"Process" and "Product" in the Teaching of L2 Writing

Richard Robin, George Washington University

In this presentation I examine writing in the Russian-language classroom in light of the changes in attitudes over the last twenty years. Researchers embraced the notion of writing as a cognitive *process*, delayed, timed, and recursive (Hughey, 1983; Raimes, 1987; Friedlander, 1990; Krapels, 1990; Swaffer, 1991). Researchers advocating this view maintain that the teacher should evaluate the process as a whole, not just the end result. The ability to communicate ideas is more important than surface accuracy, especially given evidence that explicit attention to surface errors is ineffective. (Semke, 1984; Jones, 1985; Dvorak, 1986; Cumming, 1989; Kepner, 1991, Scarcella and Oxford, 1992).

However, the process-oriented, communicative approach to writing conflicts with a proficiency-oriented teaching, which places the end result front and center. "Real world" writing (beyond short notes and personal correspondence) demands strict adherence to surface convention. Therefore, while students of Russian can attain some working proficiency in speaking, reading, and listening, i.e. ACTFL Advanced, whether they can attain *usable* proficiency in writing over the course of a normal academic program should be a matter of concern.

Given the dichotomy between writing as process and product, we would do best to look at writing not as a monolithic skill, but as several different skills, each with its own goal:

1. Writing as product (e.g. producing a usable business note based on templates).

2. Writing as process (global approach to writing based on read texts, as well as in academic compositions, diaries, e-mail exchanges).

3. Writing as preparation for paragraphed speech (the creation of hothouse specials).

4. Writing as a support skill for grammar (grammar exercises).

The presentation ends with suggestions for integrating the first three items into a Russian-language program from first through fourth year in an academic program.


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