Hearing Ourselves Think: Cognitive Research in the College Writing Classroom

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

4
Writing and Learning: Exploring the Consequences of Task Interpretation

ANN M. PENROSE

Teachers across disciplines and grade levels have discovered that writing can serve many purposes in the classroom. Writing-across-the-curriculum theorists suggest a variety of write-to-learn activities, from free writing in journals to summarizing class lectures to working with papers through multiple drafts. In the composition literature, support for these activities has come largely from intuitive arguments about the value of writing as a way to learn. Emig, for example, in her seminal essay "Writing as a Mode of Learning" ( 1977), argued that one way writing helps us learn is by forcing us to engage actively with our material. Shaughnessy ( 1977) suggested that this activity embeds the material more "deeply" in memory. Others have described writing as a "connective" activity, arguing that the process of writing forces us to discover and articulate relationships between what might otherwise be discrete bits of knowledge (e.g., Murray, 1980; Britton, 1981) and encourages us to go beyond the text, to engage in imaginative and speculative thinking (cf. Fulwiler, 1982). From our own experiences as writers, and from observing our students' ideas develop as they write, we have come to believe that writing encourages us to be precise, to make connections, to speculate, to examine our subject from multiple perspectives. We have only recently begun to accumulate research evidence that can help us verify or refine these intuitions.

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