National Writing Project

TR 29. Negotiating Academic Discourse

By: Linda Flower
Publication: National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report
Date: 2003

Summary: This report discusses the difficulties experienced by many college freshmen as they seek to negotiate the transition from a writing process based on comprehension and response to a more fully rhetorical, constructive process.



In order to get a rounded picture of cognition in this academic context, the study looks at thethinking processes of these students from a number of perspectives, drawing on think-aloud protocols of students writing and revising, on interviews with and self-analyses by the students, and oncomparisons of teachers' and students' perceptions of texts the students wrote. It attempts to placethese observations within a broader contextual analysis of the situation as students saw it and thesocial and cultural assumptions about schooling they brought with them.

What this study revealed were some radical differences in how individual students represent an academic writing task to themselves--differences which teachers might interpret as a simple indication of a student's ability rather than a student's interpretation of the task. The students were often unaware that such alternative representations existed or that they might hold such significance. Some images of the task, for instance, such as those dominated by the goals of comprehension, summary, and simple response, offered little or no place for critical response, original synthesis, or interpretation for a rhetorical purpose.

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