meaning of the paper, 24% were microstructural [pertaining slight meaning alterations], and none were macrostructural (51). Despite their inability to accomplish their self-proclaimed task (learn from our mistakes), the students were able to see the trends set forth by their teachers. If the majority of the comments made by teachers were grammatical rather than thematic, then students inferred that all they needed to do to enhance their grade was to make a large number of grammatical, surface changes (52).
In the conclusion of his article, Dohrer presents his audience with a variety of recommendations. He suggests that it may be beneficial for teachers, and if possible students as well, to decide whether the focus of revision should be surface or text-based revisions, and subsequently, grades should reflect a students’ ability to master the focal point of the revision exercise. In addition, Dohrer feels that it is important for teachers to be able to separate feedback and evaluation, in the form of a grade. These two entities often work to the detriment of one another. In doing so, Dohrer predicts that students may be able to overcome the “fear” of having the teacher disagree with their new insights. Dohrer also comments that teachers should be wary of overwhelming their students with too many corrections, so that students begin to depreciate their own abilities to write, and of writing enigmatic comments that simply work to undermine a student’s sense of efficacy. When Dohrer says, “If we want students to improve their writing and thinking, we as teachers need to make some commitment to providing a structure within which students can use writing as a tool to invent, to discover, to wonder, and most important, to think” (8) he issues an edict to all composition teachers. The question is, are we brave enough to listen?
As tutors, this study challenges us to move beyond the type of error analysis that encourages students to merely change grammatical errors. Although it would be difficult to do in a large school, perhaps it might be interesting for our writing center to send out a formal questionnaire pertaining to the grading requirements of each individual professor here at Goucher. I know that this would require a great deal of work on the part of the writing center tutors, but it may be helpful to create a type of manual that contains the key points each professor looks for in a successful essay. However, I do realize that this channels our energy toward tutoring to the teacher, but I feel that perhaps, this may be another avenue by which we can help our tutees become more familiar with the expectations of their faculty in the hopes that familiarity will enable them to move beyond an extrinsic motivation such as a grade to a more intrinsic motivation of revising to enhance their own understanding. At the same time, this information would significantly help us to make suggestions that are applicable to the professors’ grading style while avoiding the common mistake of making too many suggestions for corrections that might not improve the quality of the paper. – Christina Abel 9/22/04
Davis, Robert, and Mark Shadle. "'Building a Mystery': Alternative Research Writing and the Academic Act of Seeking." College Composition and Communication, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Feb., 2000), 417-46. JSTOR. Goucher Coll. Lib., Baltimore, MD. 13 September 2004 <http://www.jstor.org>
Davis and Shadle are associate professors of English at Eastern Oregon University, and there direct the writing program and writing lab, respectively. In this article, they attempt to analyze the current state of the research paper in college academia, briefly trace its development from the mid-nineteenth century, and finally, suggest more "creative" and "exploratory" alternative research forms. They open by asserting that "Research writing is disrespected and omnipresent, trite and vital, [and] central to modern academic discourse…" (417). While acknowledging the occasional use of the standard form of academic essay, especially in introductory composition course, they note that the research paper is a little used and appreciated genre of writing outside the halls of academia, and even within the college setting, it does little to prepare students for other types of scholarly writing they will no doubt encounter, if not compose, such as "lab reports, case studies, news stories, position papers, take-home exams, and research proposals" (420). Furthermore, the image of research papers as, "notoriously vacant, clichéd, and templated," is reinforced by the textbooks used in most high school and introductory level college courses with sample papers and "stock advice" covering everything from grammar and styles of citation to framing and supporting a thesis (417-18).
The authors quickly survey the ascendancy of the research paper to its current hallowed (and consequently, they argue, hollow) state. What began as an "egalitarian" innovation designed to force students to contribute to the study of their chosen discipline rather than simply regurgitate learned information in the Scholastic manner has devolved into the very academic exercise its champions were attempting to end. Davis and Shadle briefly consider how the standard research form is symptomatic of a cultural need for control and possession of knowledge and certainty, and call for a renewed emphasis on wonder and discovery within the scholarly community. In keeping with the sense of "mystery" they so revere, they end by proposing four alternative forms of research assignments and provide examples of successful ones they have received from their students over several years, and detailing the emotional and intellectual impact these projects often have on their researchers.
The article was extremely interesting -- the title was its initial attraction, as most serious scholars seem particularly resistant to allowing any sense of mystery they may indeed feel when confronting their subject to come through in their work. The notion as of an "academic act of seeking" is very reminiscent of Brand's criticism of Flower and Hayes' vision of the writing process. As Davis and Shadle describe, academic writing has left no place for that mysterious, nebulous world of emotion and personal connection. As they recount the emotional impact one of their alternative research assignments had on a girl who studied and then recreated her grandparents' experiences in Japanese internment camps during World War II, it is nearly impossible not contrast it with the less fulfilling dogma which prohibits the mere use of the word "I" in "formal" papers. Some of the alternative forms proposed here, such as the research essay (which is not particularly well described, but sounds very similar in approach to the Essays of Montaigne, whom the writers of this piece seem to revere) incorporate both the traditional topical research along with self-research and assessment, and use the two to illuminate each other. This is writing in Brand's fashion -- the study of the ephemeral and the factual together at once.
I was fascinated by the vision of academic research as it is and could be presented in this piece. While this course is framed in terms of discovery and exploration, everyone has had more than their share of classes in which all writing assignments seem frustratingly repetitive and pointless. It is disheartening to be made to simply gather and string together facts for what feels like the sole purpose of proving your ability to operate a library database and compose coherent English sentences. This feeling is only worsened when the teacher's response is, "Very nice, but here are the 582 other sources you could have used, and you need to watch those comma splices!" Davis and Shadle, on the other hand, would return students and teachers to the Socratic definition of philosophers as "lovers of wisdom," the word's literal meaning -- what my philosophy professor last year termed the "perplexed knowers" -- searching for answers they may or may not find, but reveling in the journey as much as in the quest's attainment, and reflecting that in the writing they create on the subject. It is truly a beautiful vision.
Of course, as tutors, we must contend with academia as it all too often is. And we must remember that even when professors are happy to think outside the box, their students may not always be. This article points out that for those who have not mastered the research paper form it is exceedingly difficult to succeed within the system, but it is equally difficult for many of those who have mastered it to work outside it when required. As students, we are conditioned to want the answers -- even if we have to search for them ourselves. It is a giddily frightening feeling when we first hear a teacher answer one of our questions with an "I don't know." If nothing else, the philosophy grounding this piece should remind us as future tutors, and in many cases, eventual teachers, that we cannot have all of the answers to hand out when so requested, and that our greatest success might just lie in helping students to appreciate the processes. On a more practical level, some of the proposed research assignment approaches Davis and Shadle set out, such as the research essay and research argument, might be valid suggestions for students who come to the Writing Center struggling with how to approach their material. Depending on the teacher and assignment, some of the more exotic forms suggested, such as the "multi-genre/media/disciplinary/cultural research paper" may be too far outside the box. The authors have had such projects turned in packaged in old ovens and the back of pick-up trucks. But knowledge of the approach may perhaps allow us to suggest more diverse sources and lines of research to a writer feeling their piece lacks originality or a strong enough empirical foundation. Certainly as a future English teacher, I intend to keep all of these suggested forms in mind when creating assignments for my classes, as they will undoubtably make for interesting grading!
While I see no way to advantage in completely eliminating the standard research paper from the academic canon of writing, I believe it is overused and overrated. It has significant merit in its reliance upon sound, scholarly work and the requirement of scientific objectivity. However, it is equally important for students to recognize that the "facts" are often what we make them -- how we interpret them in relation to ourselves. As such, they are not simply static data in books, but have far-reaching implications for our own lives. In order to transform students into the ideal of "life-long learners," we must give them opportunities, as Davis and Shadle would, in which, "Research becomes seeking as a mode of being" (422). Jessie Dixon 9/22/04
Marchisan, Marti L. and Sheila R. Alber. “The Write Way: Tips for Teaching the
Writing Process to Resistant Writers.” Intervention in School and Clinic.
38.3 (2001): 154-162.
Citing Graves’s writing process approach as the basis for their method of instruction, Marchisan and Alber introduce teaching practices designed to improve the quality of students’ narrative and informative writing, especially in students with learning disabilities. The authors present strategies for teachers to implement in the stages of prewriting, writing, and revising. The authors also suggest that publication, in the form of display, reading aloud, etc. of student work, serve as the ultimate goal of a writing assignment, as students will produce higher quality writing as a result. To support their approach, the researchers include a case study on Thomas, a student in the seventh grade and a “resistant” writer, due in part to his learning disabilities.
Outlining strategies by stage, Marchisan and Alber suggest that teachers encourage student choice of topic, engage students in “visual imagery” exercises to recall sensory details relevant to a writing topic, and “model” thought-stimulating procedures such as “brainstorming, clustering, and self-questioning strategies” as part of the prewriting stage (156). Teacher goals in the prewriting stage are to engage students in the process of writing by appealing to their interests and to introduce strategies to stimulate the generation of ideas.
Concerning the stage of actual writing, Marchisan and Alber stress student focus on “clear and sequential expression of content” rather than the technical elements of spelling and grammar (157). The authors encourage writing on computers for purposes of neatness and ease of correction. They suggest that teachers “cowrite” with students, especially those with learning difficulties, at computers so that students learn from the teacher as a “supportive model” for completeness of content until the student is comfortable on his own (157).
Marchison and Alber offer several strategies to guide the revision stage, as this period in the writing process is crucial in preparing a work for audience reception. The authors suggest teacher conferencing and peer-editing as beneficial through using outside opinion to boost the overall quality of a written work. They provide examples of peer-editing and self-evaluation checklists to guide students in identifying the “strengths and weaknesses of the form and content” of their writing and make changes accordingly (158).
Thomas, the study’s focus, gained confidence as a writer as a result of lessons in the “writing process approach paired with the tools of technology, direct instruction, and a committed, well-trained teacher” (161). He was able to easily write when allowed to choose a topic of interest to him and further developed as a writer after following the model of his teacher to eventually create his own story maps. Working at the computer also improved Thomas’s writing process, as he “could work much more rapidly” and easily make changes (157). Cowriting also proved effective in strengthening Thomas’s writing abilities, as eventually he no longer needed his teacher as a model and “began to take over as the author and show ownership” (157). In the stage of revision, Thomas’s teacher also used modeling by providing him with examples of good writing with which to compare his work and strengthen his self-evaluation efforts. Thomas eventually relied less on models as his independence and confidence as a writer grew.
The study reemphasizes the findings of Graves and Harris, Fitzsimmons, and McKenzie regarding student writing in unassigned tasks. Like the subjects of the above-mentioned studies, Thomas flourishes as a writer when given the choice of writing on a topic of his interest. However, as a learning-disabled student, teacher modeling and conferencing were essential in strengthening his writing process, consistent with the Cognitive Strategy Instruction in Writing principle that “undeveloped writers flourish under ‘writing apprenticeships,’ when the instructor reveals his or her own thought processes in detail” (Hallenback 229). Thomas’s increased success when provided by models of good writing also supports Faigley’s revelation that students “labeled remedial” benefit from “studying the occurrences of writing,” consistent with his social view of composition (537). Evidently, forms of teacher and peer modeling effectively strengthen the writing ability of struggling students and support the development of a student’s own sense of self in writing.
However, Marchisan and Alber’s claims of faster composition when writing at the computer contradict Christina Haas’s findings of no significant difference between the composition rate of those using technology and those using pen and paper. The disparity between these results, however, could be attributed to the difference in age of the subjects and the presence of a learning disability in Marchisan and Alber’s study.
Marchisan and Alber’s treatment of the stage of actual writing and that of revision seems to complement Elbow’s views of the writing process regarding presence of audience. Marchisan and Alber encourage daily personal writing (Elbow’s “desert island” discourse) in the classroom to “promote fluency” in writing and thus, aid student expression in audience-directed work (157). All three authors emphasize audience awareness in the stage of revision in order to ensure clarity of communication. Both articles seem to promote the integration of writer- and reader-based composition.
As Harris, Fitzsimmons, and McKenzie’s article challenged educators to “build bridges to new learning” in resistant writers, Marchisan and Alber’s article attracted my attention as possibly offering strategies that I could incorporate as a future educator (Harris 44). Although it seems that Marchisan and Alber’s strategies are still rooted in a stage model, the article offers promising strategies, such as effective instruction through teacher modeling, as “children learn through imitation” (156). Their emphasis on promoting writing fluency through having students consistently write personal journal entries also seems to be a useful approach in strengthening writing ability. I can also see the benefits of guiding revision through the use of checklists, with questions intended to check if the writing logically develops a piece consistent with higher-level goals as well as questions checking correct use of grammar, etc. Hopefully, a writer would internalize such evaluative checkpoints as her writing matured. Direct student-teacher interaction also seems essential in developing and strengthening student writing, as students can become easily lost and develop poor writing habits when not receiving the proper attention. Teachers ultimately need to implement constructive practices that will increase the self-awareness and self-assuredness of student writers.—Stephanie Seale, 9/22/04
Harris, Joseph. “Opinion: Revision as Critical Practice.” College English 65.6 (2003): 577-592.
Joseph Harris, the director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Writing at Duke University, discusses in this piece his feelings on the importance of teaching students the physical act of revision. He recognizes the importance of content in writing, but sees teaching students how to manipulate their ideas, “the visible practice or labor of writing,” (578) as a more important skill. Harris feels that, on the university level, professors wrongly emphasize development of ideas over development of student-produced text. He proposes the idea for a course that “looks very closely at how ideas get shaped in and refracted by language” (582). Harris also guarantees that after working on revision skills, students will gain confidence in all aspects of reading and writing. He asserts that as a result of this work, students may “claim some real measure of authority as writers in the academy” (577).
Throughout the piece, Harris presents real-life evidence of his theories. He begins with the example of a teacher who emphasizes ideas over actual writing. He praises the teacher’s methods until the problem of writing arises. Harris’ complaint is that “his focus remains pretty much on the level of ideas, on problems and alternatives rather than on close work with the text” (580). Harris then goes on to present examples from his own teaching experience to show the benefits of revision. He includes excerpts from the papers of two inexperienced writers and excerpts from reflections on the revision process from two more experienced writers from Duke. In those from the inexperienced writers, improvements are obvious from the first draft to the second. Though the second drafts are not “good,” the students’ understandings of the texts have obviously grown. In the reflections of the writers from Duke, a clear understanding of the value of revision is clear. As Harris states, “what they both claim to have learned has less to do with ideology…than with the kinds of labor involved in drafting and revising a critical essay” (590). Not only does Harris understand the importance of content in a piece of writing, he sees how the act of revision can help a writer understand his or her content more clearly and create a better piece.
In our “How Do I Write?” essays, many of us wrote about our dislike for revision. Many of us see the revising we do while writing as sufficient. The fact that the Writing Center exists at Goucher, one at Duke, and countless other colleges and universities, begs to differ. I myself am guilty of being too stubborn or perhaps too lazy to revise my work. However, I know how important it is and see revision as an area with lots of room for improvement for me personally. This article caught my attention as the subject of revision has been lurking at the back of my mind for some time. It presents accessible, well-rounded evidence to support its thesis. Though my gut reaction was that it excessively ignored the content of writing, I see now the beauty of Harris’ argument. With revision comes content with quality. A writer must have the proper skills to shape his or her ideas in order for the ideas to be coherent and convincing.
Harris makes a crucial point for students learning how to revise: “This intense focus on the actual labor of revision…dispels any notion that revising an essay will be less work than drafting it…” (588). Tutees, as well as all writers, must be aware that revision is an involved process. This piece offers great advice; above all, keeping in mind that revision enhances content quality. Playing around with an idea will only increase one’s understanding of the idea. In his “Competing Theories of Process: A Critique and a Proposal,” Lester Faigley discusses the idea of writing spontaneously and revising later. He refers to revising as the “shaping of unformed material” (531). He offers a helpful quote from Peter Elbow’s Writing Without Teachers: “‘Only at the end will you know what you want to say or the words you want to say it with’” (530). This supports Harris’ idea that the content of a piece will be enhanced after its writer has written it and through the process of writing and revising comes to truly understand what he or she has written. This piece is effective as encouragement for revising and would be helpful to tutees and tutors alike. –Mariah Healy, 9/22/04
Freedman, Aviva, and Ian Pringle. “Writing in the College Years: Some Indices of Growth,” College Composition and Communication, Vol. 31, No. 3. (Oct., 1980), pp. 311-324. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0010-096X%28198010%2931%3A3%3C311%3AWITCYS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-C
This article details the comprehensive research project the authors undertook at Carleton University in Ottawa, to explore the nature of writing development during the college years—specifically the difference incurred in high school writing after several years of a college education. In an attempt to fill the void created by cognitive study’s near complete emphasis on elementary and secondary education, Freedman and Pringle analyze and contrast the written work of students in their final year of high school with that of third year university students.
The arrangement and conditions of this study, the descriptions and reasoning of which comprise the majority of this article, are ultimately simple and geared towards acquisition of the most honest—and therefore representative—writing samples. Firstly, participants in the study were not forced to write “in a controlled setting” such as a public classroom, since this invariably leads to “a very specialized form” of writing which is inconsistent with most students normal work (311).
Writing generated by such abnormal environments, that inevitably affect a writer’s process and product, did not represent the sort of variables desired in Freedman and Pringle’s study. Rather, they selected essays students had written for disciplined courses, which were, most importantly, written outside of the classroom. In these types of essays, argue the authors, writers possess far more capacity for intellectual engagement—the qualifying aspects they desired in sample submissions.
All papers used in the study were geared towards proving a thesis in one of four disciplines: English literature, history, geography and biology. The decided upon indices to be measured for growth included syntactic instrument, rhetorical scale and cognitive measure. (Mention is made of the authors’ original plan to institute a moral scale in order to trace successive stages of moral growth and development, which when implemented, was soon dismissed as consequently irrelevant to the task at hand.) Raters for this endeavor were all graduate English students who had at least one year’s experience teaching in a writing lab. Further parameters and considerations for the research are conveyed by the authors before presentation of the results.
The first significant finding was that “the rhetorical criteria all correlated highly with grade.” (320) Development in arguments proved to be the deciding factor in grades, although there were correlations with several other criteria. Conversely, and perhaps more importantly for the purposes of the study, no significant level of correlation was found between “abstracting” of the topic and arguments, and grade. This criterion, abstraction joins the level of formality in diction as the only criterion to show greater coherence in the expository prose of university students as opposed to high-schoolers. With these dual exceptions, university essays were found to be no more organized or developed than high school essays.
From these results the authors conclude that the study of cognitive development has yet to assimilate into teacher’s evaluations and this distorts the nature of the whole. By this process of focusing almost entirely on rhetorical aspects, Freedman and Pringle say teachers “ignore the interrelationship between the intellectual and rhetorical dimensions” (322). A central point to desired teacher re-education then is recognition of intellectual growth and development is not linear.
The authors close with a call for further studies on the topic.—Mike Meno, 22 September 2004
Tobin, Lad. “Reading Students, Reading Ourselves: Revising the Teacher’s Role in the
Writing Class.” College English. Vol. 3, No. 3 (March 1991), 333-348.
Lad Tobin’s commentary on the relationship between teacher and students is often very personal. His experiences as a teacher dominate the essay, but are well balanced with research from the writing process field. He begins his essay by explaining the problem of tedious misreading into a student’s end of the semester composition. Tobin asked his students to compose a reflection on how their writing changed over the course of the semester. One of the essays, written by a student named Nicki, was “so well written,” that Tobin articulated his delight and pride to his colleagues. Nicki wrote in her essay of the comfort she felt when writing in Tobin’s composition course, leaving behind the academic voice Shambelin dreads, in favor of the personal voice (words like “you” and “I”) (194). Nickin attributed her comfort to “the encouragement [Tobin] gave her to explore ideas that mattered to her in personal and informal language” (333). Tobin realized that after explaining this writing success to his colleagues, he was “overstating” the thoughts and feelings of the writer; including “all of the interactions” they shared throughout the semester. He was “making the argument more elegant and sophisticated that in actually was” because he felt accomplished as a teacher, who shared the same views on personal voice as the writer (334). Tobin’s point is to emphasize the fact that the teacher and writer significantly influence each other. His example helps to introduce his main purpose: “We need to develop a theory of reading student texts that takes into account our reading of the students themselves, of our own unconscious motivations and associations, and, finally, of the interactive and dialectical motive of the teacher-student relationship” (335).
The biases, beliefs and the fake sense of objectivity that teachers may or may not be aware of influence their reading of the composition. Tobin says that teachers “conveniently forget those issues and pretend that [they] can willingly suspend those beliefs and disbeliefs” (336). These are limitations that need to be addressed in order for readers to objectively comment on students’ assignments. As Writing Center tutors, we’ve got the one up, simply because we’re not the professor who gave the assignment. We have no particular agenda or motive behind the advice we provide. There are also no expectations of the students who come in for help. But do our expectations of the students who frequent the Writing Center develop (consciously or unconsciously) as they bring new essays and compositions? Since a student can become a regular, it seems logical that biases, opinions or even tension can develop to create lasting memories that could easily be unconsciously remembered by reading familiar text from that regular tutee. Nonetheless, we are hopefully more objective than their professors.
Tobin draws on the advantages of psychotherapy in creating more aware teachers and students. Aareness of the “unconscious,” according to the writing process teacher Don Murray, isn’t achieved through a “stereotypical therapeutic role” the teacher plays. By no means does the teacher only listen; instead he is the “master workman” teaching the “apprentice,” who he “identifies with – and wants desperately to please” (341). Tobin, with the help of Louise Rosenblatt, is quick to mention that “teachers have the power to impose themselves on their students in dangerous ways” (342). As tutors, it is apparent that we possess this power to “impose” ourselves upon tutees. We are somewhat the “master workmen” who are found by “apprentices” looking for answers to their compositional ailments. Although, we don’t give answers to the questions and topics that teachers present, we vive alternate directions and suggestions that hopefully would be the result of close interaction, similar to psychotherapeutic sessions.
Tobin concludes his essay in an interesting manner. He tells of the experience he had with four adolescent males he taught in his freshman English course. They frustrated him daily, eventually causing him to snap a few times. The problem was within both Tobin and the four students, even though Tobin was in denial. Once he figured out that the problem was internal and that he needed to change his teaching style to improve his entire class, their conferencing sessions became entirely more productive.
A session with one of the boys involved the discussion of his essay on “productive procrastination.” He ends the essay by saying, “oh, by the way, it is now 3:27 a.m. And you probably thought I wouldn’t have time to write a good essay” (345). He ended the essay with a response to his teacher, a defensive affirmation. Tobin begins his closing paragraph of this article in an intensely similar fashion, “Now I suspect that this concentration on my own feelings and associations seems self-indulgent and misguided to composition specialists who believe in more ‘scholarly’ research” (347). He continues on and defends his use of personal anecdotes and experiences which helps to further his idea of the student-teacher relationship and how easily it can influence writing on both ends. Whether this was a conscious decision or not, his conclusion has in interesting subtle influence from a former student. It is exciting to think about how much our writing has been influenced in the past and how it may be influenced in the future when we participate in our own tutor-tutee relationship.—Paul Des Marais, 23 September 2004
Mandel, Barrett J. “The Writing Writer is Not at Home.” College Composition and
Communication, Vol. 31, No.4 (Dec., 1980), 370-377.
In this fascinating article, Barrett J. Mandel takes a philosophical approach to focus on the idea of consciousness and his belief that writing is not considered in the conscious mind. Mandel defines the conscious as an image of reality which we project upon everything we experience; it is a, “projected model of an inner idea or picture which a human being calls ‘reality’”(371). Mandel believes that the conscious mind is not necessary to analyze, understand concepts, absorb information, reason, or think. Past theorists believed that these processes did occur in the conscious mind, a belief which led to many of the more structured writing curriculums. Mandel believes this approach to be misdirected and that instead teachers must work to encourage “insight”, the true well for potential writing.
Mandel compares the thought process of writing to the act of breathing and sitting, two acts which work without the participation of the conscious mind. He says, “What slows up the writing process and makes it a burden is the time devoted to thinking and worrying about it, just as trying to get comfortable in a chair makes it very difficult to be comfortable”(373). Just as we breathe the easiest when our mind is not concentrating on our breaths, Mandel suggests that we write most successfully when the process is not meticulously thought through. He believes that the thought processes that allows writing to develop are performed without the writer having to think about when steps they are going through and that, in fact, it is a focus on the logistics of writing that blocks the work. Writers are not conscious of how they are organizing, connecting, and supporting their claims, because these procedures occur involuntarily. In his own words, Mandel believes that, “one writes before one is conscious of what one has to say”(373).
Mandel criticizes teachers for focusing too much on their role as editors and, by doing so, ignoring the true source of writing: personal creativity or “insight.” In order to create writing, a writer must pass over their fixation upon the logical elements of writing and go to a creative place, “allowing the flash of knowing from nowhere to occur”(374). In this place of inspiration, there is no ego or self doubt; it is the feeling that all writers have experienced at some time, when the light just suddenly comes on and you have no choice but to write what it shows you. Mandel argues that it is the ideas that insight makes possible which create the need for grammatical structure, not the other way around.
Although this opinion may seem extreme, Mandel does not attempt to state that the conscious mind has no role in the writing process. He believes that consciousness is active in the moments of planning and the act of revision, steps which he sees as essential to quality writing before and after the occurrence of insight. However, he does state that it is in these moments of consciousness where the problems occur for writers because these are moments when the writer, “wracks his brain, suffers, feels that all is hopeless, wants to rush from the desk”(372). Even though the activities associated with the conscious mind are the steps which may create blocks for the writer, Mandel feels they are a necessary part of writing.
Mandel makes two suggestions to teachers on how they could incorporate this idea into a realistic curriculum. Firstly, Mandel suggests that teachers encourage free writing, a practice which he believes to be the easiest way for a student to access insight. In fact, he refers to free writing as “actual writing”(376), because it is a natural way to develop viewpoints and to help students commit themselves to a direction without the inhibition caused by the conscious mind.
Mandel’s second suggestion is a little more unusual; he suggests rote writing, the practice of copying quality prose passages. Mandel believes that there is no better way to understand essential writing procedures than to experience with one’s own hand the quality you are attempting to obtain. Although this may sound like an antiquated practice, Mandel makes an important point that the best way to know what good writing is would be to experience it, not just by reading it, but by having a physical understanding of how it feels to create such work. This would be a particularly good suggestion for students who have trouble with visual learning and would benefit from the act of re-writing what they read.
Although Mandel’s article is less scientific than many of the pieces we have read, he makes articulate points which speak to many of the difficulties troubled writing students experience. Mandel reminds us that the problems a student may be having might not stem from a lack of ability in writing, but instead from a constant awareness of the practical, logistical elements of writing. Much as Peter Elbow showed us that it is difficult for students to work with the pressure of an audience looming over them, Mandel displays that the rules of writing can cause the same kind of immobility.
Reading Mandel’s article does bring up the question of whether we are truly able to discuss the thinking process that goes into writing. If Mandel’s assertion about the conscious mind is believed, it would be to say that the action that occurs when creating writing is something the happens without the writer’s knowledge, and therefore can never be taught or discussed. Although I do believe that Mandel is right that a freely structured curriculum encourages and develops personal insight, his theory does present a problem for those of us who are working to understand how to articulate the writing process to troubled students.- Sarah Capua 9/22/04
McLeod, Susan. “Some Thoughts about Feelings: The Affective Domain and the Writing Process.” College Composition and Communication 38 (1987): 426-435
It would be wonderful if every writer could sit down and have the confidence to write, and write and write, without unnecessary exertion. But as McLeod discusses in her article “Some Thoughts about Feelings,” there is much that can inhibit writers in the process of composing.
Because emotions are involved when writing along with the cognitive functions, McLeod brings up the importance of creating a perspective for observing what she calls the “affective domain,” the emotional side of writing, and separating this aspect from the cognitive process (426-7). She examines three different components that the affective realm mainly directs: in writing anxiety, motivation, and beliefs. If confidence is the road to an easier composing process, or lacking in a student, then writing anxiety is worth tackling. McLeod makes a good point that anxiety can be present in writers who are fully capable of completing a particular assignment, but somehow still struggle with it (427). What is it that causes the anxiety within a writer that inhibits their given ability to complete the assignment? Such research is necessary to fulfill the understanding of the affective domain on how one writes, but difficult to achieve because we know that each writer has a different history acting on their writing process. It is important to notice, though, that McLeod moves away from the negative influences that writing anxiety has on writers, and attempts to examine how this foreboding emotion can actually be facilitative to the writing process. Yet instead of delving into the thoughts herself, she uses other research to help her, even though what the research ends up proving is that a lack of excitement, interest and of anxiety allowed for writers to become more engaged in their writings (428), the opposite of what may be expected. What writers look for though, is that “flow” that allows them to forgo the editing/revising for those moments when the sentences come together perfectly, and the research found that the over-excitement could be distracting.
McLeod addresses the Flower and Hayes concept of motivation for writing, and separates them into two groups, those who are intrinsically motivated versus those who are extrinsically motivated. Here, she brings up an important idea in suggesting that the intrinsically motivated, “ego-involvement” is what eventually prompts a writer to change their writing (whether process or the actual words) because they are spurred by “wanting to look smart, or wanting to avoid looking stupid” (429). This allows for focus again on the confidence of a writer. If one writer is already confident, then he/she may not have to overcome these insecurities of not appealing to an audience, and can use their drive to “look smart” as motivation for writing. An unsure writer, however, may have difficulties in using these insecurities as motivators, and the affective domain becomes an inhibition when writing. She does mention that those who are extrinsically motivated have a more difficult time overall in changing their writing, because they are not doing it for themselves, but rather for a grade or another person.
Writers also use their beliefs to guide what they think about their own writing, and confidence is therefore an “affect” under McLeod’s definition of belief, it is emotional. She again creates beneficial categories which she has discovered many students fall into: the “gamblers” who do not believe they have any influence over their writing and therefore can do nothing to help it; and the “bowlers” who believe that their efforts will change the outcome of their writing (429). It is the gamblers that we as tutors, teachers, and writers ourselves must learn how to help alter their views so they can take control of their writing, and learn to believe that their effort transforms the result.
Both the gamblers and those focused on the extrinsic motivations struggle most often, and these groups should be studied to discover how we can begin to use their processes to help them. It seems overall however, that confidence in one self as a writer is the solution to almost any writing problem. And these must almost always be dealt with on a case by case basis. Where did the emotions go? I don’t know, but I think that this article inferred to me a lot about confidence- and what is confidence but an emotional belief, one that we can rewire in our cognitive self if the effort is directed correctly. Maybe one way to help this struggle is find the joy in writing, and then we will forget our insecurities that hold us back.—Katherine Caouette, 23 September 2004
Schindler, Kirsten. “Invent an Audience – Create a Context. How Writers are Referring
to Readers.” Paper presented at the International Conference of the European
Association for the Teaching of academic Writing across Europe (Groningen, Netherlands, June 18-20 2001).
In this article, Schindler asks three main questions: What abstract constructs do writers form about their audience? How does the concept of Audience influence and/or organize the writing process? Is the audience orientation a relevant task in the writing process?
She begins by defining four subgroups of the term “audience:” the recipient, the reader, the audience, and the addressee. The recipient implies oral communication “or to similarities between written and oral communication . . .The reader refers to a concrete person, who is, at a specific moment, reading a text.” Audience refers to more than one person, and “is used for both the text and the process.” The addressee “only refers to the writing process. It focuses on the writers and their concept of the ‘other’ they are writing for” (4).
Instead of continuing in the tradition of existing research, like Flower and Hayes’ protocols, she depends instead on recorded collaborative writing exercises. This situation provides immediate, present readers in the other writers, and the broader audience can be controlled. She chose students from Bielefeld University. She assigned tasks that were unfamiliar to them in order to promote more discussion. They were challenged to write a manual for a computer game. Sixteen groups of students participated, and they were assigned to either write for grammar school children, persons over 50, or with no specific audience. The whole process was video-taped.
She noticed a considerable difference between two particular groups. They were both writing for children. One group began writing on the computer right away, focusing on simple vocabulary and elementary sentence structure. They argued a bit over the addressee, like whether the child would be familiar with computers or not. They were finally inconsistent in this area, assuming in one section that the child is not advanced in computers and then using computer terminology in the next section. Schindler calls this type of writer “product oriented” (6). They began working on the final product right away without planning and deciding on a specific addressee. “As a result of that,” Schindler concludes, “they produce an incoherent text” (6).
Another group with the same task proved much more efficient. They began by writing “different drafts and versions on paper and think[ing] about the game in a more global way” (7). They also discussed their target addressee, deciding age, computer knowledge, etc. Schindler regards their work much more successful than the previous one, crediting “their detailed planning and conceptual thinking within the creating of a coherent image of a addressee” (7).
The most noteworthy observation of this experiment was that “the writers themselves create their addressee” (7). This new understanding of audience as a “highly flexible concept” changes a lot in the realm of teaching and tutoring writing. The concept of audience may even be used as a “didactic” one. For example, if I am tutoring a student who claims that their teacher is a ruthless grader, I may choose to question the flexibility of that remark. Perhaps the student the teacher has constructed a terrible image of the teacher on her own. I may ask, “How do you know that?” Then I could at least get a clue as to where the student may have heard this, or if she had that teacher in the past. It may be the concept of audience that is inhibiting her. Or, it could be vice versa. The student may perceive the teacher as being laid back, and therefore write a shoddy paper.
This article was very interesting because I had never considered the possibility of an elastic audience. There have been many, many times when I spent more time or less time on a paper depending on the teacher. I have also been guilty of audience inconsistency. I may write for hours and upon revision, realize that my tone has changed completely from beginning to end. I think that it is a good idea to encourage students to establish a target audience as a step in planning. It would not hurt to question students about their concept of their audience. The teacher may not be strict at all, or they may have formed that opinion from an unreliable source. Or, if they choose to write for an ambiguous audience, it may be a good idea for them to be aware of that while they write, so that they remain consistent.—Kelly Gilpin, 23 September 2004
Berkenkotter, Carol. “Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer” College Composition and Communication. Volume 34 Number 2 (May 1983), 156-168.
In this article, Berkenkotter describes a case study of writer Donald M. Murray’s natural writing process. Berkenkotter’s study aimed to relate the writing process of one professional writer with the current understanding if how professional writers compose. She used “thinking-aloud protocols” to analyze Murray’s writing habits and combined these with Murray’s “own introspective accounts” (157). The study was conducted in three stages. First, Murray tape recorded his thoughts for 62 days at all times that he was working. While this type of protocol research is similar to that of Flower and Hayes, Berkenkotter points out that here the protocol is not limited to one hour and is conducted in Murray’s natural writing environment (158). Berkenkotter also analyzed drafts and notes made by Murray during this first portion of the study. Second, Murray participated in a typical one-hour protocol-based study in which was given a writing task with a specific audience, subject, and purpose. Third, Berkenkotter observed Murray in is home writing environment for two days. Murray continued to think aloud, and when he was not composing he provided Berkenkotter with reflection about his writing process.
Berkenkotter explains that this sort of individualized and focused research is important to the writing discipline, even though it is an uncommon method of study. After all, every writer “has his or her own idiosyncrasies,” and these unique and varying approaches to the writing process should not be ignored (167). While we may lose the ability to generalize by executing such focused research, we gain “[rich] data” and “qualitative insights” (167). Berkenkotter shows that while the observations of Murray’s writing process may not be accurately applied to all writers, it is nonetheless telling of some possibilities for how writing occurs.
Murray’s writing process reflected aspects touched upon by Flower, Hays and Emig, but does not adhere to any one proposed model. Berkenkotter noted that Murray often illustrated Emig’s “extensive” and “reflexive” processes of composing. Murray easily dictated (he spoke aloud as he composed and his wife transcribed) when he was familiar with the subject matter—when he had already drafted his thoughts or even previously presented the material in a formal setting. However, when Murray was “breaking new ground conceptually,” he often got stopped in the middle of his dictation (159). He then resorted to “[returning] to his daybook” before he began to compose again. Berkenkotter also points out a connection to Flower and Hayes’ belief that writers transfer between planning, translating, and reviewing. Murray illustrated this process as he stopped in the middle of reading aloud one of his manuscripts. He turned back to his daybook and began to write notes for a new direction that he wanted to take his piece.
Berkenkotter connected Murray’s responses in the one-hour protocol to Faigley and Witte’s “situational variables” (160). These variables included the change in setting, the time constraint, Murray’s uncertainty about his audience, and Murray’s own relation to the topic at hand. “So important are these variables,” Berkenkotter quotes Faigley and Witte, “that writing skill might be defined as the ability to respond to them” (160). I find this concept fascinating; it was clear that in the controlled one-hour protocol session, Murray agonized over the audience, topic, and physical setting. As future writing tutors and teachers, it is important to keep in mind that the student’s “writing skill” may be defined by his or her ability to conquer each of these variables.
Berkenkotter also makes reference to the role of audience in Murray’s writing process. Murray had stated that writers pay attention to their audience only during the final stages of revision (editing, “polishing”). When the writer makes “internal revision,” when he reads at least a completed first draft to discover more that he has to say, the writer himself is his only audience. However, Murray’s own writing process seems to contradict his theory. Berkenkotter notes that Murray’s “most substantive changes”—his internal revision—occurred when he did begin to consider his audience. Berkenkotter observes that because Murray is an experience writer, “his consideration of audience [has] become more automatic than deliberate” (166).
I’d like to connect this unconscious sense of audience to Peter Elbow’s “Closing My Eyes as I Speak: An Argument for Ignoring Audience.” While I read Elbow’s article, I realized that I tend to not consider my audience when I write. While I am conscious that my professor will read the paper, I am not writing to my professor. I may have a “best reader” for my piece (in Arnie’s words), but I do not have him or her at the foreground of my mind—at least I don’t think I do. Many of us in 221 may find ourselves in a position similar to Murray as we, too, are experienced writers, at least in comparison to the writers to which Elbow refers. We should consider that we may have become so accustomed to writing to an audience, and so paying attention to audience is now primarily a subconscious activity.
In studying the writing habits of one individual, we indeed must sacrifice the comfort we get from putting “the way people write into a general theory. However, as future writing tutors and teachers, we can still gain valuable information from Berkenkotter’s study. Some of Murray’s writing habits are applicable to previous studies and generalizations about the writing process. If we take this information into the writing center or into the classroom, we can begin to understand that each theory may hold some weight. Indeed, it is unlikely that one theory will illustrate the entire composing process of any given student. But if we are conscious of the different views of the writing process, it may be easier to identify the ways a student writes, and thus we will be better able to judge how we can assist this individual. -Phoebe A. Westwood, 9/23/04
Flower, Linda S. and John R. Hayes. “Problem-Solving Strategies and the Writing Process.” College English. 39(1977): 449-461. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Goucher Coll. Lib., Towson, MD. 20 September 2004 <http://search.epnet.com>
In contrast to their “Cognitive Process Theory of Writing” (1981), Flower and Hayes present a very practical, pedagogical article directed specifically towards an audience of “students with a limited to non-existent background in writing, but an interest in treating it as a problem they could solve” (453). To amend continual problems with writing, they suggest we must first change our mindset about writing; instead of viewing classroom, academic writing as an adherence to rules and prompts, we must see writing as a “highly goal-oriented, intellectual performance” (449). The primary basis of Flower and Hayes’ argument is that in viewing writing as an intellectual problem to be solved, students can apply specific heuristics (or guides) to help effectively target and solve difficulties in writing. These heuristics were derived from earlier studies that “attempt[ed] to understand the mental process of writing” and protocol analysis of both “good and poor writers” (450,451). Through this data, Flower and Hayes were inspired to create problem solving strategies for inexperienced writers because their studies revealed that most limit themselves to three writing strategies: prescription, inspiration, or writers block. The following problem solving heuristics were made to aid students with thinking through the writing process. Prior to outlining these techniques, Flower and Hayes reinforce the idea that writing is divisible into two parts, generating and construction. Taking into account these two parts, the heuristics are extremely helpful because they “focus directly on [these] two major intellectual tasks” (452).
Since we are not specifically inexperienced writers, I will only outline the aforementioned heuristics in brief. However, they may prove to be infinitely helpful problem solving techniques as we become active tutors.
Part One: Planning
1.) Set Up a Goal
Instead of focusing on assigned topic, make it into a more specific goal. Flower and Hayes offer the suggestion of focusing on “what you want to do with what you know” rather than “what you know.”
2.) Find Operators
These are the parts of your goal that tell you the direction you would like to take with your assignment.
Part Two: Generating Ideas in Words
I.) Play Your Thoughts
1.) Turn off the Editor and Brainstorm
2.) Stage a Scenario
Use discussion as your tool to develop thoughts or switch roles with your audience to determine how to focus your assignment.
3.) Play Out an Analogy
Make connections and change your vocabulary and language to inherently change your mindset and deepen your understanding and point of view. Flower and Hayes refer to this as the “power of analogic thinking” (455).
4.) Rest and Incubate
II.) Push Your Ideas
1.) Find a Cue Word to Rich Bit
Identifying these key ideas help the author to maintain authority and originality while remaining organized and on-topic.
2.) Nutshell Your Ideas and Teach Them
Explain to your peer the essential ideas of your writing, this “forces you to make the relationship between your major ideas explicit” (456).
3.) Tree Your Ideas
A tree is simply a more basic, visual alternative to an outline, but the key to this heuristic is “pull[ing] and outline out of the material . . . , rather then write to fill an outline in” (456).
4.) Test Your Writing against Your Own Editor
Part Three: Constructing for an Audience
1. Identify a Mutual End You and the Reader Share
This is simply recognizing a common goal you and your audience share.
2.) Decide on Your Own Specific Ends
Are there any huge discrepancies between your goals and the goals of your audience that cannot be overcome?
1.) Develop a Rhetorical Strategy
Internalize a process that will help you translate your own thoughts into a product that satisfies both yourself and your audience.
2.) Test Your Rhetorical Strategy
Either find a peer reviser or individual methods to “compare what you intended with what you actually communicated” (460). Flower and Hayes suggest a Highlight Test: “With a highlighter in hand, go through you paper isolating the titles, heading and topic sentence and conclusions . . . they should form a capsule statement of the information you want your reader to focus on a retain” (460).
Although this article is far less theoretical in nature that most of our readings, I felt that it presented a very insightful interpretation of the writing process that should be presented to our class. Although we are more experienced writers than their target audience, we are still relatively inexperienced on a larger scale, and we can surely benefit from such strategies. Even if these heuristics do not benefit our personal writing, they offer us very concrete, viable advice to offer our peers or future tutees. I thought it was disheartening how Flower and Hayes classified writers block as a “default” response when neither rigidity nor expressiveness works easily. This is an astute perception of most writers, since writing is so mentally and psychologically exhausting I find that many are willing to despair quite prematurely. I know that for many, this writer’s block happens (in the form of low self confidence and high self doubt) even before the writing process ‘begins.’ Many students give up on their writing before they even start the construction process. Flower and Hayes touch on the complex nature of writing problems, “many writing problems are thinking problems” (451). However, the nature of writing problems goes much deeper, writing problems can stem from academically based thinking problems or more psychologically based thinking problems (such as confidence issues). For many, writing problems stem directly from reading problems. This article serves as a wonderful supplement to their “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing,” because it gives a practical voice to the more theoretical process that seemed to be farther removed from our own writing as students. Furthermore, this article presents a cohesive, practical blending of nearly every theorist and major issue we have sampled in this course.--Jen Madera 9.23.2004
Stotsky, Sandra. “Conceptualizing Writing as Moral and Civic Thinking.” College English 54.7 (1992): 794-808.
In this article, Sandra Stotsky presents her theory that, while plagiarism is generally thought to be the “cardinal, if not the only, sin that developing or mature academic writers can commit,” (794), there are actually a number of “sins” writers commit. The essay stresses the importance of teaching composition students to be morally responsible writers. Stotsky outlines a “proposed categorization of the academic writer’s responsibilities” (799) and separates them into four main categories: respect for the purposes of academic language, respect for other writers, respect for the integrity of the subject, and respect for the integrity of the reader. She explains thoroughly the aspects of each category and states that: “a failure to observe some of these responsibilities would undoubtably be considered a violation of ethical standards rather that an act of simple thoughtlessness” (800). She sees the issue of “irresponsible” writing not as a cognitive problem but rather a matter of principles. An irresponsible writer does not take each of the above categories into consideration because, as Stotsky believes, he or she has not been taught that writing involves ethical decisions. Teachers should not, Stotsky explains, help students see their own moral views but rather teach them to have their own. This sense of morality will develop a sense of civic responsibility in writers who will then produce work that takes into consideration the integrity of the language, the subject, other writers, and the reader.
Throughout her essay, Stotsky uses examples from her colleagues, other experienced writers, to demonstrate writing that does and does not follow her set of rules for responsible writing. She uses writing from professionals to show that: “irresponsible writing is not confined only to student writing, and because all academic writers should allow readers, if they choose, to verify all their claims and examine all their evidence in its original context” (800). The examples, especially considering their sources, support Stotsky’s theory well. She shows her fellow writers commiting “sins” such as writing ageist and racist remarks, as well as judging other writers for their personalities instead of their writing. These examples show poor morality and help developing writers see the importance of responsible writing.
I selected this article assuming it would be concerned mainly with plagiarism. Though I had set out to read an article about plagiarism, the unexpected direction this article took interested me. Stotsky provided solid evidence for her theory which, while it veers on the extreme side, makes an excellent point. Writers should, indeed, consider the language and subject of their pieces as well as the integrity of fellow writers and readers. Writers should keep in mind that “the intellectual standards they are expected to meet in their writing should also be seen as ethical responsibilities to their readers” (799). Helping make tutees aware of these responsibilities will help them produce writing of a higher quality.
The article I read previously on plagiarism, “Sexuality, Textuality: The Cultural Work of Plagiarism,” by Rebecca Moore Howard, like Stotsky’s piece, offers a solution helpful for student writers. In Howard’s case, she explains that instead of “plagiarism,” writers should use the ideas of fraud, excessive repetition, and insufficient citation. Considering this idea, which deals with ethical writing on a technical level, along with Stotsky’s theories about writing with an ethical attitude to produce responsible writing, writers will develop well-rounded understandings of writing with morality.—Mariah Healy, 10/6/04
Patthey-Chavez, G. Genevieve, Lindsay Clare Matusumura, and Rosa Valdés. “Investigating the Process Approach to Writing Instruction in Urban Middle Schools.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 47.6 (March 2004): 462-477. Persistant Link in Academic Search Premier (EBSCO): http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,uid&db=aph&an=12828313
In response to changing trends in the educational reform movement, G. Genevieve Patthey-Chavez, Lindsay Clare Matsumura, and Rosa Valdés investigate the implementation of a new writing model for composition teachers and statistically evaluate its effects on the composition of seventh grade students. The researchers note that the latest writing trend in composition education, commonly known as the process model, is a cyclical approach to the writing process that many multi-drafting writers use naturally to improve the quality of their compositions (462). In the urban middle school setting, however, successful application of this model requires a great deal of effort on the behalf of both teacher and student. This being said, researchers decided that this new trend in writing instruction would most likely be a failure, similar to the prior model of instruction, as long as teachers were not providing the quality and quantity of feedback that would better enable their students to produce successful products.
According to the authors, “Investigating the implementation of writing process policies in urban schools is also important because the proliferation of reform efforts and content standards aimed at improving instruction in urban school so far has not lead to a large-scale change in the academic achievement of at-risk students” ([emphasis mine] 463). Researchers believe that there are two reasons why this is occurring. First, many of the teachers in these school settings seem to be unknowledgeable about prior research on the importance of teacher commentary, and as a result, these teachers lack the tools to even begin making the substantial changes necessary for success. Second, those who do understand the research are having difficulty implementing it in their classroom instruction. Their comprehension does not always “reflect the goal dos instructional reform” (463). As a result, the authors of this article call for both teachers and schools to accept accountability for the widespread failure of educational reforms. In doing so, they will better enable themselves to make the changes within their classrooms that research hypothesizes will help their students.
Despite the plethora of research which has already been conducted on the topic, Patthey-Chavez et al. create a study which examines the affects of teacher commentary on the revision processes of their students, noting that “teacher feedback and the opportunity to revise written work based on this feedback are key to students’ development as writers” (464). Using a sample of sixty-four minority students placed in the classrooms of eleven teachers in five urban middle schools, the researchers decided to sample the type and quality of teacher commentary on student writing as teachers worked through the process approach to composition with their students (465-466). In addition to examining the teacher commentary, the researchers also noticed changing trends between the expectations for writing in elementary and middle school such as the increasing importance of connecting ones own opinion to academic texts, especially literary ones (466).
After collecting a representative sampling of student writing, the researchers began to quantify the resulting commentary into two categories: surface or grammatical and stylistic level feedback and content or feedback requiring additions, deletions, reorganization, and reassessment of an idea (467). Not surprisingly, Patthey-Chavez et al.’s data validates previous research on this topic and notes similar trends in teacher commentary to the Gary Dohrer’s 1991 study. Researchers in this study note that “fifty-eight percent [of students] received only surface-level feedback on drafts of their compositions, and only about one third (34%) received more elaborate commentary” (468). Predictably while those with more surface-level commentary increased the length of their essays, students whose papers had surface-level commentary increased the length of their essays more substantially (469). In concluding the first portion of their experiment, researchers noted that “Students rarely revise and further develop their written communication spontaneously, but do rise to the occasion when asked” (469), and that the lack of student improvement over time reflects an “absence of quality feedback on early drafts” of student writing (469).
The second portion of this experiment analyzes the effects of different types of content-level feedback on student improvement. Puzzled by the lack of substantial, quality improvement in student papers where content-level changes were encouraged researchers found that frequently content-level feedback was too vague for students to understand. In many cases it could be classified as a request for clarification which did little to guide the student toward any final product and was subsequently ignored by most students (472). Another frequently used example of content-level feedback included “text-specific” requests which gave students minimal guidance for how to resolve the conflict. In most cases, this type of feedback was incorporated into the final draft (472). Yet these two types of content-level feedback did not provide students with enough information to successfully encourage them to reexplore their prior thoughts. Finally, Patthey-Chavez et al. noticed that many teachers seem to reserve their thoughtful responses for final drafts of papers, and in doing so, effectively defeat the purpose of a multi-drafting process application to writing (473). In conclusion, the researchers find that it would be difficult to distinguish the results of the old, product approach to writing from the process approach because teachers are not effectively embracing their roles as writing guides (474).
Although I found this article extremely engaging, I found that it was a bit inconclusive for me. The title of the article suggests that the researchers were going to apply their results to the urban school setting, to which they insinuate briefly at the beginning of the article but never return. Based on the title and the preliminary discussion of “at-risk students” in urban school settings (463), I hoped that this article would further engage the reader in how the lack of quality teacher feedback puts students in urban settings at a higher risk for failure, but in this respect I believe it is a failure as a study. Rather than further applying information that has been studied by many others in different contexts to a new arena, it simply reaffirms what other research has been proving for at least a decade. As a reader, I wanted to know why these students always seem to be less prepared academically, and why their writing often falls below acceptable standards. Instead I was presented with research which insinuates that students in these schools are in the same academic situations as students in more affluent, rural or private schools, and I honestly do not believe this is the case. – Christina Abel 10/26/04
Skorczewski, Dawn. ‘“Everybody Has Their Own Ideas”: Responding to Cliché in Student Writing.’ College Composition and Communication Vol. 52, No. 2 (Dec., 2000), 220-239. Available from JSTOR
The author is the director of Freshman Writing at Emerson College, and draws from her experience in reading and grading student papers in her article. I was drawn to the article by the title, and lured in by the two quotes with which she begins. The first epigram is an extensive quotation eloquently explaining how students “maintain a number of literacies side by side…” (qtd. in Skorczewski 220). The second is from a student writer, attempting to communicate the same basis idea, albeit with less rhetorical and compositional sophistication: “Things always change…however, the more things change, the more they stay the same” (qtd. in Skorczewski 220). The irony, along with the contrast, was fascinating. While Skorczewski does touch briefly on verbal clichés such as “the more things change…,” her primary focus is on ideological clichés. She begins by lamenting that students will often explore a controversial subject at great length, and then finish by asserting the conventional view of society on the subject: “How can it be that students write for pages about the complexities of institutional power, multiple identities, and situated knowledges and then refute what they have discussed in a trite or overused phrase?” (221). Her paper is an attempt to understand students’ tendency to do this, especially in the context of the two quotes with which she opens. She muses that perhaps the motivation behind the phenomenon is the students’ struggle to assimilate the new views of the world they are trying to articulate with what they already know and believe about society. Her course assignments focus on readings by a diverse group of authors who speak of the difficulties of the American dream and forging their own identities as semi-outsiders in the dominant culture. This is a subject close to Skorczewski’s heart, but it is often very alien to the students in her class. She realizes, after reading her responses to the ideological clichés her students use, that as a teacher, “I produce my own clichéd responses to students’ essays about identity: either a student mimics the ideology of the dominant culture or she questions it. When she questions it, she is thinking critically. When she mimics it, she is a puppet of her culture” (233). Her initial reaction to clichéd student writing was that it represented an immature thinker, a student who was unable to completely ‘step outside the box,’ to use a cliché, and truly analyze their argument, or the arguments of the texts they were working with. Throughout the essay, Skorczewski works toward a more complete understanding of her student writers, and of her core beliefs as a teacher. She ends by deciding that while a great deal of her frustration with her students’ adherence to cultural clichés stems from her own beliefs, it would be a mistake to either celebrate those clichés or disparage them. Her conclusion is that teachers must “try a new way of responding to student writing, one in which we simply ask our students what they are thinking about as they write the phrases that most offend us” (235).
While I feel that Skorczewski occasionally wanders a bit in her analysis, I thought she did an excellent job of trying to view her concern from as many different angles as possible. It was intriguing to see the issue of trite speech examined from rhetorical perspective, rather than a linguistic one. I was struck by the fact that many of the examples she presented of clichéd thinking where framed in conventionally clichéd language. And the subject of the article fit nicely with the readings from Pryor and McCarthy. All three deal with that odd no-man’s land that is undergraduate academia. It is a place where one is met with an enormous amount of new ideas and vocabulary, and much of it is in opposition with what the student already “knows” to be true. Many students are encountering this powerful challenge to their world order for the first time. It is no wonder that in their attempt to articulate it to themselves, they fall back into the language they are more comfortable with. The logical extension of this reaction is to reach out for the safety of more conventional beliefs, as Skorczewski’s students continually do. While for some this reliance may indeed be the marker of immature reasoning and analytic ability, I would guess that for most it is an attempt to locate terra firma in this confusing, and possibly at times, threatening new landscape they have been forced to enter. They use these “clichés” as landmarks to keep their bearings.
I believe that it is very important as tutors, and as potential teachers, to keep Skorczewski’s conclusions in mind as we read and respond to students’ work. We certainly will not always agree with what we are being given to read, but that does not mean that it is wrong, or the product of flawed or less than thorough reasoning. Her suggestion to question students about their line of thought in the “offending” arguments is perhaps our best method of determining which clichés serve a definite purpose, and which require further rhetorical attention. Skorczewski said that she realized that most of her responses to trite writing were trite themselves, and rarely if ever helped the students in revising their work, which echoed the findings of several of the bibliography entries of this class dealing with the relative lack of utility of most comments teachers make on essays in helping students reframe or rethink their argument. It is the author’s warning to her fellow teachers that I find most important. Teachers (and, of course, tutors) must be aware of their own ideological biases when reading students’ work, and must not penalize students for reasonably disagreeing. Skorczewski believes that her own most important conclusion is “that the gap between our students and ourselves, like the gap between every writer and reader, can never be fully bridged. This is the nature of human communication -- the fact that language writes us as much as we write it” (235). While we are not yet teachers, we are writers and readers, certainly, and we already have our own languages and beliefs that we bring to the table almost unavoidably, whether it be in class or in tutoring.—Jessie Dixon, 10/26/04
Kraemer, Don J. “Gender and the Autobiographical Essay: A Critical Extension of the Research.” College Composition and Communication. Vol. 43, No. 3 (Oct.,1992). Pg 323-339.
One issue which has not yet been addressed by the research we have read in class is the issue of gender. Don J. Kraemer’s article is a continuation of his earlier gender research which focuses on students’ autobiographical essays to investigate how gender is reflected in these writings. Kraemer suggests that the way students write about themselves not only reflects how they view themselves within their social spectrum, but also effects the way these students live as parts of that society.
Kraemer describes the patterns in student writing which he believes reflects the influence of gender. Kraemer focuses on seven different elements of male and female writing which reflects sexual difference: authorial stance, nature of incident, tone, major frame, linguistic code, locus, and the mention of the opposite sex. The approaches of each sex created drastically different conclusions to these elements; some of the more interesting results were that male stories tended to be “epic” and “apocalyptic,” stories which reflected a challenge which the narrator had to conquer. On the other hand, the female stories were “banal/anticlimactic” stories of relationship issues, filled with details instead of facts, and with frequent references to men throughout their writing. Kraemer’s research shows that male writing expresses an authoritative ambition while the women seem to be concerned mainly with the feelings of others, including men.
The inclusion of the term “apocalyptic,” referring to the tone of male writing, was particularly interesting. Toward the end of the article, Kraemer references one female student’s opinion that the tension these men are expressing could actually be a reference to women. She suggests,
“Certainly it will require Herculean heroism to sidestep the apocalyptic challenge being presented, by womankind, to a power structure that is just now showing the signs of stress.”
I found this idea intriguing, as did Kraemer; he suggested that while some researchers in gender issues might believe this tone stems from male tendencies toward aggression, it is very possible that other, deeper tensions exist within the modern man.
Kraemer presents three examples of student writing throughout his article, each of which speaks powerfully to the power of gender over composition. He firstly presents two narratives written by one male and one female student. The assignment was to write about a single incident in which the student was involved in or witnessed. Simply by reading the first line of each narrative, the reader is able to predict the sex of the writer because of the strength of gender stereotypes within each piece. The male student wrote about an exciting football game and the woman wrote about a birthday outing her friends had taken her on which turned out to be full of surprises. The male student’s story was filled with stereotypical male concepts: competition, victory, hard-work, and masculinity. On the other hand, the female writing presented female concerns, such as relationships with others and emotional conflicts. The male writing was driven by the desire to display individual achievement and physical ability while the woman’s writing was most concerned with the author’s politeness and discomfort in a socially awkward situation. What Kraemer brings to light is firstly these students’ adherence to social conventions of gender in their narratives, but also that these social perceptions of how each sex is portrayed focuses our attention as readers. As a result of society’s belief in the stereotypes of gender, that only a man would write a story about football and that a woman would be worried about what her friends thought of her, we focusing our reading on these specific details in order to gain understanding and ignore other elements. The deeply personal narrative becomes a social test for adherence to gender code. Kraemer presents the interesting idea that we not only have to look at how gender effects the way we write, but also how that bias controls the way we read.
In many ways, Kraemer suggests that students are never alone, never freed from the infiltration of social constraints of gender. In the article, Kraemer questions whether teachers should be wary of assigning narratives for their students because of the effect of social perceptions of gender. He suggests that the students are often not in control of their subject manner or their approach while composing because gender makes those decisions for them; students will present themselves in a way which is meant to make their personalities clear, but in order to do so they will first put their writing within a socially understandable gender scheme. With this, the writer becomes a passive participant in the process of composition. Kraemer sees that it is necessary that student composition be transformed from “gender dupes into self-aware academics”(329).
For this female reader, it was particularly saddening to see how women represented themselves in their narratives; yet what was even more upsetting was the differences Kraemer displayed between the “analytic ‘I’” and the “ ‘I’ used in autobiographical narratives(333). To show how students have the ability to take hold of their gender and control how their voice is expressed, Kraemer sites a female writer who presents an authoritative analysis of her own gender infiltrations. The sad truth behind this statement is that even a woman who feels able to represent herself in an anti-stereotyped voice in academic writing still displays these stereotypes in her personal description. This suggests that even though women may be able to put on the academic, or male, voice, they are simply putting on a disguise to lessen the femininity of their writing.
Kraemer’s article displays interesting and useful research and conclusions, but what I found the most useful was the questions his study raised. Firstly, his students’ rightfully complained that gender was too broad of a category through which to dissect their writing; they believed that the study did not account for other ethnic, cultural, and class issues which would also largely influence their writing. This complaint inspired a more intriguing question: is it appropriate to consider gender at all? In many senses, the study of gender reinstates sexual stereotypes and makes readers focus on the differences between genders in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Kraemer described the female work, which focused on description, as “banal/anticlimactic” and focused on “confusion”(333). Could Kraemer really argue that this seemingly female trait is not negative, that it does not create less intriguing and powerful writing than those of the men described? On the other hand, there are clear differences in men and women, and what is wrong with writing in a feminine or masculine voice? Who decides that one voice is less authoritative than the other? Kraemer’s article is a fantastic starting point for students interested in how gender affects the composition process, but for most students it will probably produce more questions than answers. --Sarah Capua 10/27/04
Dowling, Jr., H. F. “Imaginative Exposition: Teaching ‘Creative’ Non-Fiction Writing.” H. F. Dowling, Jr. College Composition and Communication, Vol. 36, No. 4. (Dec., 1985), pp. 454-464.
When I am helping people with writing assignments, whether it be in the writing center or elsewhere, I always suggest that they use more creative descriptions in their writing, even if it is nonfiction prose. I have found that a splash of creativity improves even the most boring paper, and makes writing a little more fun. As a tutor, I would like to communicate this to my tutees without leading them in the wrong direction. I chose this article in hope to pick up some tips and advice.
Dowling has a lot of great ideas about teaching Creative Nonfiction, many of which my teachers have used in my classes. He is turned off by the academic separation of “expository” writing and “creative” writing. Unfortunately, many students have adopted this noncreative stance, and so they try to keep themselves distanced form their papers. Dowling believes that every piece of should express the author’s creativity in some way. He shares his personal teaching methods in hopes that other writing teachers will follow his lead. First, he lets the students tap into their creativity by describing odd objects. They describe on their own terms, based on their personal interpretations. Students soon realize that they each have a unique standpoint that others find interesting.
Then, Dowling asks the students to write short descriptions using similes and metaphors. He explains, “Humans use metaphor in response to the chaos of the real world in which they live in order to find or create unity and pattern amid this confusion.” He encourages students to compare unlikely items to create more of a challenge. He also uses “free association” activities to help link students’ ideas. Finally, he passes out a sample of nonfiction writing and he and the class assess the writer’s interpretation of the topic. “In the course of discussing,” Dowling explains, “the class discovers that an author’s thesis, or creative vision, or unique way of seeing things, results from encountering the reality of experience and attempting to make sense of the world around him or her.”
Dowling then poses the problem of organization. “‘Organization’ does not have to be an arbitrarily-imposed mechanical structure but can instead consist of more imaginative or creative methods of patterning material.” He suggests that students allow the topic to influence the flow of the paper. For example, students can use existing well-known patterns as guidelines or themes, like the seasons. A student writing a biographical sketch may use spring metaphors for childhood, summer for success and happiness, autumn metaphors to symbolize change and or loss, and winter metaphors to describe sickness and death. It would provide a factual paper with a streak of creativity, making it more unique and interesting. Dowling adds, “Students are even more surprised to discover that point of view – an element of writing they had mentally assigned to fiction only – can play a significant role in patterning and ordering expository thought.” He mentions a particular student who wrote a very opinionated critique of a short story. Without slipping into first person, she expressed her opinion of the story and supported it with quotes and facts, creating a very impressive literary analysis. He credits his creativity-boosting exercises for the student’s success.
This article can be a great resource for tutors. Many tutees have trouble understanding why they are getting Bs and Cs their papers instead of As. Most of the time, it has to do with content. A bland, fact-stating paper with minimal mechanical errors will often get a lower grade than one with a powerful thesis and more errors. After breaking through the ceiling of grammar and punctuation, it is important that a tutor make other suggestions regarding the writer’s relationship to the words on the page. Perhaps suggest a theme or brainstorm with the writers about ways to make the paper unique, a product of the writer. A tutor may not have the time to implement the exact activities Dowling used, but he/she could certainly ask the tutee probing questions about the topic and offer creative suggestions. Everyone has a creative side to them, and perhaps the tutor can help writers tap into that.—Kelly Gilpin, 10/28/04
Albertson, Kathy and Mary Marwitz. “The silent scream: Students negotiating times writing assessments.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College. Volume 29 Issue 2 (December 2001), 144-154. Available through EBSCO.
In this article, Albertson and Marwitz explain a study they executed in a Georgia freshman English class with the purpose of examining assessment in timed writing situations. The classroom referred to in the study, designed by Albertson and Marwitz, seems to be a college freshman English class for students whose writing skills are not as advanced as the institution requires. The nature of the curriculum in this classroom, then, is to encourage the students to reach the level of writing proficiency the college is looking for, culminating in a timed exit essay. A panel of teachers then assesses this exit essay in order to determine whether the student has reached an acceptable level of proficiency.
Albertson and Marwitz offered six topics from which to choose, allowing the students to draw upon any portion of their previous class discussions. The students were allotted one hour for brainstorming, followed on a later date by a two-hour period for composing and editing. Given the large body of possible subject matter, Albertson and Marwitz hypothesized that the exit essays would be fairly impressive, as the students would not have to struggle with the content of their writing. However, the results of the study reveal that the students’ content remained quite simplistic (page 2).
The article focuses on two case studies within this class, examining the writing procedures implemented by both students during this timed exit exam. Carol, one of the two case study students, created a logical and complete outline during the brainstorming session, but then during her two-hour composing period she abandoned this outline and chose to write about a different one of the six available topics. Albertson and Marwitz explain that “upon reflection, Carol decided that the exit essay was no place to take chances” (3). This abrupt shift in direction resulted in a paper with many surface errors and poor development of the thesis. Laura, the second case study, also created a promising brainstorm in the first timed session. During the composing session, however, Laura proceeded to “generate new ideas…rather than finalizing her original thinking” (3). While Laura “continued to…think beyond the surface,” a practice in which she was encouraged to experiment throughout the course, this experimentation resulted in an essay that was “disjointed, confusing, lacking in rhetorical markers, and riddled with surface errors” (3). Even though Laura pushed herself as a writer, this risk-taking resulted in an essay that caused her to fail the course; Carol, who had not pushed herself as a writer, ended up receiving a passing grade.
It’s important to consider the situation that surrounded the assessment of these exit essays. Carol and Laura were placed into the Learning Support class for different reasons, and so the method of assessment used for each essay also differed. While Carol’s essay itself did not exhibit a “readiness for English 101,” her teacher knew that on a whole Carol’s writing ability was stronger than the exit essay represented. Because Carol was not assessed by an entire panel of teachers, her own teacher was able to draw upon her entire knowledge of Carol’s abilities and thus pass her in the course. The restraints placed on Laura, however, necessitated that two of the three teachers on the panel give her a passing grade based solely on her exit essay, which resulted in Laura’s failing grade for the course (4). Indeed, timed writing assignments may not be a true representation of a writer’s ability; it is dangerous to use such a timed essay as a means of acquiring any sort of final verdict.
I find that the issues Albertson and Marwitz touch upon relate to Pryor’s “Writing in Academia: The Politics of ‘Style’.” Laura took risks with her writing, and was then punished by the authorities within her discipline for taking such risks. The panel of teachers simply were not intrigued with the exploratory content of Laura’s essay; as Albertson and Marwitz explain, “her failure was believing that her audience would be interested in ideas rather than in a polished draft” (4). While Laura’s method of discourse did not coincide with the discourse desired by the panel, I do not think that this discrepancy should result in a failing grade for the course. When is it acceptable to alter our method of discourse? Similarly, when is it acceptable or appropriate to encourage our tutees to take such chances? Indeed, it may sometimes be beneficial to question for a tutee his tone or approach to his paper. However, we must ask ourselves in each situation whether it is in this particular tutee’s best interest to experiment with or question this paper in this moment. While it is important to recognize the possibility for experimentation, we as writing center tutors must also be aware of when the tutee simply needs to conform to his established method of discourse.
Albertson and Marwitz suggest that in cases such as Laura's, “a piece of reflective writing by the student to explain his intention would alert a reader to some of the complexity of thought and experimentation that goes on beyond the page” (4). This sort of writing sample would have pointed Laura’s panel to her overall purpose, and as a result the panel certainly would have viewed her writing from a more complete perspective. Similarly, if we as tutors are confused by a tutee’s paper, if it seems disjointed or incomplete or altogether unclear, it would not be a bad idea to simply ask the student where they are coming from. We don’t need to have all the answers; our tutees just might have the very answers we are looking for.—Phoebe Westwood, 10/29/04
H. and John K. DiTiberio. “Personality and Individual Writing Processes.”
College Composition and Communication. 35.3 (1984): 285-300.
Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0010-096X%28198410%2935%3A3%3C285%3APAIWP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Q
As Muriel Harris’s study entitled
“Composing Behaviors of One- and Multi-Draft Writers” briefly introduced the
possible influence of personality type, as identified by the Myers-Briggs Type
Indicator, on writing process, I became interested in further exploration of the
subject. Jensen and DiTiberio’s 1984 observational study explores the four
bi-polar dimensions of personality developed by Carl Jung and later revised by
Isabel Myers and how each psychological process affects composition. The four
dimensions are: “Extraversion—Introversion (ways of focusing one’s energy),
Sensing—Intuition (ways of perceiving), Thinking—Feeling (ways of making
decisions), and Judging—Perceiving (ways of approaching tasks in the outer
world)” (286). Each individual has a “preferred” psychological process in each
of the four dimensions (287). This model posits sixteen different personality
types; however, Jensen and DiTiberio isolate each pole and examine their
specific influence on writing. Asserting that writers “become anxious and
emotionally blocked when they overuse one process to the neglect of its
opposite” as well as when they “fail to use the strengths of their preferences,”
Jensen and DiTiberio suggest that writers can write better and with greater ease
if they “employ primarily their preferred processes in early stages” and then
“round out” their writing by exercising the “unpreferred” pole (287).
In order to evaluate their hypotheses about the effects of personality on writing process, Jensen and DiTiberio took a nonexperimental approach and administered the MBTI to students and participants’ in writing workshops and discussed their writing processes with particular focus on writing blocks. Their descriptions reveal qualities that Muriel Harris aligned with one-drafters and multi-drafters, yet also describe composing behaviors associated with “unskilled” and “inexperienced” writers in the studies of Sondra Perl and Nancy Sommers, and thus, connect facets of composing style, whether perceived as positive, negative, or neutral, to personality type. Jensen and DiTiberio also offer suggestions for composition teachers for each personality trait as to how unpreferred processes can be exercised to improve writing and work through writing blocks.
In the Extraversion—Introversion dimension, the most distinct difference between extraverts and introverts is that extraverts “focus their energy outward toward interacting with people and things” while introverts “focus their energy inward through consideration and contemplation” (289). Extraverts usually take a freewriting approach with little planning, like a “multi-drafter” in Harris’s terms, and introverts, like “one-drafters,” generally develop much of what they will write mentally. Jensen and DiTiberio further explain differences between the two and related challenges to writing and offer suggestions to improve writing, such as recommending introverts to “leap into writing even without planning and discover their meaning” when “blocked by too much reflection” (290).
In the Sensing—Intuition dimension, the generally “concrete, detail-oriented, practical and matter-of-fact” nature of sensing types contrasts with the “abstract, idea-oriented, and imaginitave” nature of intuitives (290). Thus, sensing types write best when “dealing with concrete information, but preferably in sequential step-by-step fashion,” and intuitives write at their strongest “when given general instructions from which they can create their own goals” (290-1). In forming “ideas almost unconsciously and writ[ing] quickly,” intuitives reveal tendencies of multi-drafters, while in focusing on mechanics when revising, sensing types reveal qualities of one-drafters (292). Such techniques of revision also characterize “unskilled” writers as described by Sondra Perl, yet Jensen and DiTiberio’s description suggests that perhaps not a lack of experience or maturity directs one’s approach to revision but instead, a preferred psychological process related to personality. As they see value in incorporating unpreferred processes in writing, they suggest that sensing types “may need to be encouraged to explain, as an intuitive would naturally, the implications of their data or ideas” during revision, possibly elevating their writing to that as perceived as “skilled” by Perl (291).
In the Thinking—Feeling dimension, thinking types prefer to “make decisions on the basis of objective criteria” while feeling types prefer to “make decisions on the basis of subjective factors” such as values (292-3). In writing, thinkers “focus on clarity of content” over audience interest while feelers “focus more on how their audience may react to their writing” (293). It seems that “experienced” writing, as described by Nancy Sommers, reflects the processes of feeling types, as she characterizes experienced writers as “emphasiz[ing] and exploit[ing] the lack of clarity” while also reflecting a “concern for their readership” (82). However, consistent with their perception of good writing, Jensen and DiTiberio suggest that when revising, feeling types “may need…to clarify their thoughts or improve their organization” and sensing types “may need to enliven their writing with vivid, personal examples when revising” (293).
In the Judging—Perceiving dimension, the distinguishing characteristic of judging types is their “need for order,” which contrasts with the “flexibility and spontaneity” of perceiving types (295). Judging types “may adhere to plans too rigidly” like “unskilled” writers and usually “complete their first draft expediently” followed by revision, exhibiting behaviors of both one- and multi-drafters. Perceiving types’ first drafts “tend to be long and thorough but also too inclusive,” revealing a multi-drafting tendency that requires refining in revision (295-6). As they view balance between preferred and unpreferred processes as beneficial, Jensen and DiTiberio offer suggestions, such as “judging types need to allow time in their plans so that they can be spontaneous” (295).
Jensen and DiTiberio’s study further confirms the highly individual nature of writing processes, thus attracting attention to the need of teachers to be sensitive to these differences and avoid “imposing a single, ‘ideal’ composing style on students,” Harris’s insistence after studying the decidedly individual composing styles of one- and multi-drafters (190). Tutors especially can utilize the information on personality differences and writing, as their solid “student-centered” interaction with writers places them in a position to possibly assess personality types and apply Jensen and DiTiberio’s rationale to strengthen writing (North 438). However, as certain composing behaviors related to personality are viewed as reflecting “unskilled” or “inexperienced” writing, perhaps the personality traits of assessors influence their perception of “good” writing and attest to the individual nature of assessment despite “standards” of academia. If teachers and tutors are aware of their personality traits and how such psychological processes influence their own writing, teaching style, and assessment, perhaps opening their perspective to unpreferred processes might reveal ways to strengthen their teaching and evaluation to meet a variety of student needs.—Stephanie Seale, 10/29/04
Read, B., et al. “ ‘Playing Safe’: undergraduate essay writing and the presentation of the student ‘voice.’” British Journal of Sociology of Education 22 (2001): 387-399.
Read and her colleagues used interviews with current undergraduate students to asses some of the issues that students face when trying to write in an academic world which, at the start, is so unfamiliar. They describe the process that students undergo as “cracking the ‘codes’” involved with academic writing, inferring that such a process is not simple, nor straightforward (388). The article contains research from previous studies from 2000, and even back to 1985 by several different people. With this evidence, Read, et al continues on to argue that students face many hurtles when beginning their academic endeavors. Not only, they say, is there a lack of guidance from the instructors, but there is also a change in views from discipline to discipline for what is acceptable in academic discourse. Read, et al lay out perfectly what the research say a student should do to be accepted with his/her writing, describing the certain “academic conventions such as the need to evaluate a variety of views before coming to a conclusion, or the need to reference other people’s ideas,” (388). And in not following these principles, a students writing may be brushed off as “illiterate,” instead of an inability to ‘crack the codes’ (388).
In addition to following the ‘academic conventions,’ Read, et al show the importance of developing a strong voice, that focuses on an argument rather than a simple compilation of ideas and/or information. This may be difficult, however, as the students who were interviewed discussed the difficulty of understanding what each specific instructor wanted in an essay, and even down to choosing to argue a point, whether or not it was in agreement with the student’s beliefs. Read, et al interviewed 45 students from a final-year course with “semi-structured interviews…[asking] Questions related to the students’ experiences of, and opinions about, essay writing,” (390). It must be acknowledged before proceeding that the group of interviewed students in theses interviews, is one from a British university, and therefore, the grading and courses they have are different from those of American students. However, the processes of writing for these students are still similar with those of the Americans.
I found this piece interesting because it is one of the few that addresses student confidence, and focuses specifically with the struggles students have to portray their own academic voice amidst the clamor of their instructors and other professional academic voices. It seems that Read, et al covered most of the issues surrounding student essay writing, and the struggles involved when attempting to learn and progress, while at the same time pleasing the instructors enough to receive good grades. If anything, as a student writer reading this article, it became almost overwhelming to see all of the specifics laid out. I, for example, must have a strong voice, but not too strong if there is no evidence to support my arguments. I also cannot have, as of Read, et al says, an opinion with views differing those of the instructors without significant evidence backing up my claims. Because of the limited number of students that the study was based on, their views are not all encompassing of the entire undergraduate study body, especially on this side of the Atlantic. I think that the article does raise the importance of differing grading by instructors, describing the “presentation of [the student’s] voice…demonstrates less an ‘understanding ‘ and engagement with the texts, and more a pragmatic ‘guessing game’” to formulate the best arguments which will lead to the better grade. As one student said, he is “echo[ing]” the instructors “teachings” in order to achieve a higher grade (396). This could be good, because mimicking can sometimes lead to a better understanding of the ‘correct’ academic voice, however ignores the fact that student must learn to develop their own ideas. In an optimists view, assignments are ways in which to introduce, or allow for elaboration on, subjects to help students develop their own ideas. Instead, from “Playing Safe,” it becomes apparent that many students are foregoing learning for themselves and are focusing on the grades. I think this bring up an interesting point, because as tutors we will be for some, a place that would match exactly what North, in his “Idea of a Writing Center” fears it to be. For those students who do not care about the learning, and changing the processes involved, the grade is all they want to see improve.
Even on the level of confidence, grades affect how students feel about their writing. It seems important that, in the writing center, for those who are willing, we must allow time for analysis of the writing process so that not only will the students get grades out of their writing, but they will be able to develop confidence for what does and does not work when writing. Read, et al concludes that there must be a change in the “established cultural ‘codes’ of behaviour and communication in the academy” to allow for the growth of confidence and capability of students (398). They also appropriately emphasize, through more research, the need to help students gain confidence in their own opinions, and use them without fear of reprisal by individual instructors. While repetitive, this article draws important conclusions about the way student writing is pressured from the intense academic discourse expected from the beginning, when it is expected at the same time, that students gain knowledge, such that they can make successful arguments and generate new, original ideas.—Kat Caouette, 10/31/04
Boehm, Lorenz, “Human Values and the Basic: Is There Any Choice?,” College English, Vol. 40, No. 5. (Jan., 1979), pp. 505-511. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0010-0994%28197901%2940%3A5%3C505%3AHVATBI%3E2.0.CO%3B2-V
In “Human Values and the Basics: Is There Any Choice?” Lorenz Boehm dives straight into an issue I have become increasingly interested with: the influence of personal ethics on writing and the teaching process. In the course of grading opinionated and analytical papers, Boehm came to the question: “should I ignore the personal beliefs and values the paper expresses and focus only on teaching basic writing skills?” (506). Reflection on this statement comprises the remainder of this brief, but deeply significant article.
Originally, Boehm comes to see the issue as a choice between or combination of two issues: grading writing skills or commenting on substantive content. But of course any grading or critique or commenting of any kind involves a notion of “righteousness”, if even the comment is based in rule. With this realization, Boehm comes to decide that “When it comes to teaching values, it may be that there is no question about whether to do it or not because it may well be that no matter how we teach writing, we teach values.” (506) Boehm believes that values are inherent to any form of teaching, that students are always being instructing in the proper and improper ways to function. In doing so, teachers reinforce behavior acceptable to them and their class, often telling students to suffer or follow the consequences. The simplest comment, be it negative or positive, requires the teacher to draw a line between good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable: “We correct their writing, establish what is good or not good, grade it.” (507)
Such an arrangement, Boehm says, gives legitimacy to several broad-based values by having them supported by instructors and institutions: “The things we do in class, from the student’s point of view, must be the right thing to do, and if they are all right to do in class, they must be all right to do outside of class.” (508) Instances of these values, according to Boehm, include passivity in the face of established authority and the “love it or leave it” mentality by students’ inability to alter a specific course, but withdraw from the class.
Boehm does not lose the opportunity to invoke greater world problems, (“In the classroom, there are writing problems. Over there, outside the building, there are unemployment problems or drug problems or neighborhood problems” 509) and comes out directly to say that classroom etiquette can have an impact on social mores. With this, Boehm calls for teachers to not only teach values, but most importantly, the right ones. “If no matter how we teach writing we teach values, and if those values cannot help but have some effect on the quality of people’s lives, then it seems reasonable to ask that we at least decide which values we want to teach.” (510) Before closing, Boehm does take pause to address the possible danger of such attitudes, that they might result in the indoctrination of students.
While dated (this article was published in 1979), these meanderings are very interesting to read. They force questions about proper ethics of the teacher-student relationship and provide a good indicator for assessing if any changes have occurred in value based teaching over the last thirty years.—Mike Meno, 10/31/04
Ede, Lisa, and Andrea Lunsford. “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy.” College Composition and Communication. Vol. 35, No. 2 (May 1984), 155-171. Available through JSTOR.
In their essay, “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy,” Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford attempt to explain two theories on the writer-audience relationship at opposite ends of the spectrum in order to be able to offer their own modified version. Ede and Lunsford distinguished these two theories by naming them “audience addressed” and “audience invoked.” Both theories were influenced by various other writing professionals in the field. The audience addressed model is described as the emphasis on “the concrete reality of the writer’s audience; the shared assumption that knowledge of this audience’s attitudes, beliefs, and expectations is not only possible (via observation and analysis) but essential” (156). Ede and Lunsford draw mainly on the ides in Ruth Mitchell and Mary Taylor’s article, “The Integrating Perspective: An Audience-Response Model for Writing.” Ede and Lunsford establish early on their distaste for Mitchell and Taylor’s “potentially significant limitations” concerning their “general mode of writing” that seems to focus more on the writer’s audience than the actual writer and composition (157).
The audience invoked model, based on Walter Ong’s, “The Writer’s Audience is Always a Fiction,” stresses the writer’s creation of the audience and what she needs it to be in order for the composition to succeed. Since the audience is “cast in some sort of role, it must correspondingly fictionalize itself.” How does the audience know what role to play? Ong’s answer to this question is in the form of “cues” that the reader finds in the writing. Ede and Lunsford are more accepting of Ong’s ideas because there is more emphasis on “the creative power of the adept writer” (160). Still, the pair criticizes Ong’s methods, suggesting that he doesn’t take into account “the constraints placed on the writer by the audience” (165).
Ede and Lunsford raise some extremely valid points about the two types of audience analysis while writing that are definitely worth considering. In criticizing the three theorists, Ede and Lunsford formulate their own model for dealing with the writer-reader relationship by combining the strengths of Mitchell, Taylor, and Ong into a circular diagram centered on the writer. There are roles, such as future audience, mass audience, friend, and critic that are grouped into invoked and addressed audience roles. These two categories are not separate though, as Mitchell, Taylor, and Ong might suggest. Which group each audience role is placed in is decided by the writer. One of Ede and Lunsford’s most relevant points is their idea of the writer’s choice of what suggestions to “accept or reject from the intervention of others” (166). These choices then must take on a “hierarchical role” that Flower and Hayes describe in their Cognitive Process and Theory model. This awareness of audience seems to be a “sub-process” that Flower and Hayes calls “powerful because it is flexible” (Flower and Hayes 376).
Ong’s model emphasizes that the audience must “fictionalize” itself as well, which is difficult for the audience and cannot be expected of every reader (160). Constantly keeping the audience in mind isn’t a flexible process for the writer. Ede and Lunsford combine Mitchell, Taylor, and Ong’s ideas into a more flexible process. “In so doing, they do not so much create a role for the reader – a phrase which implies that the writer somehow creates a mold to which the reader adapts – as invoke it” (167). The writer uses Ong’s cues to invoke a role for the reader based on Mitchell and Taylor’s expectations of the audience.
Ede and Lunsford’s model, even though it seems to be merely a splicing of the addressed and invoked models, is successful in further clarifying the writer-audience relationship, especially since they used it to describe they wrote this article. It is a difficult subject to investigate, being that the amount of thought and contemplation used when considering audience can vary greatly, from composition to composition. As Writing Center tutors, we need to think about which model would benefit a tutee the most. If I were to tell a tutee that they should think about their audience in every sentence they write, that the audience should never be disregarded and always rooted in reality, than the tutee’s creativity would be stomped and awareness of audience (the professor) would be heightened, creating a serious headache on top of the massive brain bruise the assignment had already caused them. Likewise, if I were to use Ong’s approach and encourage the tutee to create a role for the reader, the tutee might be downright confused. So it seems that Ede and Lunsford’s model could be quite successful at the Writing Center. If the tutee used cues to invoke the reader’s role, grounded in what they already know about their audience, then the assignment could be more successful. I think it can be established that the cage match clash of the scholarly titans has resulted in a well-supported writer-audience model offered by Ede and Lunsford.—Paul DesMarais, 10/31/04
Huntley-Johnson, Lu. “Censorship and Affirmation: Writing and Teaching.” High School Journal. 81.3 (Feb/Mar 98): 135-39. Persistent Link in Academic Search Premier: http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,uid&db=aph&an=373262
Lu Huntley-Johnson draws an insightful connection between censorship in the classroom and a resulting lack of voice for student writers in her article “Censorship and Affirmation: Writing and Teaching.” The author notes that educational censorship does not only affect an individual student’s ability to create original compositions but also denotes a major reason why American students fail to write well according to source James Moffett (135). Through a censorship of student voices, students never learn to become authors and instead begin to simply “doing school” (136), and getting the grade. As the author notes, “I would have loved to have known real audiences for whom to write and authentic reasons to address them. Instead, my school-based literacy history was characterized by a subtle form of censorship, the suppression of my writing voice superseded by emphases on grammatical terms, mechanical exercises, and benign reports” (135). To this author, writing was nothing more than a means to an end.
The author goes on to describe two significant experiences in her writing career: the sixth-grade fire prevention essay contest and the writing convention she attends as an adult. The author recalls how shocked she was to have her mother question her authorship when she reworded the encyclopedia definition of fire prevention. To her merely copying someone else’s thoughts was writing; her school system did not foster original thoughts or storytelling as a means of expression, yet when her mother forced her to rewrite her entry, the product was far more original and expressive. Still, the resultant pride of temporarily finding her voice and subsequently winning the essay contest was short lived. The author recalls, “But because there were no other classroom occasions to engage in actual authoring, my excitement waned, and the power of this writing lesson was lost” (136). Though the author temporarily found her voice, it was short-lived.
Only years later, when taking part in a cooperative writing community consisting of student and adult writers could the author begin understand the detrimental nature of the traditional classroom setting. It did not encourage students to find their own voices or to express their own thoughts, but rather provided the student with writing assignments designed to test knowledge acquisition rather than integration or other higher-level processes. As an adult, the author notes that for all the emphasis on a changing writing curriculum, little has changed within the classroom.
Huntley-Johnson challenges educators to open their minds and consider that what is lacking in the classroom is “a self-reflexive component that supports us [teachers] as we problematize the relationship between literacy curriculum objectives, alternative pedagogical strategies, and student cognitive processes” (137). She calls for teachers to recollect their own writing backgrounds and believes that once they do so, they will be better prepared to guide their students. The role of teacher is one that Huntley-Johnson feels must be deconstructed in order to successfully change traditional classroom dynamics. Finally, she states that there are three essential truths that all teachers must understand in order to make the classroom experience a valuable one for all students: “(1) students’ experience and self-based knowledge is relevant and can inform their learning, (2) classrooms should be places conducive for students to regularly experience engaged authoring, (3) teachers should assist and support students so that ‘coming to voice’ is a contiguous learning process throughout the school years and beyond” (138). The author believes that if educators keep these truths in mind when creating their lesson plans, they will be better able to reach their intended audiences.
The positive, enlightening message of this article resonated soundly for me as a future teacher. It shows how the problem of unskilled, inexperienced writers may not really have anything to do with skill or experience. Instead it may have far more to do with a student’s ability and desire to manipulate language into written expression. According to Huntley-Johnson, “The denial of opportunities to come to voice and develop a repertoire of rhetorical strategies in writing is a form of intellectual censorship that may not be easy to detect. The many guises of censorship make it a slippery phenomenon, but the suppression of a student’s writing voice represents one of the most subtle forms of silencing, the effects of which we tend to underestimate” (137). In classrooms everywhere, teachers are censoring and silencing student voices unintentionally and failing to reach students by labeling them as novices. These students are not novices; they have thoughts and insights just as any experienced student does. The difference between novice and experienced writers stems not from an inability or lack of desire to express one’s self, but instead from an inability to conform to a constricting variety of writing to which the student has no connection. For some the solution to the compositional problem seems to be more a case of finding one’s true voice than in learning more grammar. – Christina Abel 10/31/04
Hadfield, Leslie, et al. “An Ideal Writing Center: Re-Imagining Space and Design.” In, The Center will Hold. Logan: Utah State UP, 2003.
Many of the articles we have read discuss the cognitive and behavioral dimensions of writing process and tutoring, yet have mentioned little concerning the influence of the physical, concrete environment on composing and tutoring. The “Task Environment” mentioned in the Flower and Hayes article focused on the concrete topic, audience, and written “text produced so far,” but did not include environmental influences on physical comfort, such as lighting and sound, in the cognitive process model (370). In “An Ideal Writing Center: Re-Imagining Space and Design,” a team of one undergraduate writing tutor, two interior design students, an English professor and a professor of interior design investigated “concepts of effective working and learning spaces” and then created an ideal writing center design plan (168). Noting that “people who use spaces ‘must own them psychologically,’” their ultimate goal was to plan a setting “where people enjoy spending time and where they are happy, productive, creative, and social” (168, 170).
Recognizing the possible anxiety and discomfort of a student entering a tutorial session, the research and design team sought to “create a non-threatening, comfortable environment that generates—rather than inhibits—conversation” (171). Before planning the layout, Hadfield et al. took into account the findings of previous studies on design and environment on human response and effectiveness. Learning that “people have a ‘general response to a room and will be unsure at first in a new space’” and that “‘even air movement affects the occupants,’” the design team sought to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere (171). Studies by architectural behaviorists, who focus on “‘behaviorally oriented’” rather than “award-winning” visual approaches to design, reported that “task performance and job satisfaction are affected by ambient conditions (e.g. uncomfortable room temperature, stuffy air quality, lack of natural light, loud colors, surrounding noise) and room size, presence and arrangement of furniture and equipment” (168). The collection of studies suggested that “home and hominess are important, if intangible” (170).
Using such information, when creating their writing center they chose “familiar eight-foot ceilings; light, calming colors; soft carpet; plants, and soft lighting” (171). Lighting was an area of primary focus, as “natural illumination…becomes important to writing center design since so much close reading occurs there” (169). To try to maximize the comfort of the space they installed soft lighting that “eliminates shadows,” and selected tables and shelves of light wood and furniture of cool green fabric, as green is a “universally accepted and reassuring color” (172). Concerned with noise level and privacy, the designers ensured that the space was cushioned with “thick, porous, and soft material” to absorb noise and also used “white noise, a subtle, electronically-produced back ground noise” to filter out distractions (173). They chose “half-round tables” for the tutoring rooms with two “pull-up or guest chairs” which allows for tutors and tutees to easily adjust space between each other to a comfortable level (174). The table surface and “simple fabric designs” of the chairs and surroundings provided minimal distractions so that students could “focus on their papers during a conference” (174). The final comforts of home were added through “aesthetic additions” of plants and art (174).
The article presents several practical applications to create a sense of ease that would ideally facilitate “student-centered” discussion and practice of “displaced” conversation “that academics value” within a tutoring session (North 438, Bruffee 8). Simply manipulating the environment can help create the psychological security important for the tutee to be able to constructively engage in the tutoring session. The possible power dynamics implicit in the tutoring relationship, as explored by Dyehouse, could possibly be reduced if students feel a sense of the comforts of home in the tutoring environment. Reproducing the sterility of the classroom environment in the writing center could serve to “duplicate” the “student-teacher authority relations of the traditional classroom” and hinder the productiveness of the tutoring session through the student’s anxiety and sense of inferiority (55).
Furthermore, after making necessary adjustments according to the level of desired social interaction, one may apply such principles of design consistent with the goals of a writing center to the creation of an effective compositional workspace as well as classroom design. One’s physical environment seems capable of producing an affective response in students, and as Hadfield et al. reveal that “teachers claim that classrooms that have been given the feng shui treatment” in “placing objects, walls, and people in harmony” has “produce[d] students who are ‘pumped about learning,’” a comfortable and inviting design of space not only creates a greater sense of relaxation but may even increase the enthusiasm of students (167). Additionally, the relationship between physical environment and one's state of mind possibly supports Brand’s assertion that “affect is apparent at virtually every juncture of the cognitive process model,” as writing in an emotionally nurturing environment may influence the choices one makes when writing and thus, affect one’s textual output (440). Although concrete space may seem a distant influence on the personal, internally-controlled nature of writing, it seems that one’s surroundings impact mood and sense of comfort, thus, physical space can be manipulated to create environments psychologically conducive to writing, learning, and conversation.--Stephanie Seale, 11/6/04
Huot, Brian. “Toward a New Discourse of Assessment for the College Writing Classroom.” College English 65.2 (2002): 163-180.
In this essay, Brian Huot presents a problem he sees in the teaching of writing involving the use of the terms “assessment,” “grading,” and “testing” as interchangeable. He feels the belief that these terms are synonyms is one of the causes for unmotivated, unskilled student writers. Assessing a piece of writing, he explains, has entirely different goals from grading a piece of writing. Assessment can occur at any point in the writing process and serves only to help the writer see where he or she is in achieving his or her goal for the piece. A grade simply serves to label the piece as good, bad, or in the middle. Huot’s concern is that the majority of teachers choose the latter method to give their students feedback. As a result, “instead of focusing on text, this kind of assessment focuses on students’ ability to achieve a certain grade, which approximates an instructor’s evaluation of their work rather than encouraging students to develop their own assessments about what they are writing. For students, then, writing can become an elaborate game of getting the words right” (169). Huot goes on to present his idea of portfolios as a solution for helping pedagogy in the direction he feels necessary to help students learn the importance of assessing their own writing for the writing’s sake, not just for the grade. The portfolios would contain a students’ work from a specific period of time, and would be evaluated on overall improvement. The individual pieces would not be graded, but rather the entire portfolio. With this system, students would not worry about achieving good grades on each paper and would take the time to revise their work and learn from previous mistakes so their finished portfolio would be strong with obvious improvement made over time.
Huot uses the opinions of many colleagues in this article. While he uses some because they back his argument up completely, he uses others to show why his ideas for the portfolio system would be the most effective. For example, Sandra Murphy, the author of an article entitled “Portfolios and Curriculum Reform: Patterns in Practice” believes strongly in the use of portfolios but believes that each piece within the whole should be graded. Huot responds by explaining that “introducing grades into the process of creating portfolios can fracture their underlying theoretical assumptions and undermine an essential tenet of portfolio theory: that works cannot be judged individually, incrementally, and outside the context of other texts with which they were written” (173). Huot believes it is unfair to judge a student writer by a single piece of his or her work; this does not allow evidence of improvement to be seen.
After deciding to consider a project on the effects the grading system can have on students, I began looking for articles that would relate. This article looked like it might deal with the problematic aspects of the grading system and perhaps even offer ideas for a solution, and it did, in fact, discuss both the problems and a potential solution. Huot provides a specific aspect of the issue, the problem of interchangeability of terminology. Teachers have, essentially, stopped assessing student writing and decided to focus on the grading aspect of evaluation. This focus, however, paralyzes students, making them do only what they need to do to achieve the grade they want. Huot also presents a way to change this system into a more effective one. He explains how portfolios will help motivate students to improve their writing. Though the solution is not a miracle cure, Huot takes a step in the right direction. The idea of portfolios is a valid one, and, if implemented in composition courses, could make changes in the attitudes of writing students.
Huot's solution could be useful to the students in both Lucille McCarthy’s “A Stranger in Strange Lands: A College Student Writing Across the Curriculum,” and Miriam Axel-Lute’s “Consciousness, Frustration, and Power: The Making of Textual Writer’s Block.” In both pieces, the authors discuss students who write in certain styles to give the teacher what he or she wants in order to achieve the grades they want. In McCarthy’s piece, she discusses a student, Dave, and his lack of motivation in poetry due to his belief that poetry would not serve him in his desired career. Perhaps this is optimistic of me, but it seems possible that if Dave’s poetry professor had had him create a portfolio of his papers (and, of course, offered him constructive feedback), he would have set a goal for himself for improving his writing and achieved a better grade. Similarly, in Axel-Lute’s piece, students experiencing writers block due to conflict with professors and the belief that the work had no point may have been motivated to write had they set goals for themselves. The achievement of these goals would be apparent in a portfolio of their work over the course of the class. Huot’s ideas could be helpful for any struggling writing student as the idea of goal-setting as a means for improvment over time applies universally. –Mariah Healy, 11/7/04
Bacon, Nora. “Building a Swan’s Nest for Instruction in Rhetoric.” College Composition and Communication. Vol. 51, No. 4 (Jun., 2000), 589-609. Available from JSTOR.
The author, an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, followed the first two semesters of a pilot writing course at San Francisco State University to write this article calling for a change in the way “general” composition courses are structured and focused. As much recent composition scholarship has emphasized the importance of context and audience awareness, and has shown that the skills needed to “successfully” compose academic essays are not always easily generalized to other forms of writing, San Francisco State responded by developing a program with a greater emphasis on “real world” writing tasks. “Students taking a required composition course not only wrote a series of assigned essays but also served as volunteer writers at community organizations, producing such texts as fundraising letters, press releases, brochures , and manuals” (592). The other purposes of the English 214 course, required for sophomores, were to prepare them for an essay proficiency test required for graduation, and “to introduce students to writing critically about literature” (592). While the teacher was enthusiastic about the concept of the course, and came from a rhetorical background, rather than one based primarily in literature, this was her first attempt to teach students to write for a variety of different rhetorical contexts, and she was very uncertain about how to proceed. Bacon noted that “[the teacher’s] hope to be helpful was complicated by a fear arising from the novelty of the writings tasks - the fear that she could not share, because she did not have, the knowledge required for success with these tasks” (597). Due to this fear, in the first semester of the course the teacher focused almost exclusively on grammar conventions and sentence construction, feeling that these skills were universally important, and therefore transferable to whatever type of writing her students were called to do in their volunteer work. This approach was not very successful: The students in the class had by-and-large been recommended for it because they were considered successful writers, and considered the grammar assignments given to them to be pointless and “remedial”. But most importantly, “faced with tasks that appeared frighteningly unfamiliar, they wanted help coping with differences between classroom and community writing” (596). Because of this, the class largely considered the class not to have been a success. The professor decided to completely change her course for the second semester, focusing primarily on various types of texts, both academic and non-academic. Students were asked to read successful examples of the composition forms they would have to write during their volunteer work. They were given guidance in analyzing those texts for the importance of context and audience, and how the individual texts responded to those issues. When the course was reformatted in this way, the students were more successful in their volunteer writing, and felt like they had gleaned far more from the class, some even gushing that it was the most fulfilling course they had yet taken.
This article presented the flip side of the question left to readers of Perl’s study of unskilled college writers. After reading the findings in that article, some of us were left to wonder how well students would perform if assigned more “realistic” writing tasks that were less formal, and either more personal or more related to the type of work they would later be doing. In this research, we see what happens when students who are relatively “skilled” are given little guidance in composing in unfamiliar, less academic forms. Without that guidance, the results conclude, students who are comfortable in the academic format of writing often feel lost when moving into a new rhetorical context. The teacher was correct to believe that there are some writing skills that are transferable to nearly every type of writing, and she was right to assume that grammar and sentence construction are among them. Both are integral to effective communication in almost every instance. The article pointed out that what the students’ needed was instruction on where the writing they were being asked to do for community service diverged from the academic essay forms being taught in the rest of the course. Attending to audience needs is of course important in both academic writing and community-based, non-academic prose as well. Interestingly, what the teacher found was that her students didn’t always know how to meet the needs of audiences other than the her and their fellow students, because they had only written for such academic audiences in the past. And the teacher herself had only ever graded from that perspective. This limited her own ability to always accurately identify the contextual needs of a piece’s readers. One example Bacon gives of this concerns an article written by two students working for a gay-rights organization about gays and the media. Their teacher asked them in several instances to be more specific and explain terms or incidents mentioned in the article. They told her that their editor had explained to them that such elaboration was unnecessary and took up needed space, as the publication’s audience was already well-informed about the significance of the information at issue. This point was a bit of a light-bulb moment for me; I had never really considered the fact that the only people most students write for are their teachers. Bruffee uses this insight somewhat indirectly by noting in his argument for the work of writing centers that once students enter the job market, the majority of their compositions will be for peers, not superiors. Therefore, perhaps one of the most important things gained by those students enrolled in the English 214 program is the opportunity to write outside an academic context. Depending on their jobs, they may never be required to write promotional materials or announcements as they did in the community service part of the course, but they will have gained experience in reacting to audiences other than teachers. As it requires them to know how to successfully analyze an audience and its needs, this is a skill that with enough practice can be broadly transferable to other types of writing.
The article was full of important insights both into what students feel they need to learn to be successful and how teachers teach. Bacon spent some time considering why the composition teacher structured the course the first time as she did. Her analysis makes clear that it is nearly impossible for us to recognize all of our own underlying assumptions about teaching and learning, and that we cannot weed out the valid from the superstition unless we are able to reflect and recognize our prejudices, both good and bad.
While I believe that in its eventual incarnation, the San Francisco program is a good model that can be adapted by other writing programs, my chief concern is that the course appears to be a bit to broad. It seems somewhat overly ambitious to expect a single semester course to prepare students to analyze literature, pass a major essay test, and get real world writing experience. Obviously, all three skills are somewhat related, and probably give students both a good contrast in composition forms and a better overarching sense of context and purpose in writing. If down well, grouping the three together could be potentially beneficial. However, I see a strong possibility of one or two of the goals being short-changed in the interest (or demands) of time. I would recommend cutting out the test prep - probably because it not only has the least broad future application, but also because I am adamantly opposed to being forced to teach to skills tests, and I don’t believe that such standardized, high-stakes measures are all that indicative of either ability or potential.
With Goucher’s strong interest in service learning components of courses, a model based on the San Francisco program would fit in well here. But even if such a program were not completely co-opted, it would be very feasible to adopt some of the more beneficial aspects of the course. Composition teachers are well aware that the standard five-paragraph essay has little importance outside of academia, and isn’t even the universally accepted from of discourse within all branches of scholarship. Teaching students to analyze texts outside their discipline to see how the author adjusts for context and attends to the needs of their audience is important. This article also serves as a reminder for us as tutors and potential teachers to remember the contexts and audiences we are working with as well. The professor in the study was not properly considering those factors the first time she taught her course when she focused on grammar conventions and dictated forms to her class of experienced writers seeking help with understanding what could not be generalized in composition. Her failure to respond to their needs frustrated them, alienating many of the class so that they did not wish to learn what she was teaching them. If writing is to be effective communication, tutors must be sure to find out from the outset what our students are looking for, and try to respond to that, not just to what we see in their work.—Jessie Dixon, 11/7/04
Durham, Meghan C. “Inscribing Influence: Creative, Corporeal, and Sentient Writing as a Component of Dance Performance and Choreography.” Interdisciplinary Humanities. 21:1 (April 2004): 94-115.
As both a dancer and an academic, Meghan C. Durham desired to investigate the procedural and intellectual connection between these two commonly separated spheres. As the title of her article suggests, Durham explores the mental and physical elements of both dance and writing. Her research argues with the commonly accepted academic perspective that writing is a purely cognitive activity, a perspective which Durham believes ignores the physical and sensual elements of writing. Durham explains that it is this limited view of the composition process which also gives privilege to writing over physically oriented processes such as dance. Although her personal research does not present revealing conclusions because it focuses upon influencing the choreography and performance process by incorporating writing (something which is not uncommon or unpracticed in modern dance), the connections Durham draws between the discussions of important composition theorists on this subject suggests that there can be an equally valuable influence of dance upon the writing process. Durham’s article shows how limited academia’s understanding of the writing process is because it discounts important corporeal influences by separating body and mind.
Durham traces the connections between writing and dancing to the earliest stages of humankind, when man relied upon his body to communicate before there was an organized writing system. Durham explains that the etymological tracing of the term writing is “closely aligned with concepts and words that conjure up motion…to scratch, to incise, to dig or make grooves, to paint”(95). Just as writing developed as the visual representation of thought and communication, dance theorists suggests that dancing and choreography is a visual representation of internal thought. The connection of dancing and writing in the development of society suggests more than just that they are two forms of communication; the fact that their purpose has been so deeply intertwined in history, especially during periods where process was natural and unregulated, suggests that their processes must hold cognitive and physical similarities.
Durham draws upon the writings of many of the notable composition theorists to validate the connection between physicality and writing. For example, Alice Brand purports that academia should recognize the importance of “creativity, imagery, intuition, kinesthetic knowledge, and meaning beyond linguistic forms”(96) on the composition process, which would create a greater understanding of the details of the writing process while also expanding the limits of common academic writing. Sondra Perl also is cited to state that a writer must be “in touch with the body” and used the term “centered”(100) to describe the most successful form of writing, a term which is also highly important to the process of dance. Durham also discusses various dance theorists and practicing choreographers who speak highly of this intimate connection of processes. Dance ethnographer Dierdre Sklar presents an important point that the separation of body and mind is prevalent only because it is the accepted perception and that in fact, “the critical difference is not between body and thought, nor experience and words, but between conventions of knowing, and modes of apprehending”(96). Sklar’s comments suggest that academia connects thought with writing because it is the common practice and because few have experienced the raw interaction of mind and body and therefore cannot identify its influence within the solitary writing process. .
All of the support Durham presents for the consideration of this connection not only works to expose this already prevalent aspect of the writing process but it also suggests that by being more aware and supportive of this connection, writing could actually improve. Durham states that the use of the body demands an emotional and thoughtful dedication to the task at hand, creating a motivation which encourages learning. Durham also connects good dancing and good writing with the concept of flow. Composition theorists often speak of flow as a period where writing can be most successful, allowing for thought, meaning, and the written word to come out as one. The same concept is evident in the common choreographic device, improvisation, which thrives on the dancer existing with a flow. This suggests a connection on a conscious and sensory level between writing and dance because their processes experience the same stages of flow, such as “incubation/inspiration, generation/manifestation, refinement, transition, and integration”(100). Durham’s discussion of the sensory element of writing also suggests why the conditions of composition are often essential to the outcome or even ability of a writer to compose. As the students of English 221 can attest, the where, why, and how of writing immensely influence process and therefore speak to the important role the senses play in composition. If the room is too noisy, if the writer feels unconfident, or if there isn’t a snack available, the entire composition process must be delayed until conditions are right. Durham suggests that quality writing, as in quality dancing and choreography, is created when the conscious and senses are in tuned and in motion and the unconscious usage of these two elements suggests an underlying relationship between these two composition processes.
Durham also includes her research where she incorporated writing into the creation of a piece of dance choreography as well as her rehearsals for a solo which she later performed. She found that writing helped her choreography process and visa versa, stating that, “When my words ran dry, I climbed inside the physicality of the dance; and when the dance staggered, I began writing and reflecting upon my words”(107). Although Durham’s research shows the value of relating these two processes, her approach was disappointing because it did not present anything unusual. In fact, it is a common practice for modern choreographers to utilize text and creative writing to aid composition. It would have been more interesting and informative to see how physicality can be incorporated into the writing process, an experiment which Durham suggests as an idea for further research on the topic at the end of her article.
Durham’s article creates valuable connections between writing and dancing, yet what is most convincing about her article is that what connects these processes exists when the writing process is the most raw, the most natural it can be. Durham’s article speaks not to the imposed academic process which students must often cut away in order to truly be successful writers, but it discusses the ideal process, the unconscious, free-flowing, inspired experience of writing. It is with this type of process that Durham suggests a connection, showing that awareness of the physical element of writing could only aid the writing process.-- Sarah Capua 11/6/04
Wolfe, Edward et al. “A Comparison of Word-Processed and Handwritten Essays from a Standardized Writing Assessment.” American College Testing Program. Iowa City, Iowa (1993) (EBSCO)
This article examines the differences of handwritten (HW) and word-processed (WP) standardized exams in tenth grade high school students. Wolfe et al. introduce the arguments from previous studies that also looked at computers, the composing process, and the assessment of HW and WP assignments. Of these, one study found that handwriting appearance had an effect on how the prose was assessed, specifically that the messier the writing was, most often a lower grade was given (7). Following-up on the research, this article looked at the possibilities for the change in grading. Wolfe et al. found evidence from other studies suggesting that handwriting appearance was linked with the expectancy of the readers- the less legible the writing, the more greatly graders relied on their expectations when assessing the prose (8). Other research results mentioned by Wolfe et al. suggested that there was a higher expectation for word-processed papers, and more empathy expressed towards the handwritten essays; word-processed essays also revealed the mistakes of the handwritten essays after they were transcribed into the computer form (9). Overall, they found from the other research that handwritten essays were given higher grades than the word-processed essays. They suggest that it could be due, in part, to the fact that WP papers were more severely graded (10).
The first study in the article was in regard to the administration and then evaluation of handwritten and word-processed essays. It involved 157 high school students, who were able to select either pen and paper, or a computer for their placement exam. They were given 30 minutes to compose a draft from a given prompt, and the following day were expected to finish the draft keeping in mind some revision questions they had received the previous day (11). Right away, they observed that the 77 students using word processors also utilized the programs on the computers for correcting spelling, grammar and style of their drafts. On the other hand, those student who hand-wrote did not get outside help, such as a dictionary, thesaurus, or advice from teachers or fellow students (13). There were several interesting immediate observations made: because the study allowed the students to choose their mode of writing, those who had low self-esteem concerning technological abilities did not use a computer. Those using word-processors were concerned with other students looking at their writing, and felt the need to protect their privacy, whereas, those hand writing the essays were not seen to have this problem. In addition to grading each essay, the essays were transcribed into their opposite forms, WP to HW and vice versa. Generally, Wolfe et al. found that the transcribed essays were not graded consistently, and after transcription into WP, the handwritten essays had more errors that were noticeable. They also discussed the reasoning behind the choice that student made: WP versus HW. The authors reasoned that there were different experiences held by each student, and their comfort with the word-processor was in part, affected by their previous experiences. Overall, the transcriptions were graded lower than the original form of the essay.
The second study involving this group of students attempted to discover the differences used in grading the word-processed documents versus those that had been handwritten. The graders chosen were around age 34, twelve females and six males, all having had previous experience as teachers, most at university level. Four were selected to grade aloud, and at least one WP and one HW paper was graded by each of these instructors to examine the difference in grading. The grading rubric focused on the development of the ideas, organization of the writing, the student’s voice defined by word choice and sentence structure, and finally the ability to control mechanics (14). Wolfe et al. used several statistical tests to analyze the data for this study, and they discovered here too that the transcribed essays were graded lower, and in general, the different forms of writing were graded for different qualities (16). Interestingly, the HW essays received grades based more on their organization and voice, whereas the WP grading focused mostly on the fulfillment of the prompt, and the format (18). The WP essays were longer, of higher quality, and covered less private topics than the handwritten essays. They also found there to be more precise and complex vocabulary for the word-processed writing, and twice as few mechanical errors compared to the handwritten papers (20). Again, Wolfe et al. returned to the reasoning behind the selection of word-processing versus hand-writing, mentioning confidence with keyboard usage, and even socio-economic differences effecting this confidence of computer usage (20). The authors suggest research following the socio-economic factors in choosing the form for writing.
The comparisons Wolfe et al. make during their study of word-processed essays versus handwritten ones is interesting when we consider the way Goucher students are placed into the writing courses for their first semester. This article is helpful to see that there may consistently be a difference between the grading of WP papers and the HW ones. However, because most professors require that their assignments be completed in a word-processor, the lower grades for HW work does not seem to be as applicable once students are enrolled. More importantly, the observation that the transcribed essays from HW to WP were consistently graded lower shows that students are not able to see error as easily when composing by hand. The access that computers allow to immediate spelling and grammar help is probably the cause for more errors in HW papers. And yet when writing by hand, students choose to ignore the dictionaries and grammar help available to them that could help to eliminate mistakes, mistakes that are easily corrected when using a word-processor. This factor in lower grades shows that there is a different process used while composing by hand as opposed to composing by computer; students are different writers within the mediums, and which process is better cannot be concluded from this article.
Considering we do not give students a choice for the test, as this study did, it would be interesting to take the authors’ suggestion for looking into the differences in socio-economic standings and confidence in the use of the computer. As one student in the study said, the computer points out her mistakes and “tells [her] how stupid [she is],” (13). Pressuring students to take a placement exam on the computer when they may be uncomfortable with that mode of composition may cause the placement to be incorrect, not reflective of the students’ capabilities. However, increasingly, word-processors are being used at younger ages, and students coming into college might be more likely to have had good experience with computers, increasing their confidence in using such a mode for composition. The access that students have to spelling and grammar help while composing could have a large effect on the surface quality of the papers, and the cut-and-past properties could also impact the organizational skills of writers. It would be interesting to see the differences that Goucher placement-test graders exemplify between the handwritten exams and the new, word-processed papers. Even more interesting would be to see if the vocabulary and sentence structure is more sophisticated with the WP tests taken this year; it could be important to see if word-processing was giving students an upper hand when composing because of easy access to thesauruses and dictionaries, as well an automatic grammar check.--Katherine Caouette, 11-8-04
Huot, Brian. “Toward a New Theory of Writing Assessment.” College Composition and Communication. Vol. 47, No. 4 (Dec. 1996), 549-566.
Brian Huot’s proposals for the development of a new theory in writing assessment are, paradoxically, both broad and limiting. Huot does not venture to experiment with different writing assessment procedures; rather, he synthesizes multiple theories to formulate his own proposals and theories about writing assessments. To preface his argument, Huot recognizes the disinterest and discomfort with which composition teachers treat assessment. In turn, when there are two different communities doing the teaching and the assessing, there is a nearly insurmountable communication gap, “at the core of this inability to communicate are basic theoretical differences between the measurement and composition communities” (549). Traditional assessment procedures assume that writing is a tangible and measurable ability in students, a “fixed, consistent, and contextual human trait” (550). Thus, procedures for placement and assessment have been reduced to rubrics, blind readings, and numerical scoring.
Teachers feel disconnected to these groups because the “assessment practices do not reflect the values important to an understanding of how people learn to read and write” (549). In ignoring these basic principles, assessors overemphasize statistics and validity. These standardized practices lead to validity meaning a consensus amongst many individual readers (or interrater reliability). However, the definition of validity has been quite evolving, and Huot repeatedly warns that this consistency does not indicate fairness: “We should understand that in writing assessment interrater reliability means consistency among rater and nothing else” (557). Assessments that rely heavily on statistical validity do so primarily because of a lack of context surrounding the writing. To achieve truly reliable and valid results, “we need to link together assessment procedures with what we know about writing pedagogy and the impact of assessment procedures on teaching and learning” (551). Huot recognizes that some institutions have adopted such superior assessment procedures and he aims to discern the underlying “beliefs and assumptions” of these programs in order to create a “theoretical umbrella” to guide other assessments (552).
Commonly, colleges and universities analyze writing placement samples by scoring procedures such as combining numeric scores between two or more readers. However, Huot’s research indicates that raters using these “holistic methods . . . often . . . first decide on student placement into a class and then locate the appropriate numerical score that reflect their decision” (553). Thus, Huot proposes that this process be made more efficient and teaching-based and composition teachers read the sample essays and decide directly about the “teachability” of the writer (554). Ideally, would engage a group of teachers in a discussion that illuminates the struggles of assessing writing. I believe another strength of this format is that it parallels the larger struggles and trends within departments, and it could lead to a greater understanding of each other’s grading practices.
In seeking an article about placement exams, I believe I became far too excited about the prospects of Huot’s dissertation. The more involved in the article I became, the more convoluted his argument seemed. After looking at many other possible articles, I decided to still annotate this article because I think it raises many crucial questions. For the purpose of tapering his broad focus, I tried to frame this article in terms of writing placement exams. Huot attests to the benefits of using portfolios as means of performing an exit assessment, but a preliminary portfolio would be a useful, comprehensive tool for placement as well. However, I recognize many time and efficiency disadvantages to this method. One of Huot’s most salient arguments is about the importance of context in reading and assessing essays. He proposes that the actual task be one that is designed to reflect a progress in the specific discipline; for example, “students in the physical or natural sciences might be given he data obtained through research procedures and be required to present such information in a recognizable format” (560). While this form of individualized assessment seems only logical, it does not connect to the goals and dilemmas of the freshman composition placement. However, this ignores an essential question: What if this ‘context’ is composition itself. However, this does inspire me to learn more about the writing proficiency in the major requirements and the Writing Across the Curriculum. Perhaps we, as an institution, should emphasize these requirements more than the basic CWP, since developing more advanced writing in one’s major is infinitely more applicable and helpful to students. While reading this article, I found myself overwhelmingly asking what exactly these placement exams ask students. Huot seems to ignore the fact that the prompt is a huge determinant of the variance and quality of responses. If the assessors are not able to derive answers to the questions they need before placing a student perhaps they need to reexamine the structure and content of the actual exam. While Huot’s proposal was a bit too open-ended to serve my purpose, it most definitely did intensify my interest in the complexities and implications of writing placement exams. –Jen Madera, 11/8/04
Kroll, Barry, “Arguing About Public Issues: What Can We Learn About Practical Ethics?” Rhetoric Review, Vol. 16, No. 1. (Autumn, 1997), pp. 105-119. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0735198%28199723%2916%3A1%3C105%3AAAPIWC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-F
In this article, Barry Kroll ambitiously sets out several options for teachers of argumentative prose who seek alternative practices for conducting lessons dealing with controversial issues which can easily slide “into disputes with an ethical edge” (105). Kroll stresses caution toward contemporary textbooks’ efforts to incorporate “principles of moral philosophy and methods from applied ethics, specifically as a way for students to tackle disputed with an ethical edge” (105), claiming that such applications promote deductive reasoning in which pre-established moral rules and principles are applied to sensitive issues involving conflict or choice, resultingy in inadequate attention paid to the complexities of such issues. These “top-down” methods, Kroll says, contradrict the intellectual tendencies of composition instructors, by oversimplifying situations and looking to “authorities (experts or rules) for easy resolutions to conflicts” (106).
As alternatives to such approaches, Kroll identifies two possible candidates: casuism, a practice developed from the Aristotelian tradition of practical reasoning (Kroll’s defintive perspective of this is Richard Millers’ Casuistry and Modern Ethics); and pragmatism, based on John Dewey’s account of ethical deliberation (for perspective Kroll refers to both James Wallace’s Ethical Norms and Particular Cases and Anthony Weston’s Toward Better Problems). Supported by these works, Kroll goes on to “offer strategies that rhetoric teachers will find useful when arguments take a turn toward ethical issues” (106).
Both the casuist and pragmatist schools endorse working with the particulars (detailed evidence, opposing perspectives) of situations instead of abstract principles derived from moral philosophy. The resulting pedagogy is one “that gives priority to inquiry and analysis” (107) rather than quick, shortchanged commitments to one side of an argument. One example Kroll provides for instructing such alternatives, is an assignment which tells students to write a brieifing paper for a politician who has not taken a firm stance on a controversial issue. Such an assignment requires students to lay out in detail the arguments and perspectives of all sides.
Emphasis on the particulars of controversial issues is essential to student development in Kroll’s opinion, “not only because they’ve been taught that argument involves attacking and defending positions, rather than investigating problems, but also because they’ve learned to strip away complexity in order to make decisions quickly to solve problems efficiently” (108). This notion, that a problem of choice or morality can “be resolved by deducing answers from timeless, settled principles” (108) is the very thing that casuist and pragmatic ethics reject.
Other ways in which these approaches can help teachers who work in controversial issue courses involve making use of the paradigms from our moral traditions, the body and history of human-conceived morality that comprises the bedrock of many ethics. For example, progressive building on universally accepted values will never again allow the issue of human slavery to be opened up to debate.
An even more important strategy for teachers is examination of students’ personal beliefs, then forging compromises out of any differences which may arise through the search for shared values. As Kroll says, “Positions are often intractable. But by shifting the conversation to underlying interests, it’s often possible to find common concerns and shared values, on the basis of which there may be grounds for discussion and, ultimately, agreement” (112). Unfortunately, as Kroll points out, there will always be certain issues, most notably abortion, on which shared values cannot be easily found.
After laying out this broad, yet heavily supported agenda, Kroll reminds readers that his aims are modest: to free “students from the unreasonable expectation that they must resolve a complex issue or win a longstanding debate or effect the perfect compromise” (117).
For any teacher or student who deals with debates involving controversial issues, this article is a must-read. Kroll’s hope “that we can sometimes use argument to make the world a little better place to live together” (118) does not come off as naïve, but authentic and inspiring.—Mike Meno, 11/9/04
Boice, Robert. "The Neglected Third Factor in Writing: Productivity." College English and Communication. Vol. 36, No. 4 (December 1985), 472-480.
This article, although brief, offers an interesting and uncommon approach to curing writer's block associated with writing professionals. Boice is adamant about "productivity" being added as the third "P," right with product and process (478). He thinks it should be taught in writing classes because "practice in writing should lead to an increased fluency in generating ideas, including some ideas that may be labeled novel, useful, and creative" (473). This statement is no doubt factual and verifiable, but Boice's extreme methods certainly do no agree with it. He attempts to defend his idea of "regular productivity as the means of improving writing" by offering the insights of various professional writers (472). His idea is definitely valid, but the experiment that follows his professional defense is unorthodox and artificial.
The goal of the experiment was to show that creativity could be positively increased through "regularly-produced writing." This creativity was measured using a "thought-listing procedure" where the twenty-seven participants had four spaces to write down creative ideas (474). Nine participants were in the control group, nine were a part of the spontaneous group, and the remaining participants were in the contingency group. The control group wasn't forced to write while the spontaneous group was told to "write when you feel like it." The contingency group was unique in that each participant was forced to write three separate pieces a day. If the didn't produce these three pieces, they would have to pay a fine which would be sent to a despised organization. Each group agreed to participate in the experiment for ten weeks and each participant had to set writing times five days a week (475).
The experiment, although ambitious and based on verifiable truths about writing, was severely flawed. First of all, even though Boice was recruiting professionals with an intense desire to produce more writing more frequently, there might have been a specific type of person, other than the struggling professional, who was drawn to the structure of the experiment. Boice mentions that "the greatest levels of productivity, both for writing and creativity, come under the contingency condition where writing was forced" (477). The obvious reason for these results are the contingencies, but I am inclined to think that specific personality traits have a major influence as well. The participants might be stronger writers under the pressure of external influences. The experiment was rigid, so it could have been that the participants who remained were drawn to that particular style of writing. We can't forget that the participants are writing professionals ho are motivated by careers and money. It seems that for these types of people who have already made writing their occupation, the experiment was only an extreme version of their lives. His conclusions could have been easily predicted.
Boice's concept of spontaneous writing might be skewed. He notes that, "Habitual writing is evidently superior to spontaneous writing" (477). Spontaneous writing and habitual writing are two concepts that shouldn't be compared. Spontaneity in writing isn't just writing on the spur of the moment while habitual writing only describes getting into a set schedule. Spontaneous writing involves emotion and inspiration that shouldn't be motivated by contingencies. It isn't the act of writing on a whim; it is the why of writing according to feeling. Brand emphasizes that writers "become familiar with the emotional as well as intellectual cues that tell them they are ready to write" (Brand 441). Spontaneity therefore is much more dynamic and layered than habitualness. Why can't habitual writing be spontaneous?
Boice is bold in assuming his second major conclusion that "productivity precedes creativity" (477). He fails to realize that without creativity, there cannot be productivity. Boice would call me romantic in this respect, but it is impossible to neglect the significance of creativity in writing. However, Boice does make a strong point in saying that the more someone writes, the more creative the pieces of writing become. It is certainly possibly for creativity to increase the more someone writes, but what about those times when creative ideas come out of nowhere and surprise the writer? Furthermore, sending money to despised organizations as a result of not being creative enough doesn't help the writer. Forced creativity isn't a creative idea nor does it encourage creativity. It is like a mother forcing her child to take piano lessons. The child isn't into the process and only participates out of fear of punishment. It isn't until a few years later when the lessons have long been over does the child relearn the piano, fueled by the inner desire to make creative music. Creativity can be, and most times is from within. Yes, Boice, artificial creativity can be external.
The article does make some valid pointes regarding the importance of productivity and there may be implications for those who are not professional writers. Boice quotes the psychologist Jerome Bruner, "Writing is an experience that nourishes itself and that, with regular practice, establishes a sense of its interconnectedness of its ideas and manufactures its own problem solving mechanisms" (473). Practice and always expressing thoughts on the paper is an important ritual to all writers. As Writing Center tutors, it might be helpful to encourage tutees to free write about the topic they are working on. The free writing could easily generate ideas that tutors could interpret. Most of the time though, the tutees would be able to run with an idea, leading to strong topics and theses. Of course, this idea would only be a suggestion to the tutee, not a command.—Paul DesMarais, 11/9/04
Nelson, Jennie. “Reading Classrooms as Text: Exploring Student Writer’s Interpretive Practices.” College Composition and Communication. Volume 46 Number 3 (October 1995), 411-429. Available through JSTOR.
Nelson’s article examines four case studies of undergraduate students as they interpret and carry out varying writing assignments. Nelson explains through these case studies that while teachers may ask students to write within a specific academic discourse, the teachers cannot ignore the assumptions these students already have of what constitutes appropriate discourse. The four case studies of this article explore the “crossroads where students negotiate between old and new discourses,” an important concept that is often ignored by professors who focus solely on the academic discourse required for their particular class. The case studies also reveal the role of the students’ “classroom literacy” as they interpret writing assignments. Nelson explains that students tend to “read classrooms as text,” applying knowledge about how the classroom itself works as a guide for how to approach assignments for that course (quoted on 412). Through this understanding of how the classroom itself functions, students are able to determine “what really counts and what can be ignored in completing a particular assignment” (413).
The four case studies examine assignments across three academic fields: history, sociology, and English. Kate, in an undergraduate history course, was unsure how to approach her assignment which called for her “to combine the ‘facts’ of the reading with the less tangible tools of intuition, imagination, and inference” (414). She ultimately chose to write in a colloquial tone, which led the professor to believe that Kate “had serious problems with academic writing” (415). From this first experience Kate learned that the professor was most concerned with logical outlines, supporting evidence from the readings, and a tone which Kate explains should “sound like a textbook” (416). Even though Kate learned what her professor wanted, however, Nelson explains that she was “unwilling to take risks or expend much effort on subsequent assignments” (416).
For the sociology course, Art and Debra used the assignment guidelines handed out by the teaching assistants as a model and allowed these guidelines to dictate the organization and content of their papers. Both Art and Debra started the paper at the last minute, and altered or made up data to better mirror the guidelines for the assignment. Brian, another student in the course who did conduct extensive fieldwork, noted that he felt “constrained and frustrated by the assignment guidelines” (419). In reflecting on the guidelines after he turned in his paper, Brian said that he should have chosen a hypothesis that “fit the steps” given in the guidelines, and that he should have “doctored his data to fit this hypothesis” (419).
Helen, the fourth case study, was assigned to write a research paper for her freshman English literature class, but struggled with what the professor was asking for in a “research paper.” Helen spoke with students, asked her professor to explain again what he was looking for in the assignment, continually refining her understanding of what the “research paper” needed to be. As she struggled to figure out what the professor was looking for, she adopted new definitions for the academic discourse required for a research paper. Nelson notes that Helen’s professor was prepared for the students to be uncertain about his expectations, and encouraged them to “evaluate their competing notions about how research papers should be written” (425).
Nelson explains that each case study illustrates the need for teachers to understand the assumptions students bring with them to class about the acceptable academic discourse. If the teaching assistants in the sociology course, for example, were to understand the students as “insiders,” they likely would have not handed out an assignment sheet with such explicit guidelines. A lack of understanding of the students’ already established “interpretive practices” sometimes leads to techniques of teaching or to assignments which, although meant to further the students’ practice in the academic discourse, often “[encourage] students to approach assignments in counter-productive ways” (427). Nelson emphasizes the need to understand that “students are insiders with a legacy of school reading and writing experiences that shapes their interpretations of writing assignments” (427). While he ultimately calls for students to question this legacy, his research and findings also have important insights for teachers and tutors of writing.
Kate, Brian, and Helen all expressed uncertainty as they attempted to interpret their writing assignments. While the structure of Helen’s course encouraged her to find ways to answer her questions about the assignment, Brian and Kate were not given as much support during their writing process. Part of our responsibility as tutors is to provide this support. When a student comes to the writing center unsure of how he or she should interpret an assignment, it is not our place as tutors to feed to this student our own interpretation. This disregards the student’s previous assumptions of academic discourse to which Nelson refers. While we may have written papers for the professor before, we should not simply tell the student what he or she should do based on this general knowledge. We need to recognize the student’s own background and beliefs of the appropriate academic discourse, and from this place help to build a path to a more refined approach. The writing center should even be able to assist Art and Debra, although it is likely that these students will not even come to the center for help. Nonetheless, just as it is important to encourage students who are struggling with their interpretation of the assignment, so too is it important to recognize when students may unknowingly falsely interpret an assignment.---Phoebe A. Westwood 11/10/04
Hoff, Laurie, R. “From Omnipotent Teacher-in-Charge to Co-Conspirator in the Classroom: Developing Lifelong Readers and Writers.” The English Journal, Vol. 83, No. 6. (Oct., 1994), pp. 42-50.
This article shares one teacher’s personal experience as a reading and writing instructor. Laurie Hoff noticed that nearly all of the students were growing increasing irritable at the mere mention of writing. She realized that the students did not have any reason to react otherwise; they had never connected themselves to writing on a personal level. She began doing research trying to find a teaching method that would get her past this roadblock.
She attended a workshop one summer featuring Dan Kirby. Kirby was best known for advocating the workshop approach to teaching. Hoff left the conference with a head full of ideas and possibilities. The first thing she did was rearrange and redecorate her classroom, as she tried to make it more “user-friendly.” She went to discount and thrift stores to purchase bean bag chairs, carpets, pillows, and other soft furniture. She removed the “standard wooden school desks” because both she and the students “hated them.” She lined the walls with brightly painted bookshelves and purchased cheap novels to fill them. She designated one section of the room to supplies, where she kept paper, pens, pencils, etc. She used old milk crates and filing cabinets for the students’ work. Next she hung artwork and posters on the walls that were writing-related. In order to personalize the room, she created a bulletin board for the students’ photos and written works.
The biggest change about the room was the type of teaching that went on there. Instead of planning a lesson involving lectures and other orthodox strategies, Hoff began the course by asking the students what they expected of her and of themselves. At first they were hesitant to speak up, not use to having to think in class, but soon they jumped into the dialogue. Hoff explained that she wanted to establish a “mutual respect and trust.” After the students spoke, Hoff confessed her intentions for the class as well.
Based on the students’ and her expectations, she devised a lesson plan that consisted of five to ten minutes of initial lecture to introduce the day’s focus, and then workshop time. The students had certain due dates for assignments, but they could work on them in class or a home. Some peer editing as also required. Hoff found that her students were actually exceeding assignment requirements in a short time, and they were having fun as their work dramatically improved.
Hoff included several student statements in her article, and they all praised her new technique. The students felt free to write about whatever they wanted, and they chose to take responsibility for their freedom. They even had the responsibility for grading their own work. Hoff borrowed theories from an article by Richard Higgins titled “Reinventing Assessment: Commentary on Changing Times in School Testing.” She found that, with her guidance, students were more than able to assess their own work. “When looking over their portfolios,” she remembers, “more often then not, students would give themselves less credit than they deserved because they had developed such high expectations for themselves.” They even willingly assigned themselves homework!
I think this article is very inspiring to the writing teacher or tutor. It is important to meet writers halfway and let them feel positive about their work. Chances are, if they are coming to you for help, they may not have had an easy time writing in the first place. Even as a tutor, instructors should try to make writing more positive for students. The physical space is very important. When students entered Hoff’s classroom, their faces lit up with curiosity. So from the get-go, they came to the table with the right attitude. Physical environment may not be the most important aspect of learning, but it certainly makes a big difference. Reading and writing require more environmental luxuries than other tasks, such as listening to a lecture. By giving the students respect and academic freedom, along with a conducive environment, they flourished as writers.~~Kelly Gilpin, 11/17/04