What is Writing about Writing?

This post comes from a September 2014 conversation on the WPA list about WAW pedagogies. With her permission, we have excerpted Elizabeth Wardle’s response here. Addressing the question, “What is Writing about Writing?”, she writes:

[…]

I’ll start by saying what I *don’t* mean.

I don’t mean the textbook I wrote with Doug.
I don’t mean a particular curriculum.
I don’t mean a particular method, or set of activities, or set of readings.
I don’t mean first-year writing that uses either our textbook or a particular curriculum.

What I *do* mean is a basic philosophical approach to teaching writing that assumes that declarative and procedural knowledge about writing cannot be separated in a useful way in a writing class. I do mean a basic belief that we as a field have studied writing and thus have declarative knowledge that can help writers of all kinds if we share that knowledge explicitly, and encourage students to explore their own questions and concerns about writing as active, empowered rhetors.

[…]

At base, all of us who are making an argument that “there is declarative knowledge about writing that should inform writing classes” are  really just saying that we are a discipline and we know useful things that can help our students (and colleagues and policy makers). HOW you use that declarative knowledge, what you do with it in your particular context, varies so, so widely–as it should.

The methods and curricula and textbooks are not the philosophy. They are all simply ways to try to enact the philosophy, and we’ll be forever trying to figure out more effective and creative ways.

Either we are a discipline or we aren’t. And if we are, let’s act like it.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Wardle
Professor & Department Chair
Department of Writing & Rhetoric
University of Central Florida

**

(excerpted from her 9.4.14 post to the thread “WAW: What’s different and the pleasures of the text (was thematic and multi)”

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