2008 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., May 6, 2008
HUB Ballroom

Session Description



The Pros and Cons of the “Process Model” in Writing Classes

Michelle LaFrance and Steven J. Corbett - English

Despite thirty years of discussion over the nature of “process” in student writing, many composition programs and instructors have continued to reify the notion that “writing is a process” in the form of the regimented assignment sequence. This poster takes up the pros and cons of adhering to such formal structures in composition courses, drawing from scholars and researchers that have supported this approach in Composition and “Writing-in-the-Disciplines” courses (Elbow, Harris, Murray, and Rohman) and those that question the efficacy of this model (Tate, Gorrel, Heilker, and Kent). Writing Studies scholars who support the use of regimental assignment sequencing to reinforce the “process” of writing in their courses have argued that this heavy attention to writing as a “process” enables student writers to see that all writing can be made better with attention to the multiple stages of paper preparation, including: technes for invention, drafting, peer editing, instructor comments on initial drafts, and revision. These advocates have often developed courses that seek to produce three “final” papers within the quarter or semester, connect all writing produced within the quarter to the production of these final drafts, and require extensive engagement by instructors who comment on each piece of writing students produce.

Those who have asked us to re-think our attention to process have argued that heavy attention to process forces writing to be produced in unnatural (or overly linear) ways, may privilege middle-class and elite students, and does not sufficiently focus students on the importance of their final “product”—that is, the version of their work that is turned in or the sort of writing that non-academic communities will expect the student to produce. Instructors that design writing courses that do not rely on formal sequencing, have employed instead numerous opportunities for low-stakes “writing-to-learn” exercises, brief response papers on similar or successively complementary ideas (over requirements for extensive revision of the same draft), and varying degrees of peer editing and instructor comments. This poster will examine the benefits and drawbacks of both approaches to writing instruction, seeking to understand how each approach may enable and constrain critical thinking, learning in the disciplines, and students’ thinking about their own writing.

This poster directly relates to two of the key questions for the Fourth Annual Teaching and Learning Symposium: writing integration and connecting with diverse groups of learners in courses at the UW.

About the presenters: Michelle LaFrance is the current Research Assistant for the College of Arts and Sciences Writing Program (which offers workshops in writing-integrated course design to faculty across the curriculum,) was the Assistant Director of the Computer-Integrated Classrooms Program in the English Department, and has taught courses for the Expository and Interdisciplinary Writing Programs on the UW campus. Steven J. Corbett is the current Assistant Director of the English Department Writing Center and former Assistant Director of the Expository Writing Program, and has taught courses for the Expository and Interdisciplinary Writing Programs on the UW campus.



Index of Symposium Presenters