Writing as a Mode of Learning

As soon as I read the title of this reading I became very curious.  I thought I had finally found proof of what my parents thought was a very poor way of studying when I was in high school.  I used to read my Social Study, Biology, or Literature books, synthesize, analyze, create diagrams, and in the process I would managed to re-write 3 pages of material into a 6-9 page product.  My dad thought I was nuts!  and warned me of how hard college would be for me if I kept that nonsense up.  I feel like I finally have proof that I wasn’t too far off, and that my method of studying although EXTREMELY time consuming, did help me learn.  Of course now I realize that my dad was right, and that had I not learned other ways of studying, I would not be in a graduate program never mind in this class… can you imagine re-writing all these readings!?!?!?!?  (I am not whining).

Emig thus points out the multiple reasons as to why writing is definitely a mode of learning.  She uses a great deal of evidence from Vygotzky to Piaget, to Gardner, she utilizes rather well known theories not only into the physiological process of the brain when people write and learn but also in production of learning through writing.   Furthermore, Emig offers a nice list of differences between writing and talking. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all of them; for example, the thought that “… the spoken word has for the most part proved ephemeral and treated mundanely” (124), I believe may have the tendency to ignore the scares that words leave in the minds of individuals that are verbally abused, most of the differences mentioned are right on to what I have seen and experience.

I became particularly drawn by the idea that writing supports learning simply because of the fact that it reinforces its cycle through the use of the hand, the eyes, and the brain (125), which is a very complex and intertwine process.  It is so complex, that some of us may think too fast for our hands, and in fact, often have to go back and erase because we start to write a word that should go after some that we skipped.   The necessity to establish a connection between all these processes requires of a series of skills that are guide writing as well; for instance the ability to coordinate, subordinate, superordinate, establish causal relations, and possibly narrate and describe (126).

Finally, Maslow pyramid of needs proves once again true as Pirsig, cited by Emig, states that, “The quality which creates the world emerges as a relationship between the man and his experience.  He is a participant in the creation of all things” (126), and it is undeniable, that human beings create, support and nurture relationships that meet their own needs, from the need to survive to the need of belonging.  Therefore, writing as a creation, also facilitates the genesis of relations that meet our human needs. Thus writing may be inspired by the need of expression or the need of getting an A in a composition class.  I wonder how man composition instructions and students think of writing that way.

1 comment for “Writing as a Mode of Learning

  1. uzma
    May 6, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Writing: A Tool of Learning

    Flower and Hayes discussion of the cognitive process theory emphasizes the four key elements. I think all the four elements work together in the writing process. Writing process is a set of individual thinking, and it is a goal directed thinking process that is set by writers. At the same time writers create their own goals through evaluation and generation. But the process of writing is not hierarchical. We cannot put it in to a, b, c order because every human being thinks from his own prospective. Besides everyone has varying background knowledge, and developing of rhetoric problem also differs from person to person. I have found in many students that often they are driven away from the main goal, and sub goals intervene in the process. I found the solution in the loud outlining of the goals. It helps writers to stick to their main goals.
    I like the ‘translation’ used by the authors. Taking Gardner’s multiple intelligence in to consideration, putting words on the paper is not writing or composing, it is translating ideas. The intelligences like naturalistic, musical, logical are translated on papers in the writing process. Besides that in my opinion, it is really important to consolidate the knowledge. Writing is uniquely adapted to the task of fostering insight and developing new knowledge. In the act of writing, people regenerate or recreate their own goals in the light of what they learn, and what they already know. If we teach writers the art of consolidating their knowledge in the writing process, many of the problems can be addressed. The writers will be clearer, focused and goal directed in their writing.
    I like the idea of using writing as learning mode because it can be valuable in the learning process. Janet Emig idea that writing supports learning simply because of the fact that it reinforces its cycle through the use of the hand, the eyes, and the brain is true. I found the comparison between the learning strategies and attributes of writing process is actually interesting. Both are multi- representational processes, give self-provided feedbacks, establish synthetic and analytic conceptual groupings, and active and engaging process. These similar strategies of learning and writing can be used to teach study skills to undergraduates. It can help them to improve their academic writing, and to develop effective learning strategies. By integrating writing into the learning strategies, things can become easy for the learners. Much of their burden of learning academic writing as a separate course can be lessen down. If the burden is not lessen down, it is helpful for teachers as the learners will be aware of the learning strategies, and that will make the teaching of writing process easy.

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