Fabulous comments on the Should math students explain their answer in words post. I'll try to get as many as I can pulled up front…
In the thread, Allison points out the irony that good teachers are the people who actually know consciously the nonconscious steps experts use to do what they do, and yet teachers are the one category of human being expected to stand aside while students figure things on their own out by deploying strategies and asking three before me.
Which brings me to my own experience teaching college composition.
I know I've said this a number of times but it bears repeating, I think: when I returned to teaching three years ago, I was chronically stymied by the fact that while I knew how to write myself, I had no idea how to explain what I did to my students.
In fact, it was worse than that. The problem wasn't just that I had no idea how to explain what I did when I wrote. The real problem was that I had no idea what that was. What was I doing when I wrote that was different from what they were doing?
All I really knew about what I did was that I wrote by ear. And so I would tell my students, frequently, that writing by ear was an option, and that the way to develop an ear for college writing was to do all their assigned college reading (and hope for the best).
Beyond that, I was stumped.
I didn't particularly want to tell freshman writers just how obsessive the process of writing entirely by ear actually was.
Writing by ear, for me, meant I would write something that sounded bad; I would hear that it sounded bad (that seemed to be the critical element, hearing badness); and I would then spend endless hours writing and rewriting and rewriting again (and again and again), trying to make what I'd written a) stop sounding bad and, only then, once that was achieved, b) start sounding good.
I did this for hours on end.
Until things sounded right.
So what does writing-by-ear translate to inside a composition class?
I'll tell you what it translates to: it translates to the process method, which I think is a lousy way to teach writing.
The Process Method, by the way, seems to have originated in the Bay Area Writing Project, now called the National Writing Project. Ed was somehow connected with the Bay Area Writing Project & has spoken disapprovingly of it for lo these many years. I'll have to get him to brief me again…
In the process method, students write something bad, then have their peers tell them it's bad, then revise the bad thing they've written to make it …. better.
Then, if they happen to be in a class taught by Peter Elbow, they find a volunteer copy editor to fix all the things that still need fixing.
OK, time to cook vegetables.
Will finish up later.