Revolution Lullabye

June 12, 2009

Flower and Hayes, A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing

Flower, Linda and John R. Hayes. “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing.” CCC 32:4 (Dec 1981) 365-387.

Flower and Hayes introduce their theory of the congntive processes involved in writing, hoping that with their articulation of this theory, they will lay the groundwork for further research and study in how writing happens. They culled the results from five years of protocal analysis research, in which writers were given a set prompt (like write an article for Seventeen magazine), to form their four-part theory. Their theory states: 1. the process of writing is actually an entire set of distinctive thinking processes that the writer organizes while writing 2. any of these processes can be embedded in another, organized hierarchly by the writer 3. the act of writing itself is a goal-directed activity, one of a network of goals that grows and emerges through writing, and 4. the goals are created by the writer and can be changed during the writing process. Flower and Hayes also label three parts of the act of writing: the task environment (rhetorical situation); the writer’s long-term memory (of audience, topic, and writing plan); and the writing processes (planning, translating, and reviewing grounded in self-reflective monitoring.) Flower and Hayes hope their model shows that writing is at the same time purposeful and open to change, direction, and finding meaning, and argue for their model (as opposed to linguistic, rhetorical, or educational models) as better positioning researchers to answer how writers make writing choices.

Quotable Quotes

answer this question: “What guides the decisions wrters make as they write?”

January 26, 2009

Rose, “Remedial Writing Courses”

Rose, Mike. “Remedial Writing Courses: A Critique and a Proposal.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 353-369.

Mike Rose points out five problems of the typical remedial writing course and suggests how basic writing courses can be changed to better serve the students in them. First, they are self-contained courses, not connected to larger writing contexts students will encounter at the university. Second, they rely on assignments based on simple, unmotivating topics that don’t produce academic prose. Third, they are not grounded in the writing process, rather focusing almost exclusively on error avoidance. Fourth, they do not expand their scope to include reading and thinking heuristics in conjunction with writing assignments. Finally, they stay in the realm of personal writing, never challenging students to write academic prose. Instead of this model of a remedial writing course, teachers need to give students real discourse patterns to write with and in, grounded in meaningful context. Those patterns should be taught as strategies, not structures, and be sequenced to build to more and more complex writing situations and assignments.

Quotable Quotes

We need to start “conceiving of composition as a highly complex thinking/learning/reading/writing skill that demands holistic, not neatly segmented and encapsulated, pedagogies” (362).

“The reflexive, exploratory possibilities of engaging in academic (vs. personal) topics are not exploited, and instruction in more complex patterns of discourse is delayed or soft-pedaled” (362).

“The nature of our programs is nearly synchronized with the narror reality created for them by our institutions” (369).

Notable Notes

reflexive writing tied to Emig

January 25, 2009

Reither, “Writing and Knowing”

Reither, James A. “Writing and Knowing: Toward Redefining the Writing Process.” The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 162-169.

In order to have students write from a discourse community, Reither argues, they must learn how to belong to that discourse community’s knowledge community. Good writing depends on learning how to acquire information through research and inquiry, and writing teachers need to make reading and thinking heuristics more central in their teaching and highlight the social nature of knowledge-making, acting as a co-investigator with their students.

Quotable Quotes

“We need to bring curiosity, the ability to conduct productive inquiry, and an obligation for substantive knowing into our model of the process of writing. To do that, we need to find ways to immerse writing students in academic knowledge/discourse communities so they can write from within those communities” (166).

“Academic writing, reading, and inquiry are inspearably linked” (166)

“Because we routinely put our students in arhetorical situations in which they can only write out of ignorance” (167).

Writing is not “a self-contained process that evolves essentially out of a relationship between writers and their emerging texts” (163).

“Writing is, in fact, one of those processes which, in its use, creates and constitutes its own contexts” (163).

Notable Notes

calls for the return of statis theory

knowledge community and discourse community

WAC can immerse students in a discipline and a discourse community, learn scholarship and literature

curiosity and productive inquiry

January 23, 2009

Ohmann, “Use Definite, Specific, Concrete Language”

Ohmann, Richard. “Use Definite, Specific, Concrete Language.” In The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 3rd ed. 310-318.

Ohmann’s essay argues against the writing handbook maxim (specifically Strunk & White) repeated in his title, claiming that the move to push students to replace abstract words and phrases with specific, often sensory details, limits their ability to tackle complex, abstract ideas, which require students to operate in generalities. Students may not easily or clearly write in abstractions, Ohmann writes, but steering them away from this difficult, intelligent work in the writing classroom deprives them of the chance to mature as analytical, abstract thinkers and writers. Ohmann uses examples from three popular current writing handbooks (all published in 1978), pointing out five common consequences of asking students to load their writing with specific adjectives and nouns: ahistoricism (emphasis on the present moment), empiricism (reliance on sensory information), fragmentation (ignorance of social and historical context or relationships), solipism (emphasis on the individual writer’s feelings and experiences), and denial of conflict (absence of questioning or things left up to the reader’s interpretation.)

Quotable Quotes

The maxim to use definite, specific, and concrete language will “push the student writer always to toward the langauge that most nearly reproduces the immediate experience and away from the language that might be used to understand it, transform it, and relate it to everything else” (317).

A student who takes the maxim to the extreme “will lose the thread of any analysis in a barrage of sensory impressions, irrelevant details, and personalized or random responses” (314).

“Abstract nouns refer to the world in a way quite different from concrete nouns” (315) They form chains of relationships in meaning

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