A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing

Finally!!!!  An essay that truly resounds and makes sense to me.  Linda Flower and John Hayes’s essay “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing” coherently and logically describes the methods in which the process of writing takes place.  Through the use of a model that places the task environment, the writer’s long term memory, and the writing process (composed of interchangeable planning, translating, and reviewing modes overseen by a monitor) the entire writing process is laid out.  They further expound on the model by presenting the following four premises that drive the model:

“1. The process of writing is best understood as a set of distinctive thinking processes which orchestrate or organize during the act of composing. 2. These processes have a hierarchical, highly embedded organization in which any given process can be embedded within any other. 3. The act of composing itself is a goal-directed thinking process, guided by the writer’s own growing network of goals. 4. Writers create their own goals in two key ways: by generating both high-level goals and supporting sub-goals which embody the writer’s developing sense of purpose, and then, at times, by changing major goals or even establishing entirely new ones based upon what has been learned in the act of writing.”

Ah!  Just reading that quote over again makes me happy! How straight forward and logical it is.  Writing is based off of goal oriented actions that have a heriarchical order.  Yes!  And these goals are constantly being revised and reformed during the process of writing, just as planning, translating, and reviewing are constantly in action during the writing process.  This article made perfect sense to me and I truly found it useful because it laid out the process of writing in a coherent manner that I can take and apply to my future classrooms for composition.  I wish this had been one of the first works we read instead of the last for it seems to me that it is one of the most informative and applicable. Who knew composition could be so straight forward?

1 comment for “A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing

  1. mcalou
    April 30, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I agree! But, I think, at least for me, that reading the ancient orators and learning what rhetoric is makes the reading of the Flower/Hayes article possible for me. The theory behind the invention and discovery enlightened my pedagogy.

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