Writing Theory and Practice 2015-09-28 15:55:00

Quanesha Burr

            “Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century” by Richard Fulkerson is an informative and challenging piece to read. In the article, Fulkerson explains “the variant contemporary approaches to teaching college writing” (658). He gives his readers a description of each techniques strengths and weaknesses, and he highlights four main areas he wants his audience to pay attention to. Fulkerson goal is to prove or show disconnection and issues which are more evident “early in the twenty-first century than it had appeared to be around 1990” (654). In my opinion, he does a great job trying to defend his assertions or prove his points. Readers become frustrated just by trying to understand and read his article. The audience is constantly trying to grasp all the information he provides which proves there is just too much going on in general. After reading this article, I would like to know more about what was occurring in 1990. From previous readings, extreme turmoil existed way before now.

Furthermore, I lacked knowledge about “critical/cultural studies [CCS], (2) expressivism, and (3) procedural rhetoric” (Fulkerson 655). This article helped me to really learn about all three and it also made me think about a conversation the class engaged in. While reading Fulkerson’s article, I started thinking about the question Dr. Zamora asked which was “How were you taught to write?” When I was reading this article, I really wished there was more of a variety or uniqueness to the way in which I was taught. I really liked “expressivist composition” (Fulkerson 666). I wish I was a student who experienced a teacher engaging in this technique.  What this technique engages in or practices can be compared to the way I write now.

 Moreover, one main point Fulkerson makes that stuck out to me was “the actual question of what is good writing is more problematic than ever” (681). This quotation goes back to a comment I made in class about students constantly having to adjust to their teachers. Effective writing to one teacher may not be effective writing to another.

Blog: Donald M. Murray’s "Teaching Writing as a Process Not Product"

Donald M. Murray’s “Teach Writing as a Process Not Product” is both powerful and insightful; it is also a philosophy of teaching that should be common sense but is not common practice. Murray begins his argument that teaching composition should focus on the process of writing and not the final product by mentioning a common flaw shared by teachers of English: “Our critical skills are honed by examining literature, which is finished writing”. It is uncommon that we study the process by which these authors created their works. Therefore, when we later become teachers, we tend to focus on our students’ final products as well.

Murray suggests that it is much more beneficial to teach unfished writing. That is, the three stages of the writing process: prewriting, writing, and rewriting. He then addresses the question, How should I motivate my students during the writing process? His response: Shut Up! Students do not learn to write by talking about it, Murray writes. They learn by doing it! It is important that the teacher remembers their role. You are not there to initiate or motivate; you, as the teacher, are simply there to read and receive, to listen and respond.

This practice of teaching process has many implications for the composition curriculum, and Murray describes ten. Included in these implications are ideas such as there are no absolutes and that all writing is experimental. All that the teacher is required to do is be respectful and respond to the student. Students should be allowed to find their own subjects and use their own language.  Murray suggests that “we are coaches, encouragers, developers, creators of environments in which our students can experience the writing process for themselves”.

A note on the article mentions that the paper was presented at a conference in 1972. Why then, I wonder, has the philosophy of teaching composition not adapted to teaching process. In my experience, I have only had very few teachers who have focused on process. I think that it is still too common a practice to focus on a final product and to expect students to mirror one’s own writing style. I wonder if this is because we, as teachers, are still learning to teach by examining the product, as Murray notes.

Blog #1 – Teach Writing as a Process Not Product by Donald M. Murray

Teach Writing as a Process Not Product

by Donald M. Murray

Murray talks about the importance of teaching writing as process and not as product. I feel like this is extremely important to teach. Looking back at my experience as a student I am able to see how often students are pushed to deliver product and submit it by deadlines created by the instructors. Along the way, I’ve also experienced the exception to this where I can say that I’ve had professors that have taught me writing as process and not product. Those professors are not the majority of them though but I am glad they were along the way. 

As Murray talked about what teachers do as they teach their students writing, he said “The product doesn’t improve, and so, blaming the students – who else? – we pass him along to the next teacher, who is trained, too often, the same way we were.” --- This statement makes me go back and reflect on the teachers I’ve had along the way. And I realized that the ones I have most respect for are the ones that taught me writing as process and not product. The ones that allowed me to draft as much as I needed to. The ones that allowed me to create my own deadlines while giving me enough direction in one on one conferences to complete my writing on time. The ones that talked to me about the writing process and helped me discover what my writing process was – one that changes.

As I read through Murray’s essay I found that I could relate to some of the implications that he listed as a writer; more to some than to others. 

Implication No. 4 – “The student should have the opportunity to write all the drafts necessary for him to discover what he has to say on this particular subject.” This implication made me think about my own writing. I have no clear idea of how many drafts I go through when I am writing. The amount of drafts I go through also depends on what I’m writing about and what kind of writing I’m doing. For me, it is all about the connection I have with the piece I am creating. 

Implication No. 9 – “The students are individuals who must explore the writing process in their own way, some fast, some slow...” While as students we aren’t always able to experience this, I feel like we tend to learn to adapt to our professors. Some may allow us to explore our writing process at our own pace while others will just hit us with deadlines and therefore we must just produce. This implication makes me think about the times when I’ve felt like I’ve had the luxury to explore in my own way. When this happens, I feel pleased that I am able to work within my personal writing process. But when I can’t do that, I feel like I have to quickly tell myself to push through that situation and just tell myself that I have to get that done no matter what. While I’m able to push myself and get my product done, I don’t always feel good about it. I end up handing in my paper on time and I even get a good grade on it. But, I often have that feeling in me telling me “you know you could’ve done something differently, you could’ve made your characters go somewhere different” - if it’s a creative piece I’m working on or - “you could’ve done more research” if is a research driven piece. In the end, I give my professor what I’m required, but as I writer I am not always pleased. Having experience this myself, I think that allowing students to explore their writing process can be strongly beneficial for them. 

Overall, I feel like this was an essay I could relate to at a personal level because I appreciate those professors that have taken the time to teach me while respecting me as a writer. I’m sure it has probably helped them, as teachers, as well. After all, Murray says that “we are as frustrated as our students” so teachers knowing that they’ve helped their students become better writers will feel they’ve done their job well.