Like an artist painting a picture, the writer creates a journey into the specific meaning of the image that they are producing, perhaps for the sake of him or herself, perhaps for the reader, maybe to influence or educate, or simply to entertain. Whatever the purpose, well-composed work, whether subtly or flagrantly, distinguishes itself as an artistic form seeking to display the interpretive features of its existence. In light of all this, I enjoy writing.
I enjoy the prescriptive nature of altering the formative structure of a text in a possibly ostentatious manner. I enjoy combining meanings to create a fluid sense of theme, all the while adhering to a central underlying message to convey to the audience. I enjoy providing insight into myself so that my personality or social history is a part of every single word. I enjoy the quiet enthusiasm that is expressed from adjectives properly placed in correct proportion so as to align to the magical flow that I wish to invoke, as if supernaturally.
Utilising the congenial above-mentioned elements, the purpose of the essay you are about to read is to analyse critically, three paradigms of writing and their impact on the evolution of novice writers into expert writers. This will be the central underlying theme of the paper and one in which I challenge the reader to consider upon reflection of the three views on writing which are, as Faigley (1986) proposed, the expressive, the cognitive and the social.
The structure of this theme will be presented as a main body of work centred around the cognitive view with the alternate paradigms ‘bolted on’ in unison to highlight the balance between all three perspectives that I believe is detrimental to the creation of expert writers. Throughout the text, Faigley will be fundamental toward the analysis and his work ‘The Competing Theories of Process: A Critique and a Proposal (1986)’ will be drawn upon from time to time.
With that, the main body of the piece is arranged as firstly, Janet Emig’s acclaimed research design will be examined along with added commentary from Faigley and Humes. Secondly, we summarize the theoretical perspective of Flower ; Hayes (1981) ‘cognitive model of the composing process’ followed by a critique from Giroux. Next, Giroux again, weighs in with his views on the expressive standpoint as he counters the work of Murray and Elbow. After, government initiatives on the literacy elements of reading and writing are reviewed followed by debate between Graves ‘process approach’ and the ‘genre theorists’.
Additionally, throughout the text, we will look at the National Curriculum and more specifically, the National Literacy Strategy and their roles within the framework of the principal theme, keeping to the constraints of their political and historical contexts. Finally, running parallel to the main theme, the essence of the piece will build upon an informed stance to critique current government initiatives on writing within the education of children, perhaps suggesting that government policies are falling behind to modern thought on writing.
As a conclusion, I wish to draw on some of the knowledge and understanding I have gained as a result of this research as well as my own literacy teaching experience in regards to pedagogical procedures for the development of children’s writing ability. I want to say how I decided what I wanted to say… The cognitive view… Integrity, spontaneity and originality are what I want to say… The expressive view… My environment influences me to say what I want to say… The social view…
Following on from the abstract and personable characteristics of the expressive viewpoint which we will come to momentarily, a cognitive opinion formed and one in which the process of composition was analysed. Janet Emig’s (1971) seminal research helped to distance cognitivism from the considered-to-be outdated linear models found within expressivism: ‘… linear models are inaccurate because they actually describe the growth of the written product, not the “inner process of the person producing the product” (Flower & Hayes, 1981, p. 69)’. Emig conducted in-depth study of eight seniors identified as efficient writers based at an American high school by observing out-loud and on-paper composing processes as well as performing one to one interviews. It was noted by Emig that students completed most of their planning after they translated to paper. Further to this, Emig found that the students devoted more time to planning and reformulation of self-sponsored work than teacher-assigned work.
As a progressive step forward to the development of writing as a skill, ‘Emig concluded that students should be allowed to do more self-sponsored writing in order to encourage good writing behaviour, such as planning and revising (Humes, 1983, p. 6). ‘ In support, Faigley comments that ‘Emig provided not only a new methodology but an agenda for subsequent research, raising issues such as pausing during composing, the role of rereading in revision, and the paucity of substantial revision in student writing (1986, p. 532)’.
The vital detail that Emig alluded to in her conclusion was that of the importance of ‘self-sponsored writing’ suggesting that children and young people independently undertake more planning and revision when speaking from their own social worlds which in turn will lead to an increased writing ability. Should this idea be promoted throughout the objectives of the National Literacy Strategy and would it not effectively work alongside the process of ‘reader response’ towards a greater understanding of an individualistic, empowering social standpoint?
As Martin explains, ‘Reader response is about reflection – thinking about what has been read… the way in which the reader responded to it (the text)’. From this, the question raised is ‘Why did the text provoke the particular response? (2005, p. 38). ‘ However, the concept is granted limited status in the National Literacy Strategy as Martin unveils: ‘… there is no explicit examination of the meaning of response or of ways of working in which children learn about texts through their responses to them (p. 37). ‘
In their article ‘A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing (1981)’, Flower and Hayes set about their theoretical construction based on the question: ‘What guides the decisions writers make as they write? ‘ In order to comprehend the rhetorical differences between good and poor writers, Flower and Hayes look towards the writing process itself and rest the ‘cognitive process theory’ upon a strong emphasis of goal-orientated writing method. The approach to writing, they proclaim, is hierarchical in nature consisting of goal-directed thinking and organizational processes that rotate and change before and during the act of writing (p. 66). The authors, also distancing themselves from the linear sequence, further maintain ‘that the major units of analysis are elementary mental processes (p. 367)’ and that these cognitive operations will illustrate and hence, make available to comparison, the ‘composing strategies of good and poor writers (p. 368)’.
Another important feature of the model is the distinguishing of internal and external components that affect the mental processes – ‘task environment’ and ‘the writer’s long term memory (p. 70)’ However, it could be suggested that this is where the model lacks depth and fails to take into account the social aspects of the writer and to an extent, the reader. Faigley lends support to this notion by drawing on the discourse presented by Giroux in his work ‘Theory and Resistance in Education (1983)’. Faigley mentions that ‘Writing for Giroux, like other acts of literacy, is not universal but social in nature and cannot be removed from culture. He would fault the cognitive view for collapsing cultural issues…
As a consequence, pedagogies assuming a cognitive view tend to overlook differences in language use among students of different social classes, genders and ethnic backgrounds (1986, p. 534)’. In reference to this subject, what then of the National Literacy Strategy? Merely looking over the framework definitions of the strategy indicates that the NLS originates from a cognitive view (DfES, 2001, p. 50) and Stannard & Huxford hold a similar opinion: ‘The National Literacy Strategy is founded on the widely accepted assumption that human cognition and learning are active.
In the context of primary education, the notion of active learning is rooted in the work of Piager, whose influence was formative in shaping ideas about the nature of learning and teaching. The theory was attractive to teachers because of its constructivist emphasis on the active role of the learner. However, it failed to recognize the enormous impact of social and cultural values in driving and shaping individual development (2007, p. 24).
Advocates of the expressive movement tended to overlook the thought process approach to writing and concentrated more on the development of ‘self’. This concept translates to Murray’s ‘collection’ of information (1968) and Elbow’s ‘free writing’ (1973) and was viewed as a ‘romantic’ era of scribe that drew attention to the integrity, spontaneity and originality of voice. While the position of this essay maintains that these are respectable qualities to enhance in one’s own writing, a complete and thorough paradigm it is not.
Firstly, Murray promotes a gathering of knowledge, which idealistically equals to writing ability being based on ‘osmosis’ where students who read enough acclaimed literature will ‘learn how to write as a result of a process of assimilation (Giroux, 1978, p. 293). ‘ Secondly, pertaining to Elbow’s literacy tool, such an abstraction could be considered pessimistic as in what Giroux refers to as the ‘Calvinist notion (p. 294)’ that some people possess the gift of writing and others do not. Giroux further goes on to say that according to this position, because it is biologically based, ignores the requirement for a pedagogy of writing (p. 94). ‘ In terms of child-centred education, writing as cognition was an imperative step forward for growth but the facets of the expressive view are important ingredients to balance with the modern notions of good written work.
Interestingly, government initiatives through the implementation of the National Curriculum and the National Literacy Strategy in contrast to the ‘reader response’ issue as discussed above, have applied an effective model of reading for KS1 and KS2 children in school that employs a balanced approach for teachers to practise (Wyse & Jones, 2001, p. 5). NLS reading demands are even socialistic in nature: ‘Translations take readers further into the world context, as well as fulfilling NLS requirements that children should read literature from other cultures… (for example) Reading literature across cultures enables British children to appreciate the repercussions of the war in the lives of children across the world (Lathey, 2005, p. 59). ‘
Nevertheless, reading improvements withstanding, the gaps between these and attainments reached in writing have widened, especially between boys and girls (Ofsted, 1999, p. ) as well as a strong relationship linking social disadvantage and low writing ability (Stannard & Huxford, 2007, p. 193). Stannard and Huxford further denounce government initiatives on writing with the following inference: ‘it is hard to understand why a Secretary of State should choose to invest a protracted enquiry into the teaching of early reading and exclude writing from its terms of reference (p. 193). ‘ The focus by government departments on the importance of reading above writing is a curious subject: ‘But ten years on, this perception of literacy as reading is out of date.
When employers and those in higher education criticize the literacy standards of school leavers, it is not reading but writing competence that concerns them. Writing is the fundamental skill for progress through higher education and into success and promotion in the workplace (p. 193). ‘ Stannard and Huxford certainly embark on the future challenges of writing in comparison to the government investment in reading: ‘Many good readers are poor communicators, and worse writers. It is one thing to appreciate a narrative, grasp an explanation or follow an argument but a very different challenge to compose any of these (p. 94). ‘ One of the more influential models on the teaching of writing in the UK originates from Donald Graves and became known as the ‘process approach’ (Wyse & Jones, 2001, p. 124). Allowing children to take more responsibility for their own writing so as to view themselves as authors is the main reasoning behind this school of thought (Bunting, 2003, p. 7).
Being that the National Curriculum ‘states that at key stage 2 children should be taught to choose the form and content of their writing to suit their purpose (Grainger, 2005, p. 5)’, it is evident that the ‘process approach’ holds sway in today’s school system. Graves himself certainly endorses the role of ‘options’ for children to lead to ‘opportunities for discovery’ much like professional writers (1991, p. 52). This type of liberated path to writing ability has its criticisms in the shape of a group of academics known as the ‘genre theorists’. Drawing upon social means of conduct, they question the use of freedom in the classroom and call for a more structured means of pedagogy (Wyse ; Jones, 2001, p. 127).
Speaking on an example of Graves’ work shown through a dialogue between teacher and pupil, Martin et al (1987, p. 77) scrutinize the report by highlighting the fact that a large population of low-socioeconomic status Aboriginal children hailing from the Australian Northern Territory, over the course of a year, had only written a total of four topics. They claim that the example ‘casts doubts on the effectiveness of the process approach claiming that the range of forms that children choose is limited (p. 127)’ and will not help children to ‘structure a narrative’.
Moreover, they put forth the assumption that only ‘bright middle class children’ will benefit from this kind of ‘indirect guidance (p. 127)’ emphasizing an overall awareness of social factors. In order to properly deliver effective pedagogical practices when it comes to writing, we must ascertain a clear knowledge and understanding of how children develop their own mental processes for the purpose of writing. I concur with Bunting who stresses an ’emergent writing approach’ that adheres to creativity and invention by allowing children to know a great deal about writing from an early age (2003, p. 0). Younger children tend to write from a wholly self-centred perspective, with minimal awareness of audience, and perhaps due to NLS requirements, distracted from an expressive means of communication due to a stressed value on good grammatical recognition. On a side note, I tend to find that to practice grammar and instil a sense of external perusal, children should write about a subject that comes easy to them such as composing letters to a selected audience for the purpose of accumulating something that they want as an individual.
Whether to entertain, convince or narrate, writing should be viewed by children, exponentially as they grow, as a pleasant and gainful experience (Krest, 1990, p. 18) which must be provoked by teacher and educational framework alike. In fact, educators of all levels need to rethink their positions as instructors and approach the teaching of writing more philosophically. To school learners, we should be stressing the importance of writing for ourselves and not just for the sake of educational prompts in order to develop a sense of ownership in regards to the role of author.