Writing is a complicated social activity which takes many forms and which involves many processes. The rhetorical context for any given writing task determines what forms and processes may be most effective. Accordingly, the curriculum offers various approaches to working through assignments, and we encourage students to become aware of and to develop the strategies that work best for given situations and for given audiences. Students are also encouraged to see that the forms and processes which are effective for one situation may need to be modified for another. Consequently, writers need to learn flexibility and adaptability.
Students need time to work through the writing and thinking tasks that assignments require. Time to write means time to think about what they have read, to think about different approaches to what they will write about, to make false starts, and to begin tentatively on drafts. It also means time to consult with peers and the instructor to develop drafts in ways unimagined initially. Time allows students to write and revise, and to discover the sorts of responses that are useful. Time allows teachers to intervene in students’ writing processes, to offer techniques, suggestions, and feedback that can help shape formal papers. With this in mind, a class should be structured so that students have time to make false starts, to try new and different approaches, to receive immediate feedback on their efforts, and to revise before submitting work for evaluation.
Students need to make choices as they write and they must be involved in the assessment of their work. Writing involves choices at various stages in a writing process. As they work on their writing, writers offer their work to others with comments and questions about what has been completed thus far and with requests for specific sorts of feedback. Teachers need to help students learn to do this. Once they have had a chance to work on their writing and receive feedback, students must choose from their work, reflect on it, and then assemble it for graded evaluation.
Student writers must learn to reflect on their work. Writers make good decisions about their texts when they are aware of what they are trying to do and how well they are accomplishing their purposes. As a result, the organization of writing courses should include opportunities for students to pause, look back, and then look ahead; opportunities for reflection should be an important part of any writing course. The use of writer’s statements, reflection essays, revision activities, and peer response activities promote reflection, and help writers learn to understand their work. Successful writers set goals, and then take steps to meet those goals; the writing course provides a structure within which students can do that.
Language is a fundamental human activity. Writers come to understand themselves and their world through language. In our writing classes, we think, write, discuss, and form ideas; we work with language and through language in order to understand ourselves, each other, and the subjects we explore through writing. As students learn about academic expectations for language use, they better understand the full range of language uses in their lives. Our textbooks, assignments, and class discussions help illustrate formal expectations for language and format, while also introducing students to the richness of informal language, regional dialects, professional languages, and formal public dialects. Language rules are determined by context and audience, and our work with writers’ statements and analyses of rhetorical situations introduces students to these concepts.
Reading and writing are related activities, each of which is crucial for the other. Reading and writing involve similar activities and similar processes, and the more we understand how these processes work, the more we can control our efforts with both. As they work on reading and writing assignments, students need opportunities to understand how inquiry and curiosity are at the heart of good reading and writing experiences. An instructor can provide such opportunities by having students practice reading and writing in tandem. Experiencing reading and writing in tandem will help students to see that when they write from a basis of inquiry and curiosity, they become better readers; when they read as curious inquirers, they engage with the strategies that lead to improved writing.
The preceding assumptions were adapted from the IUPUI ENG-W131 Curriculum Guide