Saturday, September 26, 2015

Weekly Response: Donald M. Murray's "Teach Writing as a Process Not Product"

     I would find it incredibly difficult to argue against the idea that writing should be taught as a process. As pointed out by Donald M. Murray, the educator has gone through the proper training necessary to produce finished writing. The students are still learning, and should therefore not be expected to do the same. While it would be optimal for all ten of the implications set forth by Murray to be present in a classroom, the climate of today's educational system makes that impractical to the point of being impossible. By examining some of the implications mentioned in the article, I'd like to explore why with anecdotal evidence.

Implication 2- The student finds his own subject. 
     While the students are entirely capable of expanding on an idea and doing an incredible job, they are not always successful when left to choose their own. The possibility always exists that the student may choose a topic that sounds interesting to him at first, but ultimately leads nowhere. If this happens often enough, the student questions the teacher about potential topics until the topic ends up being assigned anyway.

     Another possibility thats exists is the topic that is chosen is not considered rigorous enough. With what might seem to be the most simple topic, a struggling student might be firing on all cylinders and knocking it out of the park. While those in the classroom may be aware of the learning that is occurring, an outsider (i.e. an administrator) might deem it inappropriate, irregardless of how much that student may be growing. I have seen too often the sacrifice of individual students for the sake of standardization.

Implication 4- The student should write all necessary drafts.
     This implication is tremendously effective when focusing on depth and not breadth. Unfortunately current curriculum looks to cover as much material as possible. Students who want to write another draft of a paper would simply be falling behind. This is unfortunate because the student would undoubtedly gain more out of perfecting one paper than doing slightly well on many.

     Murray also states that each draft should be "counted as equal to a new paper." This can pose problems to the majority of districts that now use computer based systems to run their schools. My district, for example, uses Infinite Campus. We record attendance and assignments in the web-based program, which is great for allowing parents to check on student performance through a parent portal. The system does not allow for assignments to be individually tailored to each student, so recording each new draft for whomever decides to do it would be a record keeping nightmare.

Implication 9- The students are individuals who must explore the process in their own way.
     In this closely-monitored standardized climate, allowing a student to work at his own pace would not go over too well. Setting SGO's would be impossible with so many students moving at so many different speeds. With some classes hitting as many as thirty-two students, during a five period day some teachers could see 160 unique kids.  I would think a situation such as this would lead to both teacher burnout, and also ineffective instruction.


                I would not like to leave the reader with the impression that I don't agree with Murray, in fact I do. I believe that he was writing for not only different students, but also for a different educational climate. To give each student a tailored, hands-on approach to becoming a writer would definitely generate better writing skills in our students. Unfortunately, with how teachers are being evaluated and the pressure that is coming down on them from their own administrations, such an approach is too impractical to put into practice.        

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your take on Murray. Some of his ideas are great, almost utopian! But how could they possibly be implemented?