Hearing Ourselves Think: Cognitive Research in the College Writing Classroom

By Barbara M. Sitko; Ann M. Penrose | Go to book overview

verbal reports, retrospectives and concurrent protocols. We discuss the logistics of collecting process data and briefly overview recent uses and discussions of formal process methodologies.


The Advantage of the Research-Based Classroom

Writers vary a great deal in their understanding of reading and writing and in the amount of control they have over the many processes and interactions described above. The classroom research activities described in this volume, from process logs to conference transcripts to think-aloud protocols, are all designed to increase student awareness of their processes, to enable them to engage in reading and writing tasks more purposefully and more critically. We see classroom process research as a natural outgrowth of the now wellestablished multiple draft approach to writing instruction (cf. Elbow, 1973; Murray, 1979), which has long provided teachers with a means for helping students gain insights into the nature of composing. In the following process log excerpt we see a student reflecting on the generative potential of such an approach:

Chris: The next step was going back and making all those corrections on the computer. This was kind of difficult because I had to make an entirely new introduction. From the new introduction, a whole new thought process followed, so I had to go back through what I had done in the rough draft and incorporate my new material into my old material. This might sound kind of long and tedious but I actually think it helped me clarify some of the main points in my paper. Instead of going through something only once, which is what I have typically done in previous papers, I went through it twice, so I had a chance to say things twice, only in different ways.

We believe Chris's testimony about the generative nature of writing is far more persuasive than our lectures about the writing process could ever be. Classroom research activities give students the opportunity to discover and articulate such insights for themselves and for their classmates -- to recognize the problems and the potential of reading and writing. Process research in the classroom provides us, students and teachers alike, the opportunity to pause and "hear ourselves think," and in so doing, to help ourselves learn.


References

Applebee A. N. ( 1981). Writing in the secondary school (Research Rep. No. 21). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Applebee A. N. ( 1984). Contexts for learning to write. Studies of secondary school instruction. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Beal C. ( 1989). Children's communication skills: Implications for the development of writing strategies. In C. G. Miller and M. Pressley McCormick (Eds.), Cognitive strategy research: From basic research to educational applications (pp. 191-214). New York: SpringerVerlag.

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