In writing pedagogy, there are at least two major ways of seeing writing. These two approaches see writing as a process or as a product. This post will explain each along with some of the drawbacks of both.
Writing as a Product
Writing as a product entailed the teacher setting forth standards in terms of rhetoric, vocabulary use, organization, etc. The students were given several different examples that could be used as models from which to base their own paper.
The teacher may be available for one-on-one support but this was not necessarily embedded in the learning experience. In addition, the teacher was probably only going to see the final draft.
For immature writers, this is an intimidating learning experience. To be required to develop a paper with only out of context examples from former students is difficult to deal with. In addition, without prior feedback in terms of progress, students have no idea if they are meeting expectations. The teacher is also clueless as to student progress and this means that both students and teachers can be “surprised” by poorly written papers and failing students.
The lack of communication while writing can encourage students to try and overcome their weaknesses through plagiarism. This is especially true for ESL students who lack the mastery of the language while also often having different perspectives on what academic dishonesty is.
Another problem is the ‘A’ students will simply copy the examples the teacher provided and just put in their own topic and words in it. This leads to an excellent yet mechanical paper that does not allow the students to develop as writers. In other words, the product approach provides too much support for strong students and not enough support for weak ones.
Writing as a Process
In writing as a process, the teacher supports the student through several revisions of a paper. The teacher provides support for the development of ideas, organization, coherency, and other aspects of writing. All this is done through the teacher providing feedback to the student as well as dealing with any questions and or concerns the student may have with their paper.
This style of writing teaching helps students to understand what kind of writer they are. Students are often so focused on completing writing assignments that they never learn what their tendencies and habits as a writer our. Understanding their own strengths and weaknesses can help them to develop compensatory strategies to complete assignments. This can of self-discovery can happen through one-on-one conferences with the teacher.
Off course, such personal attention takes a great deal of time. However, even brief 5 minutes conferences with students can reap huge rewards in their writing. It also saves time at the end when marking because you as the teacher are already familiar with what the students are writing about and the check of the final papers is just to see if the students have revised their paper according to the advice you gave.
The process perspective gives each student individual attention to growing as an individual. ‘A’ students get what they need as well as weaker students. Everyone is compared to their own progress as a writer.
Generally, the process approach is more appropriate for teaching writing. The exceptions being that the students are unusually competent or they are already familiar with your expectations from prior writing experiences.