Hearing Ourselves Think: Cognitive Research in the College Writing Classroom

By Barbara M. Sitko; Ann M. Penrose | Go to book overview
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9
Exploring Feedback: Writers Meet Readers

BARBARA M. SITKO

When writers receive feedback about a text, they are often faced with a series of decisions. The primary decision of whether or not to make changes to their work embeds a cluster of other choices, and if we could listen in on the thought processes of these writers, we would see that they consider more alternatives than they might be aware of. One important alternative concerns how to imagine other ways of seeing their text. In order to imagine ways in which readers might have become confused or lost a point, for example, writers must reproduce a mental version of their texts as seen by the eyes and minds of their readers. Such flexibility in creating alternative representations of words, sentences, and organization is not easy for most writers. Yet this is only the first step. Once writers are able to represent the text from the point of view of their readers, a second cluster of decisions focuses on their strategies for fixing the text ( Flower, Hayes, Carey, Stratman, & Schriver, 1986), and a third set of options concerns how they test any changes they decide to make. Thus feedback motivates writers to enter into complex decision making, renegotiating the multiple demands of the writing process ( Flower & Hayes, 1981) and reconsidering their original plan ( Flower, Schriver, Carey, Haas, & Hayes, in press) in ways they might not have envisioned.

Revising after feedback is somewhat different from revising by oneself ( Schriver, this volume) or becoming adept at self-editing ( Glover, Ronning, & Bruning, 1990). Working by themselves, writers are continually testing their text against their own internal reader. But by showing their work to others in

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