Process vs. Product

Tobin describes the method of teaching he used in which he would not concentrate on telling his students what was correct or incorrect in their work; instead, he would focus on the process and potential of their work. He also explained that "even the most process-oriented teachers acknowledge that a meaningful process ought to lead eventually to some sort of written product, and even the most product-oriented teacher accepts the fact that writing occurs in series of steps and stages" (7).

This past semester I have had the opportunity to see the levels of freshmen writing and have realized how much help they need in basic writing skills such as structuring a sentence, word choice, and punctuation. I am all for Tobin's method of focusing more on process and potential in student writing rather than errors because I believe that the student will gain more from this strategy, but after seeing how much help that students need in basic writing skills, where should the teacher draw the line in process vs. product? Where else is the student going to learn those important skills such as punctuation, grammar, etc. if they don't learn it in their freshman composition course? Keep in mind that for some students, this is the last writing course that they are required to take.


Response from Shawn B.

I was scratching my head with a lot of things Tobin had to say. I agreed with some of it, but I've been thinking a lot about the best methods that Tobin has to offer. Surely a balance of everything is best, but I couldn't imagine a classroom without regular vocabulary tests, and I always appreciated the teachers with dictionaries under every desk at all times. What is the point of writing well if the only thing that readers notice are spelling mistakes?

The more I read into Tobin, the more I realized that it doesn't matter how often or in what way teachers teach students the basic writing skills you mentioned unless the students care about what they are learning. For a student who enjoys reading and writing, a spelling test would be very beneficial, because it would be a constant meter of their knowledge of the language, and they would care about their own success. For a student who has zero interest in reading or writing, they are going to save that space in their heads for things that better interest them like science, math, or video games. I suppose the key for me would be to engage the students as much as possible. Otherwise, Tobin is right and none of those methods are really worthwhile.

Response from Michelle

Emily, I agree with your question, but also feel that it relates to last weeks discussion as far as new students entering the field, in this case not by choice, bring different elements to the table. I like your question because I feel that I run into the same problem with the students that I help with writing papers. I agree with what Shawn has to say about a balance of everything. The thinking process and content on the paper is just as important as basic writing skills.

I am hoping what Tobin means is that the process of learning to write well is just that, a process and basic writing skills come in the form of repetition and are learned with the writing process, if that makes any sense. Tobin's focus is on the process and so much the product, but at the same time, if the product is full of errors, it takes away from the work overall.