Models for Teaching Writing
This chapter describes the major models of composition instruction--the product (or current-traditional) model, the process model, the social- theoretic (or social construction) model, and the writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) model. It also examines the pedagogical consequences of each. The product model developed out of the decline of oral composition and the increasing emphasis on belles-lettres during the 17th and 18th centuries. Most of the factors, or conventions, that govern writing in this model--such as audience, aims, and form--are related to two types of writing: journalism and literary criticism. Style is a major concern, and for this reason the pedagogy associated with the product model tends to focus on error correction and telling rather than showing. As a result, it involves little true writing instruction.
The process model emerged in the early 1970s as teachers and researchers began evaluating the factors that distinguish good writers from poor ones. As the name suggests, the emphasis is on writing as a process rather than on product. This model therefore aims to improve writing by helping students master a range of behaviors associated with effective composition. It restructures the current-traditional classroom into a writing workshop where students collaborate on drafts of assignments in small groups. When ideally applied, the process model emphasizes group activities geared toward discovering things to say about a topic (invention), drafting, pausing, sharing work in progress, revising, and editing. As students work on drafts of assignments, teachers circulate among the groups, offering advice and suggestions through formative rather than summative evaluation.
The social-theoretic model developed when teachers saw that process was limited in some important ways. For example, the process model focuses on writers and their psychological states. Although it addresses audience needs, it offers little insight into the relationship between writers and audience. Especially absent is any recognition of how