Our Thinking

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This section of the website is designed as a sequence of pages that will take you through much of the rationale for our approach to writing.

We notice that when writing is singled out for discussion, the focus is often on deficiency: writing as something that students are reluctant to do, don’t do well at, are let down by. We also note that the ‘problem’ of writing is often located ‘elsewhere’: with the students, not with the teaching they receive or the tasks they are set; or with the students’ previous educational experiences, not with the experiences we design for them. We do not deny that students often have difficulty with writing, but rather we want to suggest that the issue is more complex, and therefore more interesting, than is sometimes acknowledged.

In Thinking Writing, we take writing to be not only a means for showing one's thinking in a discipline but also as a tool for developing that disciplinary thinking. In fact we consider writing to be part and parcel of participating in, and contributing to, a discipline.

In summary these are the few simple ideas on which our work is based:

  • Writing can have considerable value to learners as an important means of developing understanding, thought and expertise in a subject area.
  • Writing is also used as a significant measure of what understanding, thought and expertise have been developed. Assessors often look both for thinking in writing and for writing that expresses thought well.
  • Writing is an activity by which disciplines and other communities create thinking, conduct conversations, and advance knowledge and action. It is also a key communication tool.
  • Thinking about writing is often a productive way to open new perspectives on curriculum design and evaluation, learning, assessment and disciplinary thinking.

If you read through this section you will find some practical suggestions, but our main aim is to invite you to take a sometimes critical look at ways in which writing is often thought about, especially, but not exclusively, in higher education settings, and to consider how awareness of these can help challenge and shape practice in positive and engaging ways.

Start by considering how we may over-use - and under-teach - essays and reports