The goals of SSW are common to college composition – that students will develop rhetorical knowledge of audience, purpose, and genres; strategies for critical reading, planning and revising; and the motivational beliefs that support continued critical reading and writing in the future. In short, the goal is for students to take control of the writing process and their own learning. The SSW approach integrates research on basic writing and composition with research on self-regulated strategy instruction in writing and reading.
Three core elements are important to the success of the approach.
First, students learn genre-based strategies for reading and writing. The strategies use knowledge about the rhetorical purposes, text structures, and linguistic features of genres (e.g., argument, causal explanation) to guide planning and revising, as well as critical reading and note-taking.
Second, and equally important, students learn metacognitive, self-regulation strategies for goal-setting, task management, progress monitoring, and reflection.
Third, pedagogical methods, based on extensive research on strategy instruction, include discussion of model essays, think-aloud modeling of strategies, collaborative writing, peer review and self-evaluation, and reflective journaling.
In addition to these core elements, we encourage a thematic approach to selection of readings so that students develop knowledge of an important topic or issue over time.
GENRE-BASED STRATEGIES FOR READING AND WRITING
The strategies incorporate both discourse knowledge about genres and process knowledge about planning, revising, and critical reading. The big idea behind the strategies is that if you know the purposes, structural elements, and linguistic features of a genre, you can use that knowledge to guide planning, drafting, and evaluation/revision. For example, since arguments are intended to persuade (or collaboratively reach a conclusion), it is important to consider alternative positions, reasons and evidence on both sides, and rebuttals. Thus, a planning strategy should include brainstorming reasons and evidence on both sides, and developing an organized plan with position, reasons and evidence, counterarguments and rebuttals, and an appealing conclusion. Evaluation for revision is guided by a rubric focused on the argumentative elements, which can lead to specific suggestions for revision. The SSW writing strategies include genre elements, graphic organizers to support brainstorming and organization, and genre-specific rubrics. See Writing Strategy example for argumentative writing.
Knowledge of argument structure can also help with critical reading. Once you realize that you are reading an argument, you look for the author’s position, reasons and evidence, and counterarguments; then you proceed to critically evaluate those arguments, contrasting them to your own ideas and other readings. The SSW Summary-Response strategy guides students in rhetorical analysis of author and purpose, notetaking based on the argument elements, critical evaluation of specific arguments, and writing a summary and response paper. The notes and critical responses from multiple sources are then used in writing students’ own essays. See Summary-Response Strategy.
METACOGNITIVE, SELF-REGULATION STRATEGIES
Proficient writers (and proficient learners in general) are able to organize and regulate their own efforts. Writing is hard, and even professional writers have had to develop strategies to maintain their productivity. Research indicates that integrating instruction in metacognitive, self-regulation strategies with strategy instruction substantially increases the effects. Metacognition includes knowledge about how one thinks and the ability to manage both cognitive processes and behavior. In the SSW approach, students learn metacognitive strategies for goal setting, task management, monitoring of progress, and reflection. Students set goals for their writing based on evaluation of what they need to learn. Task management strategies include planning time management, decisions about where and when to work, and strategies for managing emotions and motivation. Monitoring of progress refers to self-evaluation of whether one is using the strategies and whether they are working. Finally, after completing a writing task, students reflect on what they need to work on and set goals for the next task. Reflective journals and class discussions and are used to help students develop these self-regulation strategies. The metacognitive strategies are similar in some ways to strategies often taught in courses on academic success, but integrating them with the challenging content of writing makes them more authentic. See Strategies for Academic Success.
SSW draws on extensive research on strategy instruction to understand how to help students develop self-regulated strategies. Students actively construct their understanding of strategies through the activities in the curriculum. For students to understand the purpose and value of the strategies in the current class, in future courses, and in work experiences, it is critical that the writing tasks be meaningful writing assignments, not exercises. At the same time, students need clear instruction, and we do not assume that they understand the requirements of college writing. Instruction is provided through a carefully planned combination of discussion, explanation, modeling, collaborative writing, peer review, and reflection in journals.
Instruction in a new genre begins with discussion of the purposes of the genre in varied social contexts and collaborative evaluation of good and weak examples. The examples represent good and weak student writing, not professional texts; students are introduced to the genre-specific rubric through this activity. Next, the instructor briefly explains and then models the strategy using think-aloud modeling – working at the board or computer applying the strategy to plan and write an essay while verbalizing the thought processes. After that, the instructor and students collaboratively apply the strategy, with the students supplying all the content, and the instruction supporting use of the strategy. Students then write their own essays with guided support from the instructor as needed. The instructor then prepares students for peer review with collaborative evaluation of essays by unknown peers; students then conduct peer reviews and revise their essays. Instructors provide an editing lesson and students do further editing. See Key Pedagogical Methods.