Writing and Psychology: Understanding Writing and Its Teaching from the Perspective of Composition Studies

Writing and Psychology: Understanding Writing and Its Teaching from the Perspective of Composition Studies

Writing and Psychology: Understanding Writing and Its Teaching from the Perspective of Composition Studies

Writing and Psychology: Understanding Writing and Its Teaching from the Perspective of Composition Studies

Synopsis

Although psychology is steeped in writing, as a discipline it has developed little explicit understanding of writing. This is the first book to examine writing (and the teaching of writing) in psychology from the standpoint of composition studies, the scholarly field that specializes in the study and teaching of writing. The book's purpose is to develop a different, richer, more explicit understanding of writing than psychology presently has. Three major aspects of writing are discussed: audience, genre, and style. After examining these, the author draws implications for the teaching of writing in psychology. The work does not aim to tell psychologists how to write better; rather, it suggests how they might think differently about writing.

Excerpt

When I began teaching psychology sixteen years ago, by an odd coincidence my first-year students did the same kinds of things I had done as an undergraduate: They listened to lectures, read a textbook, and took multiple-choice tests. in upper-year courses, my students wrote single-draft term papers, duly graded and returned. Again there was an uncanny resemblance to my own experience.

My teaching life probably would have gone on like this for some time, but in 1979 my university--a small, undergraduate, liberal arts institution--adopted the requirement that all first-year students take a writing course. What was unusual about Effective Writing was that it was staffed not by members of the English department but by faculty recruited from various disciplines. My teaching and research interests at the time were in cognitive psychology, language, and reading, and I volunteered to teach in the program during its third year.

The experience was . . . interesting. As I recall, there were eight or ten instructors, each with about thirty students. James Reither, the director of the program, explained that the basis of the course was to be writing "as a process," and to this end we used Linda Flower's (1981) recently published textbook, Problem-solving Strategies for Writing. We also had the students practice sentence combining, using exercises from The Writer's Options (Daiker,Kerek, &Morenberg, 1979). But the main event was a research paper that students wrote on a topic of their choice. Because we were committed to process, the students wrote at least two drafts. in . . .

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