Writing Is Learning

Most pages I find when I search the above term leads me to Writing-to-Learn information and activities. I feel those are useful to this topic, so I'll add information about them here until others can verify if this is the right or same subject matter. If I'm wrong, alter the page until it contains the correct info. Thanks.

Writing-to-Learn refers to writing activities intended to facilitate or develop students' understanding and thinking abilities. They are a complement to formal writing since poor formal writing usually stems from poor understanding of the subject matter. The main focus of these activities is more on making sense of the material, not on communicating it in a specific format to an audience.

Writing engages students into thinking about course material in substantive and sustained ways. It engages students into taking stock of what they understand and, possibly, what they still do not understand. Writing activities can prompt knowledge building about the subject. Add in talking and sharing answers with fellow students, such as in CollaborativeWriting projects, and you have an additional opportunity to clarify and extend their understanding of the material. The act of explaining an idea to another person involves articulating the relationships and connections among facts and ideas. Moreover, listening to another student's explanation creates an opportunity to compare one's own understanding with a different version.

It is not writing per se that matters but how students interact with the material through writing that matters. Students develop understanding when they explain, when they apply knowledge to new problems or situations, when they develop an interpretation or perspective, when they analyze, when they evaluate, when they integrate and synthesize ideas.

In a nutshell, effective writing-to-learn activities are sense making activities that involve students in making connections among disconnected facts and ideas, discerning relationships among ideas, relating new information to what one already knows, applying concepts and theories--whatever actively engages the student in developing understanding.

What Makes Writing So Important?

Observational Writing

There are many advantages to writing, many of which are listed above. Writing can be a form of expression, a way to explain complex ideas and positions, and above-average writing skills can often help someone land a job over someone else.

Observational writing, really digging into the subject matter, is a form of writing that can not only help one become a better writer, but also help them become well-versed in a particular subject field that they wouldn't have otherwise known about.

Alexis Marie Chute brings up an interesting idea that is worth thinking about:

"Writing allows the wonderful tool of observation to flourish... even to simply acknowledge that not everything may be understood.

Not everyone needs to be a professional writer to enjoy this learning and vision of the world. I believe anyone can teach themselves to see. Pick up a pen and write impressions. Sit still in a place of motion, a train station, a museum, a pedestrian avenue; what do you see, what are the people doing, who are they? What does it all mean?"

The bolded line of, "I believe anyone can teach themselves to see," is especially important. Chute is not saying that everyone has the ability to write Stephen King novels, but rather that anyone can become an observational writer. Observing a certain subject and conveying that to an audience through words not only broadens ideas, but also allows the author to grow in their knowledge of that particular subject.

"I believe anyone can teach themselves to see," is a claim that everyone has the capability of writing observationally and stretch even small ideas into broad and complex theories and subjects.

For example, Person A may see a quarter inscribed with the year 1950 on it. Person B, halfway across the country, sees a similar quarter, also with the same year inscribed. Person A sees the year and thinks only that the coin is old. But on the other hand, Person B sees the quarter and thinks of all the places the quarter has been, all the owners it's had, and how many things it's helped purchased. If the two were each to write an essay on the quarter and what they noticed about it, only Person B's essay would include observational writing, while Person A's essay would not. And since writing is learning, Person B would get much more out of the essay than Person A would, since they were more observational in their writing than Person A was.

This page was jumpstarted by DestinySherman and furthered by MicahFriez. If you have more information to add to help expand this page, please do so. It would be very helpful to those searching for information on this topic.
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