A commonplace in education is that most teachers teach the way they themselves were taught. Education classes are designed, in part, to provide an alternative based on research and theory, but they are not always successful in moving teachers away from methods based on their own experiences. In composition studies, several factors influence teaching, including philosophical perspectives on the relation between language and mind, the role of individuals in society, the goals of writing, and the nature of education. One consequence is that there are multiple approaches to writing instruction—some overlapping, some in conflict. Teachers often find it difficult to work their way through the resulting noise and therefore elect to hold to the approach that feels most comfortable—the one they experienced as students— regardless of whether it is effective or theoretically sound.
The several perspectives that influence writing instruction today yield different rhetorical approaches and teaching methods. Although none of these approaches might be called “ideal, ” there are clear and well-researched variations in their effectiveness. James Berlin provides a good starting point for examining some of the more widely used approaches. In 1982, he discussed four major pedagogical influences on contemporary rhetoric: classical rhetoric, current–traditional rhetoric, new rhetoric, and romantic rhetoric. Several other influences exist that Berlin did not consider, such as writing across the curriculum, and they are included in this chapter.
First, it is important to note that Berlin's classification raises some issues. For example, there are elements of classical rhetoric in each of