Is This Thing On?
My previous blog post makes a very brief pit stop at the concept of reflection. In the section “When Will My Reflection Show,” I make the point of stating that students and teachers should be reflecting on comments that are made and how to they help make the writing better because overall, useful comments make students better writers (and arguably makes dedicated teachers better at providing useful comments). The primary focus of everything being mentioned is the continuous enhancement of the narrative voice for the students, and in some cases, the teacher.
Okay, “Mulan” How Does This Work?
When we analyze and understand why a comment is made and why we make certain changes, we are learn how to reformat our writing to be focused more directly on the reader and not ourselves. For instance, it’s stated in “Writing to Learn” that “students’ thought and understanding can grow and clarify through the process of writing.” As we think and formulate coherent ideas, we can then textually articulate these thoughts. And when we focus on bringing this to the classroom, we can clearly articulate ideas, connections, experiences, and perspectives related to classroom materials (like assigned readings and beyond). Therefore, the writing skills that we already have, as understood in Naming What We Know, is brought into these classrooms and then fine-tuned to fit specific assignment needs.
The Concept of Working Memory
An interesting concept that my counterparts and I read about is the concept of working memory, which deals with “structural limitations” on writers’ brains (Naming What We Know). It is “where fleeting and mutable bits of information, images, to-do lists, or immediate plans are held, juggled, and discarded,” which seems to be a fancy way of saying that our short term memory just erases what it thinks we no longer need to make room for something else. (This might also explain why there’s always a neglected cup of coffee beside us). To push this idea even further, as writers, no matter what level we are listed as or consider ourselves as, we are always interacting with the world around us as we write. We are collectively thinking, writing, analyzing, and notating what’s happening around us and on our screens (or papers) when we write. Therefore, with so much occurring around us, it makes sense why we forget that point or that word we wanted to insert in that sentence.
Here’s some more information on working memory!
Writing and Thinking = Multi-tasking
When entering unknown waters, (no not like the beaches at resorts that improve our mental health, the waters of education) we, as students, must actively think because we are working with “unfamiliar contexts or with forms with which they are unfamiliar” as Howard Tinberg explains in his concept “Metacognition is not Cognition.” We have to actively make connections to the material, which also makes us think of experiences we already have stored in our long term memory to better grasp and understand what’s going on in these unknown waters. Further, it’s imperative that we learn new ways to enter these new spaces because the ways we may have written before will not always work in these space which results in “mismatch [connections] between what they produce and the expectations or norms of their new community” (Chris M. Anson).
Let’s Think About it
When it comes to the teachers role, we must focus on building and alleviating any anxiety students have when entering any new spaces that require a new approach at writing. We have to set students up to succeed in order to keep them connected and engaged with writing beyond the classroom. As educators, it’s our job to ensure they have the tools and resources (and confidence) necessary to go on and accomplish whatever their hearts desires. Vague assignment guidelines and a little time to focus on our expectations do not help students or ourselves. This is something my counterparts and I talk about at length when we get the chance. (You can check out their blogs linked below).
This leaves me with a few closing questions, how do you plan on bridging the gap between writing and the students connection to writing?
What ways do you think we can leave little nuggets in students mind to continuously look at writing as a life long skill and not just a temporary obstacle in college?
Adler – Kassner, Linda. Wardle, Elizabeth. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. E-book, Kindle, 2015.
Bazerman, Charles. “Writing to Learn: Origins of the Writing to Learn Approach.” Reference Guide to Writing across the Curriculum, Parlor Press, 2005, pp. 57-65.