Tuesday, July 20, 2010

50 Years of Writing Research

Three of the world's leading scholars in the field of writing instruction and research (Peter Elbow, Charles Bazerman and George Hillocks) examine the state of knowledge in the field and its relevance to questions about teaching and learning writing at all levels of education.


  1. As a teacher, knowing that empirical research cannot represent all that we know about writing and the teaching of writing is an important realization. It is that cross pollination of research, practice, and reflection that has the power to inform our thinking and transform our teaching.

  2. My graduate school "How to Teach Writing" mentor LOVED Peter Elbow. I think I even counted how many times he mentioned his name one day in class (I believe it was 15). It was both interesting and shocking to see Elbow speak...he had a lot of great things to say, but I feel he is a much better writer than public speaker.

    The three main themes I took out of the video were concepts we had hit upon during SDAWP:

    (1) Rethink the idea of assessing student writing
    (2) Students need to identify themselves as writers
    (3) Use mentor texts to show students what we expect

  3. Although I have enormous respect and reverence for the work that Bazerman, Elbow, and Hillocks have done, I wonder where the subsequent generations of researchers, teachers, and professors fit in to the conversation. Specifically, I want to know how subsequent generations of those who teach, research, and otherwise examine composition and writing pedagogy have used the ideas and research of these three seminal figures to inform their own instructional practices and research projects. Book/essay titles and URL's would be most welcome!

    Oh, and I cannot wait to implement the findings from Hillocks research that formal/formulaic instruction in grammar does not work well. I already have a few ideas about what I can do instead of this focus on the form of grammar and punctuation, but I do want to ensure my colleagues and any administrators who may read this post that I will continue to stress grammar and punctuation, but I will adopt a "focus on content, not form" approach to doing so.

  4. I am right with you Jason with regard to rethinking how I incorporate the teaching of grammar in my classroom. I plan to conduct my own informal research next year, as Hillocks suggested. I am curious!

  5. I agree with you guys about the grammar thing- I am looking forward to going back to one of the articles (Grammar-comma.....something like that) that talked about using mentor texts for grammar instruction. I think that this is the one where the teacher used grammar for copy change and her students wrote the most beautiful sentences- I am going to use that exact lesson with my students.

    I wish I could stop having arguments in my head with my colleagues who are so attached to their grammar drills. Maybe I'll be brave enough to have the real conversations with them in September.