Process theory of composition

Process theory of composition

The process theory of composition (hereafter referred to as "process") is a field of composition studies that focuses on writing as a process rather than a product. Based on Janet Emig's breakdown of the writing process, [Emig, Janet. The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders. Urbana: NCTE, 1968.] process is centered on the idea that students determine the content of the course by exploring the craft of writing using their own interests, language, techniques, voice, and freedom, and where students learn what people respond to and what they don'tMurray, Donald. "Teach Writing as a Process Not a Product." 1972. Reprinted in "Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader". Ed. Victor Villanueva. 2nd ed. Urbana: NCTE, 2003.] [Elbow, Peter. "Writing Without Teachers." Oxford: Oxford UP.] . Classroom activities often include peer work where students themselves are teaching, reviewing, brainstorming, and editing.

How process began

Historically, the ideas behind process were born out of increased college enrollment thanks to the GI Bill following WWII. Writing instructors began giving students more group work and found that, with guidance, students were able to identify and recognize areas that needed improvement in other students' papers, and that criticism also helped students recognize their own areas to strengthen [cite] . Composition scholars such as Janet Emig, Peter Elbow, and Donald Murray began considering how these methods could be used in the writing classroom. Emig, in her book, "The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders", broke down writing into distinct parts; these were later simplified into a basic three-step process by Murray: prewriting, writing, and rewriting (also called "revision").

Process also gained prominence in the collegiate world as a reaction against the formalism composition methods, sometimes called "current-traditional" methods, that encouraged adherence to established modes of writing, such as the five-paragraph essay.

Teaching methods and implications

Process can be taught using a variety of methods intended to make the classroom learner-centered. In other words, classroom discussion and activities center on students' interests and discovery. Some of the methods include:
Prewriting activities. These could include brainstorming and/or other freewriting activities, drawing conceptual maps, participating in an ethnographic study, research, and more.
Drafting. Class time can be spent writing papers, and students can ask instructors for ideas or help.
Revision. Instructors can designate class time for the revision of drafts and direct students to focus on rhetorical strategies. Revision ensures that students
Portfolio-based assessment. Students are given a deadline, such as the end of a semester, and a goal, such as demonstrating skills like rhetorical awareness, critical thinking, and source criticism and integration. The intervening time is spent drafting and revising papers. Composition instructors can serve more as guides, helping students explore their areas of interest, rather than as more traditional teachers who tell students what and how to write. From among the papers they work on in the semester, students choose the papers they consider to be their best and put them in a portfolio, which is graded by the instructor. Often students are not graded on their drafts during the semester, but rather on the work they produce at the end of it.
Reflection on the writing process.

Critiques of Process

Process theorists themselves have had to identify and work around certain constraints the process method brings with it; namely:

Constraints for students

If papers are not graded throughout the semester, students don't have any idea of the grade they are earning. Also, students might not be inclined to take control of the class content and decide what they want to explore; they may expect the instructor to provide material for them. Additionally, students may not improve their grammar and other writing conventions if content is emphasized over form.

Constraints for composition instructors

Composition classes are often overfilled, so instructors have to spend much of their time reading through drafts. Power can also be a struggle, for if student grades depend on a portfolio, then instructors have to find ways of encouraging and/or enforcing attendance.And if there are no rules as to what students may and may not write about, instructors have to be well-versed in a variety of discourses and ready to deal with conflict that may arise when two or more discourses meet (sometimes called a contact zone). Instructors must also find ways to encourage each student to explore and bring content to the course and must deal with diversity and a range of opinions on what should be done in the course.

Process rose to prominence in composition classrooms during the late 1960s and enjoyed its status as the gold standard method of teaching through the 1980s and into the 1990s. Many of its tenets are still used today; however, its popularity and methods have brought criticism from different composition theorists, such as post-process theorists, who charge that:
*Process theory is rules-oriented just like the current-traditional method it had sought to escape.Tobin, Lad. "Process Pedagogy." A Guide to Composition Pedagogies. Ed. Tate, et al. Oxford UP: 2001.]
*It doesn't teach basic skills and conventions (grammar, style, etc.).
*It doesn't acknowledge issues of race/class/gender because it was so focused on the writer's language and experience.
*It doesn't recognize the significance of context, again because it was focused on the writer's experience.

See also

Composition studies
*Critical pedagogy

External links

* [ CompPile]


Further reading

*Elbow, Peter. "Writing with Power", "Writing Without Teachers"
*Macrorie, Ken. "Telling Writing", "Writing to be Read"
*Emig, Janet. "The Web of Meaning"
*Macrorie, Ken. "Telling Writing", "Writing to be Read"

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