February 1, 2005

week three: rose

in his article 'reading,' michael rose claims the primacy of flexible guidleines for student writing based on his own ethnography at ucla. rose's students run a gamut of 'typical' college freshman; middle-class, third world to caucasian, various majors. rose begins by identifying archetypal problems for beginning writers and suggests a causal link between these problems and composition instruction that impedes rather than compels the process of writing. one of the articles central inferences is that writing itself is a 'complex problem-solving process' and its 'disruptions' may be addressed with cognitive psychology (95). in other words, rose says that writing is a form of thinking that can be stymied by mental blocks based on previous experiences--good and bad.
rose describes the writing process as a series of periods; the introductory period identifies and defines the problem or subject of wiritng; processing involves weighing various answers to the problem; solution signifies a 'stress and search' of the available answers and materials (96). rose subsequently invokes the critical contributions of gagne to differentiate the models that frame the process of writing. according to gagne, all problems--both everyday and extraordinary--require rules or guidelines in order to generate a solution. gagne divides types of rules into the algorithmic and heuristic (96); algorithms are precise, constant and completely predictable; heuristic models are more flexible, general and offer less liklihood of an optimal or single solution (97). rose suggests that while algorithms give many students a sense of security they also can impede freedom of expression and indirectly contrbute to writer's block. by comparing his own students and their experiences with writing, rose concludes that those writers that rigidly ascribed to an algorithmic model inevitably had difficulty communicating their own thoughts in a 'closed system'. students who applied more heuristic methods (non-blockers) generally experienced less mental blocks in the wiritng process since their models were subordinated to the writing process itself. according to rose, the comparison, substantiates the claim that diffuse, flexible and/or penetrable models serve students more efficaciously than fixed systems.

although my background in the humanities makes me inherently sympathetic to his pedagogical project, their were several aspects of the article that left me curious about rose's methodology, approach and conclusions. for example, it is my understanding that rose is also speaking from a humanities background. thus his lack of sympathy for students from other disciplines (especially after his pains to establish his ethnographic data) seems misplaced: why must an article rooted in nominating writing as an exercise in processual and critical exploration construct such a dynamic polarity between algorithm and heurism, block and non-block, good and evil. again, the article left me curious for indexical material such as interview transcripts: how was dialogue facilitated and how did the interviews directly lead rose to his assumptions?

Posted by hudd0016 at February 1, 2005 1:32 PM