I primarily teach first-year writing. My research about writing pedagogy derives from and informs my teaching.
What Can We Learn from First-Year Writing Students' Drafting Habits?
…administrators, policy makers, parents, and students expect the [first-year writing] course to prepare students for the writing they will do later—in the university and even beyond it. Implicit in these expectations is the assumption that [FYW] should and will provide students with knowledge and skills that can transfer to writing tasks in other courses and contexts.
-- Elizabeth Wardle, “Understanding ‘Transfer’”
If the goal of the FYW course is to strengthen student writing at the college level, it makes sense to see if the course meets this goal; one way to do so is to document the transfer of writing strategies taught in the FYW course to writing completed in other courses. In other words, let’s see if what we’re teaching “sticks,” or become tools students use to successfully navigate new writing situations.
One set of writing strategies focus on the writing process. These process strategies refer to methods students might employ at various stages of the writing process, which are generally referred to as the following: invention, planning, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading. This process is recursive rather than linear, and most stages happen simultaneously as writers develop expertise.
For this initial study of transfer, I focused on the drafting stage of the writing process. Drafting can be defined as the putting into sentences and paragraphs the ideas developed and information collected during the invention and planning stages of the writing process. Often, first or “rough” drafts represent initial attempts at some sort of structure, attempts that require revision (re-seeing that results in re-writing of part of all of the drafts) as writers work through and practice the diction, syntax, and structure in which those ideas and information are developed and communicated. A good “final draft” should be the revised, edited, and proofread product of at least a couple of attempts that students turn in for assessment. Because an initial draft is always an attempt, students who turn in a first attempt as a final product tend to receive lower grades and more negative feedback than students who make multiple attempts to refine their writing.
Writing teachers usually try to instill the drafting habit in students by teaching students a variety of strategies for drafting and revising and by requiring students to create and turn in multiple drafts of their writing assignments. The goal is for students to employ this drafting habit in new writing situations in other courses where they may not be required to turn in multiple drafts.
My specific research question, then, is: When drafts are not required, do students create multiple rough drafts, as they are taught to do in the FYW class?