Process Pedagogy

“Process Pedagogy” Lad Tobin

Tobin begins his essay with a personal narrative describing his conversion to process pedagogy, to which he credits Elbow, Murray, Macrorie, Bertoff, Coles, and Emig. Tobin briefly describes process pedagogy as a paradigm shift that occurred between 1966 (Dartmouth) and 1975, which was rife with controversy for its “antiestablishment, antiauthoritarian, [and] anti-inauthenticity” characteristics (4). Tobin explains that early process pedagogy was filled with ideas that students are writers with something to say and will express these original thoughts only if we give them freedom and positive feedback (5). Other key assumptions of process pedagogy are writing workshops need to be privileged in class, focus on process not product, publishing makes writing authentic, and praise is necessary for encouragment. As the process movement expanded, figures such as Graves, Atwill, Calkins, Britton and Romano advocated for process pedagogy at K-12 levels. Process pedagogy became known as he whole language movement at the elementary level. Some critics claim, Tobin explains, that movement wasn’t all that great; writing has always been recognized as process (Faigley) and process pedagogy never displaced current traditional mode (Crowley) (7). Nonetheless, movement gained forces in 1970s and 80s as hundreds of scholars began to publish studies of writers’ composing processes, numerous case studies were conducted and published (Shaughnessy, Perl, Bartholomae). Murray, Elbow, Macrorie, and Graves became known as expressivists for their emphasis on freewriting, voice, personal narrative, and writing as discovery (9).
According to Berlin, the “New Rhetoricians” such as Berlin, Berthoff, Lunsford, and Flower displaced expressivist pedagogy with a social constructivist theory of writing, but Tobin thinks that actual classroom practices lack evidence to justify a real displacement. In an attempt to defend process pedagogy, Tobin acknowledges powerful critiques that are made against expressivist pedagogy and refutes them:
1. Process pedagogy has become so regimented that it has turned into the kind of rules-driven product that it originally critiqued. Tobin says regimentation has less to do with process approach and more to do with teachers.
2. Process pedagogies are irresponsible because they fail to teach basic and necessary skills and conventions. Tobin says not true; whole language movement certainly never abandoned skills and conventions; Newkirk proved how rhetorical process approach was; and process pedagogy causes shift in attitudes and practices such as revision, seeking feedback, invention strategies, which students enact long after they leave the classroom.
3. Process pedagogy is outmoded because it posits a view of “the writer” that fails to take into account differences of race, gender, and class. Tobin says Murray and others acknowledged that all writers write differently even if they didn’t explicitly acknowledge differences in gender, class, and race.
4. By focusing on the individual writer, process pedagogy fails to recognize the role and significance of context.


Says most post-process critiques came from those who tired to move composition toward cultural studies, poststructuralism, and those advocating replacement of Freshman English with elective in Rhetoric, as well as those who blamed expressivism for being ahistorical and arhetorical.

Tobin says main question to be asked and addressed is: should a writing course being organized around production or consumption?

Production oriented class: devote class time to responding to students work in progress; discussion about process, and writing activities.

Consumption oriented class: assign more reading, devote class to discussions about readings, interpretations, and analysis of professional writing; teaching rhetorical conventions; and writing assignments designed to support the students as readers (16).

He says don’t we all blend????? Including use of current traditional approach????

“Expressive Pedagogy: Practice/Theory, Theory/Practice” –Christopher Burnham

Burnham begins by describing characteristics of expressivism:
• Writer in center
• Theory and practice focused on imaginative, psychological, spiritual, and social development of student writer
• Employs freewriting, journal keeping, reflective writing, small group collaborative work
• Emphasis on voice and ethos.

Burnham then descrives hooks’ notion of expressivism in her call for student self-actualization which is based on Thomas Merton’s notion that “the university is, then, first of all to help the student discover himself: to recognize himself, and to identify who it is tht chooses” (20). Hooks calls for teachers to accept responsibility to be passionate and to develop socially and morally aware citizens whose actions begin in mutual respect (20).

Burnham says even though critics critique expressivism for being “arhetorical, atheoretical, anti-intellectual and elitist, or conversely standardless, antitraditional, and relativistic,” he advocates for expressivism and spends rest of article describing those who have most influenced his own ideas about expressivist issues (20-21).

Burnhams notes that expressivism’s seminal statements on value and methodology of expressivism occur in “anti-textbooks” or alternative textbooks. He cites books by Murray, Macrorie, and Elbow and credits Murray for responding to student work in meaningful ways, Macrorie for journal and reflective writing, and Elbow for student centered pedagogy, freewriting, a rhetorical approach, and emphasizing student voices, which empower students with agency.
Burnham does admit most early expressivist work was atheoretical, but he credits Britton and Kinneavy for theorizing expressivist pedagogy.

Murray drew on Brittons notion of writing as process of discovering meaning through shifting back and forth between participant and spectator roles and writing involves interaction between subject and self (24). As spectators, we relive history and thus recreate reality; as participant, we use language to shape reality (26). Britton introduces expressivist role, which is mediation of other two roles, which all exist at polar ends of continuum. In participant role, writer utilizes transactional writing: informative, regulative, and persuasive. In spectator, writer utilized poetic writing. In expressivist role, expressive writers shuttle back and forth between two other roles and shape language that is rhetorically situated. Expressive language is language of learning and link between private and personal and public and social. Elbow and Murray draw on this work. Burhnam argues: “Britton’s taxonomy creates common space that contains the seeming oppositions among expressive, cognitive, and social approaches to rhetoric, providing a coherent model for understanding writing as the result of ineractions among individually and culturally defined forces” (27).

Murray says interaction between teacher and student, writer and reader, and process and product—all accomplished through language (24). Therefore, expressivist pedagogy is “systematic and purposeful, based on a theory of relations between language, meaning making, and self-development” (24-25). Elbow and Kinneavy says in expressive discourse “self moves from private meaning to shared meaning that results ultimately in some action” (25). Kinneavy says expressive discourse establishes group identity and therefore, can be ideologically empowering (25).

Social expressivism: “expressive concern with social context and ideology” –informed by feminism and critical pedagogy.

Feminist Sherrie Gradin—believes individuals can use personal awareness to act agains oppressive material and psychological conditions.

Elbow theorizes own work by going back to Aristotle and Plato and speaking of resonant voice and ethos.

Others (Thomas O’Donnell) point to expressivism’s capability of facilitating “investigations of political issues in unique, sometimes necessary ways” which is based in notion that all social, political, and cultural concerns orginate in personal experience and document student’s own language (31).

Fisherman and McCarthy offer approach that applies “expressive values to integrate the individual with the social and to serve the ultimate educational goal of fostering individual moral and ethical development to influence civic and cultural life” (32).

Best line by Freisinger: Resistance only becomes possible through expressivism. Problems in disciplinary boundaries. “Post modern theory depends on resistence to alter the determine system it describes and decries, and expressivism depends on a social constructive view to discover and activate the self it theorizes” (33).

Ends with hook’s notion of engaged pedagogy—expressivist in nature—which focuses on student well being in holistic nature.

“The Winds of Change: Thomas Kuhn and the Revolution in the Teaching of Writing”
Maxine Hairston

Hairston describes process pedagogy as a paradigm shift. She claims old paradigm:
• Emphasized product rather than process
• Was mode driven
• Privileged expository writing only
• Ignored rhetorical situation
• Neglected invention stage
• Privileged style and 5 paragraph form
• Taught that writing was linear process and thought that teaching editing was teaching writing.

Also says, in old paradigm, writing taught by unprofessional writing teachers who did not read or publish in our field, attend CCCCs conferences and others, and participate in professional development workshops.

She says paradigm shift occurred in mid-1950s with Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures, which professed his theory on transformational grammar, Francis Christenson’s essays on generative rhetoric of sentence and paragraph. A major event in shift was Dartmouth in 1966. Hairston also says teaching conditions created a crisis for change: open admissions policies, return of veteran students, national decline of conventional verbal skills, and larger number of college students who just graduated from high school (82). Hairston describes ad hoc attempts to face crisis: writing labs, individualized instruction, early expressivist writing experiments, sentence combining.

Transitional Period

Mina Shaughnessy’s Error and Expectations—says “we cannot teach students to write by looking only at what they have written. We must understand how that product came into being and why it assumed the form that it did” (84). We must examine intangible process.

Emig important too for her research. Murray too in ’68 called for abandoning writing rules. In 1970s, Corbett and Weaver said writing can’t be separated from context, audience, and intention which should affect every stage of writing. National Writing Project which emphasized writing teachers must be writers was influential too.
The Emerging Paradigm

Specialists arose. Perl, Flower and Hayes conducted cognitivist research studies helped us discover “how people’s minds work as they write, to chart rhythm of their writing, find out wht constraints they are aware of as they write, and to see what physical behaviors are involved in writing and how they vary among different groups of writers” (85).

Found out some truths:

Writing is act of discovery. Writers develop ideas as they write.Writing is recursive. Writing topics are developed intuitively.

Also found out differences between skilled and unskilled writers:

Time preparing to write, number of drafts, concern for audience, number of changes made and when those changes are made, frequency and length of pauses during writing, ways pauses are used, amount of time rereading and reformulating, and kind of constraints (86).

New Paradigm principal features:

Hairston argued that a new paradigm for teaching writing was, in fact, emerging, composed of twelve principle features:
1. It focuses on the writing process; instructors intervene in students’ writing during the process.
2. It teaches strategies for invention and discovery; instructors help students to generate content and discover purpose.
3. It is rhetorically based; audience, purpose, and occasion figure prominently in the assignment of writing tasks.
4. Instructors evaluate the written product by how well it fulfills the writer’s intention and meets the audience’s needs.
5. It views writing as a recursive rather than a linear press; prewriting, writing, and revision are activities that overlap and intertwine.
6. It is holistic, viewing writing as an activity that involves the intuitive and nonrational as well as the rational faculties.
7. It emphasizes that writing is a way of learning and developing as well as a communication skill.
8. It includes a variety of writing modes, expressive as well as expository.
9. It is informed by other disciplines, especially cognitive psychology and linguistics.
10. It views writing as a disciplined creative activity that can be analyzed and described; its practitioners believe that writing can be taught.
11. It is based on linguistic research and research into the composing process.
12. It stresses the principle that writing teachers should be people who write. (124)

Hairston says steps are already underway to speed up paradigm shift: funding to train comp directors; increase of grad. Programs in rhetoric; Lit. TAs are being trained to teach comp by rhetoric and composition specialists; increase in process-based research texts; composition textbooks are changing. Nonetheless, Hairston says we should preserve best of old paradigm: concern for style and high standard for written product, providing excellents models for writing.


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