BWe: Basic Writing e-Journal

Volume 2        Number 2        Summer 2000
                                                (Published July 7, 2000)

Co-editors: Linda Adler-Kassner and Gregory R. Glau

Basic Writing e-Journal

Table of contents

Editors' Page

Marilyn S. Sternglass

Mary P. Deming

Dan J. Royer and Roger Gillis

Basic Writing e-Journal

Editor's Page

        This issue of BWe marks the midpoint of our second volume.  Our first year of publication was wildly successful.  We received top-notch submissions from contributors who have benefitted from the smart feedback provided by reviewers; helpful comments from readers; wise guidance from our editorial board.  To all of you, our most sincere thanks.
        This issue features article versions of all but one of the presentations at this year's CBW CCCC Pre-Conference Workshop.  Marilyn Sternglass's "The Changing Perception of the Role of Writing: From Basic Writing to Discipline Courses" is based on some of the research included in her award-winning book, Time to Know Them.  The article (and presentation) raise thoughtful questions about the ways that students use reading and writing in different ways through their academic work.
        Mary Deming's "Reading and Writing: Making the Connection for Basic Writers" expanded on a theme initiated with Marcia Dickson's presentation at the 1998 Pre-Conference Workshop, working with reading.  The article (and the presentation) provide enormously helpful hands-on strategies for thinking about and working with reading issues in the classroom.
        In their essay, "Directed Self-Placement for Basic Writers," Dan Royer and Roger Gilles describe the process of directed self-placement that they've developed at Grand Valley State University.
        (The fourth presentation, Michael Williamson's "Assessng Students, Assessing Ourselves" will be included in the November issue of BWe.)
        Finally, we'd like to thank members of the Editorial Board for their support and assistance with reviewing articles during the last year.  They are:

Basic Writing e-Journal

Marilyn S. Sternglass
City College of New York - CUNY



        As students move from basic writing and regular composition courses to a variety of discipline courses, they see the potential role of writing in a changing way.  Students find it very productive to use writing as a basis for learning.  The relationship between writing and learning has been described as having several stages, although they are not found to be practiced in a neat, linear way.  Three stages of examining the relationship between writing and learning are:

    1)  as recall, primarily of facts
    2)  as the ability to organize information in an analytic way that leads
            to synthesis
    3)  as the ability to apply information to the creation of new knowledge,
            knowledge that is new to the learner if not to the field.

        Students who were followed in a six-year longitudinal study at an urban college on the relationship between writing and learning described their perception of how writing helped them understand the materials in their courses, revealing that course demands frequently influenced the approach they took to responding to writing tasks.  I would like to provide some examples of two students' comments and writing in response to these different demands in their work.  Both students started at the second level of basic writing.  The first is an African-American woman I call Joan and the second is a Latina woman I call Delores.
        When regurgitation of facts was acceptable, they spoke of writing as helping them to remember information.  For example, Joan's mode of writing was to supply definitions in response to examination questions, carefully using the language of instructors or textbooks.  In a paper for a sociology course during her second year at the college, Joan wrote:  "Sociology is referred to as the systematic and objective (scientific) study of human society and social interaction.  Sociology is more or less the study of interaction within groups in society.  A sociologist never studies an individual.  He or she may observe or study an individual's interaction within a group or groups" (Sternglass 33).  As has been noted in Women's Ways of Knowing (1986), Joan was relying on "received knowledge," with authoritative definitions her basis for response.  Writing helped her remember these definitions, but she was not yet ready to go beyond them in a setting where this was what was required in examinations and papers.
        In a paper for an introductory philosophy course in her second semester, Delores similarly relied on academic language  to explain some ideas of William James:  "In his piece 'Pragmatism,' William James discusses the truth of ideas.  In his work, James made a mere distinction between pragmatists and intellectualists view about the truth of an idea.  For intellectualists, as James describes, the truth of an idea is an inert and the same time stationary property of an idea.  Intellectualists supposition is that once an individual has reached the truth of anything the process of searching for the truth is discontinued" (Sternglass 44). It seems likely that Delores' unfamiliarity with the concepts of the philosophy course motivated her to protect herself by incorporating the text-jargon in her paper.
        When demands for more complex reasoning were asked for, these students spoke of how writing helped them critique ideas, see both sides of issues, and to analyze more deeply the causes and effects of issues.  A striking example of how course demands can affect the complexity of the writing can be seen in a paper that Delores wrote in her freshman composition course the same semester that she was taking the philosophy course.  In a paper on Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant," Delores offered her own interpretation of the effects of subjugating others on the "tyrant" himself.  She wrote:

        "Orwell says, 'A tyrant needs to wear a mask.' Orwell in his essay 'Shooting
        an Elephant,' is referring to the kind of behavior that the tyrant must display in front of the
        people they oppress.  Even thought they might as well behave differently following their own
        feelings, they have to behave as expected by the people.  Even though tyrants subjugate the
        people, in some way or another they are also subjugating themselves by have to let feeling [be]
        suppress.  And at the same time robbing themselves" (Sternglass 44-45).

        While clearly hostile to the behavior of the tyrants she described, Delores also revealed a compassionate sense of understanding the impact of such behaviors on the individuals involved in such acts.  Although not yet deeply involved in her major, psychology, she possessed a sense of empathy that would assist her in her future studies.  And, in a composition setting in which the primary readings were literary ones, critical interpretations of such texts were highly valued.  By the beginning of her sixth year, close to completing her undergraduate degree in psychology, Joan explained how she had come to understand the difference between dependence on textbook language and the importance of putting ideas into her own words.  She said:

        "Writing helps me 'regurgitate' back what I learned, not to mimic back to the professor but to
        apply what you learned from readings...Writing helps me remember things because I have to
        apply concepts."  No clearer explanation from a student could be imagined.

        As students became more knowledgeable in their major areas, and where risk-taking was encouraged, they proposed new relationships among existing ideas, recommended alteration in the way images and stereotypes were presented to the public, and prepared research projects to investigate questions not previously researched.  Constructing knowledge took different forms with different students. For Joan, in her fourth year at the college, constructing knowledge manifested itself through the integration of her studies in one discipline with those of another.  As a psychology major, Joan had learned many terms that she had used in the analyses of psychological cases.  Now, in her world humanities course,  she brought in a psychological concept in the analysis of Candide's optimism.  Joan wrote, "Pangloss inspired Candide's Optimism because he attributed what we would call in Psychology, a Halo-effect to every experience in life, meaning, there is good in everything and everyone" (Sternglass 54).
        Applying a psychological concept was a far cry from her regurgitating the terms in her earlier work in sociology.  Delores was able to go further than Joan was in proposing new research in her field to investigate issues that others had not examined.  Delores' absorption with the relationships between race and gender led to her to undertake a study on the relationship between skin-color and self-esteem in a special enrichment program available to her at Lehman College of the City University of New York.  Her study was titled "Skin Color and Its Impact on Self-Esteem of Latino College Students--Dominicans and Puerto Ricans."  She described how writing this report made her feel:  "I create it.  It's my paper--my ideas, like a birth.  There wasn't anything like that before" (Sternglass 57). Her evident pride in her originality and the opportunity to make a contribution to her field is evidence of the potential waiting to be realized by students who begin at basic writing levels.  In the six years that it took Joan to earn a Bachelor's Degree, Delores earned both a Bachelor's and Masters Degree.
           One of the important ideas to be considered here is that the ability to analyze materials thoughtfully is one that grows gradually over time.  In  basic writing and regular composition courses we have the opportunity to give students assignments that will begin this process, allowing them to practice the more complex reasoning tasks they will be expected to be able to handle in their upper division courses.  A few examples of how this process began for students within basic writing levels will illustrate how this can happen:
        In a paper, Ricardo, a Latino student enrolled in the second level of basic writing, demonstrated the activist part of his nature.  In discussing Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Ricardo concluded his discussion by examining the larger issue of racism that was considered in Angelou's autobiography:

        Due to Maya Angelou determination, sense of pride and activism she was able
        to break new grounds not only in the streetcar system in San Francisco [as
        the first female operator] but on the struggle to maintain her identity and
        self respect as a black person.  This story could had happen in any period of
        time from the 1930's to the late 1980's.  But no matter what period of time
        it take place, we have to take charge and be active in order to produce
        changes that would eliminate the bias and racism forever (Sternglass 79).

        Unlike some other students who saw stereotyping and racist comments as harmless because they assumed they could not apply to them, Ricardo not only felt the impact of racist behavior toward himself personally, but he was able to see beyond his own situation to how the larger society would be impacted by such attitudes and behaviors.  Even at this early point in his academic career, Ricardo always had a mission to help others.
        Also, during her first semester at the college, Chandra, an African-American student enrolled in the second level of basic writing, tellingly pictured her recognition of her complex identity in a paper she wrote in response to reading an essay by Richard Rodriguez:

        Similar to Rodriguez, I felt that when I became a student I was "remade."
        The language I was used to speaking was based upon slang terms.  All of the
        schools I attended allowed me to speak and write with incorrect English.  I
        learned the correct pronunciation of words in drama class.  Recently here at
        City College, I have gained a new identity which I feel that I don't identify
        with.  I am referred to as an African-American.  Similar to Rodriguez
        experiences, I've never connected myself to this racial minority so I feel
        guilty representing a culture I knew nothing about.  I spent all of my life
        trying to overcome my race and color in order to produce as a part of the
        American society.  But I have realized, one cannot move forward unless they
        know where they have been.  Now, I feel like I've missed out on something
        since I don't know anything about African history or African culture.  My
        peers always viewed me as a "wanna be" white girl because I tried correcting
        my speech and speak intelligently.  When I tried to imitate the slang later
        in my teens, everyone could always tell I did not belong. I always believed that I had
        to give up my culture to be taken seriously as an intellectual.  I later realized that I didn't.
        (Sternglass 68-69)

        For both Ricardo and Chandra, readings that presented issues that the students had had experience with stimulated their reflection and encouraged them to offer responses that were simultaneously analytical and personal.  Because these examples address issues of race and culture, it is too easy to insist that only multi-cultural readings can stimulate such reflection on the
part of students.  However, other issues  such as social, economic, political, or environmental ones, to name just a few, could be addressed in readings to foster such reflection and encourage students to take critical stances.
        One question that is frequently raised is, when is it appropriate to ask students to begin analytic tasks?  My response would be from the very first writing task and the very first course the student is enrolled in.  Of course, the other issues of basic writing need to be addressed, but, in my opinion, they should be addressed within the context of serious, thoughtful writing tasks that challenge the students conceptually as well as linguistically.  That leads me to my workshop activity:

Workshop activity


Reading __________________________________________________________________

Assignment # 1 based on recall of facts:

Assignment # 2 asking for analysis:

Assignment # 3 asking for ideas or implications that go beyond the reading

Discussion and conclusion

Works Cited

Belenky M. E., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R., & Tarule. J. M.
        Women's ways of  knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New
        York: Basic Books, 1986.

Sternglass, M. S. Time to know them: A longitudinal study of writing
        and learning at the college level. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
        Associates, Publishers, 1997.

Basic Writing e-Journal

Mary P. Deming
Georgia State University, Decatur



        In this era of criticizing education, in particular college developmental education, many people debate the appropriateness of reading instruction in the college classroom. After all, should not students be able to read (or write, or calculate) by the time they reach college?  Many think so, but in reality, a great number of students when asked to read out loud have trouble decoding, much less understanding the words they are asked to read. In addition, many college instructors have had students enrolled in their classes who have had difficulty comprehending  lengthy, complicated college content reading materials.  Marcia Dickson writes:

        They [basic writers] don't know how to read the non-fiction articles and books assigned in
        colleges and universities, and they don't know the differences between major and
        minor points or, in some cases, how to distinguish between the views of authors
        and sources they quote. The gap in the basic writer's knowledge makes it difficult
        for them to be successful in college or in any field where critical thinking and
        applied knowledge is a prerequisite.  (14)

        In spite of the decreasing numbers of developmental departments around the country, many programs still exist and offer reading courses of one kind or another. Some programs schedule separate reading courses, while others offer paired reading courses with content level courses. Still other schools house learning labs that provide tutoring in reading along with support for other basic level courses. Other schools, although fewer in number, combine reading and writing classes.
College students themselves learn very early that the literacy demands in college are quite complex. Research has documented this phenomenon. Nancy Chase, Sandra Gibson, and Joan Carson examined the literacy demands of core curriculum courses at a large southeastern urban university. They collected data from introductory biology, freshman English composition, world history, and political science courses. Their research revealed that these courses, with the exception of composition, required extensive, cognitively demanding reading assignments. In particular, freshmen were required to read approximately 45 pages a week for biology, 23 pages a week for history, and 34 pages a week for political science. Moreover, students were expected to use writing as a means of learning, to take clear, cogent notes and to compose exam essays and to write term papers, all skills that are normally taught in a college reading course (10-16).
        Cathrine Wambach and colleagues surveyed 132 faculty members teaching beginning courses in science, humanities, social science, and mathematics at a large midwestern urban university about the literacy requirements in their courses, including the reading and writing, and prerequisite skills.  They also asked instructors about their grading practices and other pedagogical concerns.  Concerning reading, the majority of instructors stated that critical reading was the most important skill that their students needed to be successful in their courses. Instructors also reported the importance of students' knowing how to write essay answers to exams and how to analyze and synthesize information for essays and reports (22-26).

The Reading Process

        The teaching of reading in general has been quite controversial over the last few years with great debate over the best method of instruction for students, in particular for younger students. Research from a variety of fields such as cognitive psychology, literary studies, and education has contributed to the body of knowledge concerning reading instruction.  One leading reading researcher, Ken Goodman, like a number of other researchers, believes that readers transact with a text and construct meaning as they read.  "Reading and writing are both dynamic, constructive processes" (Reading 2). In other words, reading is much more than just calling out letters and words. Rather, "reading is a process of making sense from print" (3). Goodman has coined the reading process as a "psycholinguistic guessing game" ("Guessing Game" 126) in which readers use cueing systems to make predictions. In particular, efficient readers use graphophonic (sound system, spelling, punctuation), syntactic (grammatical structures), semantic (meaning), and pragmatic (context) cues.  Good readers are active, strategic thinkers.
        Goodman also believes that "efficient reading uses the least amount of visual information necessary to get to the sense of the text "(Reading 95) and that  "predicting what we will see makes immediate perception possible" (Reading 95). He uses the following exercise to illustrate the relationship between  "seeing" and "perceiving."


        Most readers will perceive the meaning of this text in spite of its many errors (six to be exact: the repetition of the word "the" in lines two and three; the substitution of "boot" for "boat" in line three; the substitution of the word "though" for "through" in line four; the substitution of the pronoun "he" for "she" in line four; the misspelling of the word "apart" in line five; and the misuse of "should of " instead of "should have" in the last line of the passage (38-41).
        Another important aspect of reading is the relationship between what readers already know about a subject and what they are going to read.  The readers' background knowledge and experience with various terms and concepts will help them to connect  more closely with a text. Goodman uses the following exercise to demonstrate the importance of this concept:


A Mardsan Giberter for Farfie

Gils was very fraper. She had denarpen Farfie's mardsan. She didn't talp a giberter for him. So she conlanted to plimp a mardsan binky for him. She had just sparved the binky when he jibbled in the gorger.
"Clorsty mardsan!" she boffed.
"That's a crouistish mardsan binky," boffed Farfie, "but my mardsan is on Stansan. Agsan is Kelsan."
"In that ruspen," boffed Gils, "I won't whank you your giberter until Stansan."

1. Why was Gils fraper?
(She had denarpen Farfie's mardsan.)

2. What did Gils plimp?
(She plimped a mardsan binky for Farfie.)

3. Who jibbled in the gorger when Gils sparved the binky?

4. What did Farfie bof about the mardsan binky?
("That's a crouistish mardsan binky.")

5. Why didn't Gils whank Farfie his giberter?
("She didn't talp a giberter for Farfie" or  "She didn't whank Farfie his Giberter because his mardsan isn't until Stansan").

        One needs to infer or read between the lines to get the correct answer here.  In order to begin to understand this passage, effective readers use their knowledge of syntax, spelling, and other language cues to bring meaning to this seemingly nonsensensical passage. This passage will also make more sense if readers heed Goodman's hint: "Happy Birthday!" (Reading 42-46).

The Reading-Writing Connection

        Within the field of  reading research, the relationships between reading and writing have been examined extensively over the past twenty years. With the emphasis on literacy processes over literacy products, the advent of social constructionism, the insight of reader-response theory, and the increase in reading research in general, scholars have examined whether or not instruction in reading or writing will enhance or replace instruction in one area or the other. Reading researchers believe that reading and writing are both about creating or generating meaning. Research has further revealed that:

The Composing Model of Reading

        Two early reading researchers, Robert Tierney and P. David Pearson asserted that both reading and writing are comprised of similar processes for composing meaning. They argue that  both readers and writers go through the following stages to construct meaning: planning, drafting, aligning, revising, and monitoring.  Consequently, Tierney and Pearson's article, "Toward a Composing Model of Reading," provides a framework on which to support various strategies and activities that might be incorporated into a Basic Writing classroom to help students make connections between reading and writing  (568-580).


        According to Tierney and Pearson both readers and writers plan, and planning involves two subprocesses: setting goals and using prior knowledge based on a person's background and experiences. Readers and writers develop goals and establish purposes for reading and writing.   Tierney and Pearson suggest that readers, like writers, set procedural, substantive, and intentional goals (569-571).  A hypothetical goal for a reader might be "How can I best comprehend this subject?"; a substantive goal might be "How can I make a connection between what I know and what I still need to learn?";  and an intentional goal might be "What is the author's purpose here?"  (Gold and Deming 2000).  Hence, basic writing instructors might design a variety of activities to help students set goals for reading and to encourage students also to make connections between what they read and what they already know.
        During the planning stage, usually occurring before reading, students can engage in a number of activities that can help them to prepare for comprehending the reading material assigned in a basic writing class. For example, students can be asked to do a focused freewriting about the topic they are going to read or study and then compare what they know about a subject with what other class members know or believe. Teachers can also show students how to preview texts in order to make predictions about what they might read.  Students can learn to scan each page, noting illustrations, graphs, and bold headings. Teacher modeling of her scanning and prediction processes is an effective way to begin a lesson on previewing. Particular attention might also be given to unfamiliar vocabulary words students might encounter in their reading. Vocabulary understanding is essential to comprehending a text.  Maria Valeri-Gold and Frank Pintzozzi in their recent textbook, Taking Charge of Your Reading, offer a number of effective strategies for helping students improve their vocabulary skills.
        Donna Ogle has designed a simple and yet effective pre-reading strategy known as K-W-L that can be used to help students in the planning stage of their reading process. With this strategy students use three columns to identify what the know (K) about a topic, what they want (W) to learn about a topic, and what they have learned (L) about a topic after reading material on the subject (564-570).  Donna Alvermann and Stephen Phelps have provided a sample K-W-L on the United States Constitution in their most recent textbook (72).

Writing the Constitution

K (Know)                                        W (What I want to know)        L (What I Learned)
It was an important paper.                How many people wrote it?        55 men wrote it --
It had to do with freedom.                When was it written?                   (farmers, merchants,
A lot of people involved                   Who wrote it?                             lawyers, farmers).
(John Hancock, George                   Why was it written?                     Nation needed a better gov't
Washington, Ben Franklin)                How long did it take to write?     summer 1787
Had to do with Boston Tea Party.     Where was it written?                 Written in Philadelphia
Categories for further study:              Were there any women in on it?
What's it all about?                           How long was it?
When?                                             Why was it kept a secret?           Kept secret so framers could
Who?                                                                                                 speak freely

6 ideas:
1. Protect the rights of people.
2. Powers
    controlled by law.
3. Power is from people voting.
4. Power of government
    divided into 3 branches.
5. Checks and balances.
6. Federalism

        Another planning strategy that students might use to link what they already know about a subject with what they will be reading is titled an Anticipation Guide. Anticipation guides, statements about the theme and/or subject of the readings, can also help students moderate the accuracy of their perceptions about a particular topic (Alvermann and  Phelps 177). The following Anticipation Guide is an adaptation of one published by Richard Vacca and JoAnne Vacca (376).

Anticipation Guide

        Directions: We have already read several poems by Richard Brautigan. Before reading "It's Raining in Love," place a check in the "You" column next  to each statement that you think expresses a feeling the poet will deal with in the poem. Discuss your choices in small groups and explain why you checked the statements you did. Then read the poem. After reading the poem, check the statements in the "Poet" column that express the feelings that the poet did deal with in his poem.

YOU           POET
_____         _____  Being in love is a painful experience.
_____         _____  Men can be just as nervous as women can when they like a member of the
                                   opposite sex.
_____         _____  It is O.K. for a woman to call a man and ask him out.
_____         _____  It is better to be friends with members of the opposite sex than to be in love
                                with them.
_____         _____  Poetry about love must be sentimental to be effective.
_____         _____  Once a person has been in love, she (or he) is more sensitive to another
                                person's feelings when she (or he) finds out that person likes her.


        Tierney and Pearson define drafting, the second stage of the "Composing Model of Reading," as the "refinement of meaning which occurs as readers and writers deal directly with print on a page" (571).  During this stage, readers and writers desire to make sense of what is happening in the text.  Writers decide what information to include and what information to withhold, while readers fill in the gaps of meaning and make connections.  Students need to be shown how to learn from a text through teacher modeling and instruction in  reading comprehension.  A number of drafting activities can be taught students to help them to make sense of what they are reading. In particular, students can be encouraged to compose maps and outlines while they read. Particularly helpful are graphic organizers which can be used during all stages of the reading process. "When a teacher and students diagram their labeled group of ideas, they are in effect creating.a graphic organizer, or structured overview "(Alvermann and  Phelps 171). Graphic organizers can be used for both reading and writing . The following example illustrates the use of a graphic organizer to teach text structure.

Graphic Organizer for Comparison/Contrast

Living in the City versus Living in the County

Quality of Life

City                                                                                         Country
Single family homes                                                                   Limited housing
Private and public schools                                                         Mostly public schools
Colleges and universities                                                            Fewer colleges
Technical schools                                                                      Fewer tech schools
Many churches                                                                         Fewer churches
Variety of jobs                                                                          Farming, service, plant workers
Variety of restaurants                                                                Mostly fast food
Variety of medical personnel                                                      Limited number of doctors
Variety of medical facilities                                                         One hospital
Congestion, traffic, noise                                                            Quiet , rural
Crowding, pollution                                                                     Less traffic

Various text structures, besides comparison and contrast, can be analyzed using pattern guides. For example, students can use timelines to study historical works, can chart causes and effects, can write and follow directions, and can create other text structure guides. Jean Gillet and Charles Temple provide a sample timeline activity in which students can trace their own histories. This activity also works well when asking students to research and write their own literacy histories.

Timeline: My Life-Past, Present, and Future.

1. Look at sample timelines in class.

2. Think about your life since you have been born.
    A. What has happened in your world, your family, at school, and within your peer group to affect
         your life?
    B. Think about your future-what will you do this summer? What will you do when you finish
        school? What must you do to accomplish these goals?

3. Make notes of these events-one per line. Include dates or your age.

4. Revise your notes.

5. Write the first draft of your timeline.

6. Conference with a peer or your teacher. Edit and write your first draft (304-318).

During the drafting stage, students can also be encouraged to ask questions related to what they are reading and can be taught different types of questions with answers coming from three sources. The answers to questions might be textually explicit-answers found literally in a text; textually implicit-answers implied in a text; or, scriptally implicit-answers based on readers' prior knowledge outside of the text. (Alvermann and Phelps 198).
        Taffy Raphael investigated the use of question-answer relationships (QARs) in a number of research studies.  She labeled textually explicit questions, Right There, textually implicit questions; Putting It Together, scriptally implicit questions that require both the readers' prior knowledge and information from the text; Author and You, and questions that require the readers to answer from their own knowledge base, On Your Own (516-522).
        Comprehension guides can also help students construct meaning at three different levels: the literal level, the interpretive level, and the applied level (Herber). The literal level consists of specific facts, themes, and concepts; the interpretive level refers to drawing inferences; and, the applied level requires readers to apply information from the text (Alvermann and Phelps 205).
        Richard Vacca and JoAnne Vacca provide a three level guide for Romeo and Juliet (444-445):

I. Literal level: Check the items that explicitly represent some of the important details and actions in the last part of the play.
______1. The reason Friar Laurence marries Romeo and Juliet is to bring the families of Montague
            and Capulet together.
______2. Juliet gives the ring to the Nurse to give to Romeo as a sign of her love.
______3. Paris goes to Juliet's grave nightly to place flowers.

II. Interpretive level: Several statements are listed below that may represent what the playwright means. If you think any of the statements are reasonable inferences and conclusions, put a check on the line provided. Be prepared to support your answers by citing parts of the play.
______1. Romeo would be alive today if the apothecary had obeyed the law.
______2. Lord and Lady Capulet are to blame for Juliet's death because they forced her into
______3. If Prince Escalus had punished the Montagues and Capulets earlier, the entire tragedy
            would not have happened.

III. Applied level: To apply what you read means to take information from what you have read and connect it to what you already know. If you think the statements below are supported by statements in Section II and by your own previous experience or study, place a check in the blank provided. Be sure you have good reasons to justify your answers.
_____1. People in positions of power must take responsibility for the actions of those under them.
_____2. Our own personalities shape our lives, and we can shape our personalities by the choices
            we make.
_____3. No person has the right to take his or her own life.


        Tierney and Pearson, in examining the next stage of the composing process of reading and writing, suggest that alignment has two parts: the readers and writers' stance in collaboration with their author or audience and the roles that  readers and writers assume as they  work with a subject. "A reader can adopt a stance toward the writer which is sympathetic, critical or passive. And, within the context of these collaborations, he  can immerse himself in the text as an observer or eyewitness, participant, or character" (572).  Consequently, college instructors might encourage their students to visualize what they are reading or writing, engage in role playing, write from varying points of view,  and reread texts from different stances (Tierney and Pearson 572-576).  In addition, students can participate in reading and writing workshops in order to experience the stance of an author (Atwell; Henry) and can be encouraged to experiment with a variety of journals: dialogue journals, learning logs, peer journals, e-mail journals, double-entry journals, reading response journals.
        In particular, with double-entry reading journals, students divide their journal pages into two columns.  In one column students record passages that interest them, puzzle them, or surprise them. In the second column, students write their reactions to the selected passage that they had recorded in the first column.  They then  can go back and reread the passages in the text for further clarification or enjoyment (Alvermann and Phelps).

Revising and Monitoring

        Although revising is most often associated with writers, good readers revise as well.  Writers reread, reexamine, revise, and reflect on their texts by carefully selecting words that convey their meaning. So too, readers develop an understanding of the author's stance and text by pausing and reflecting on what they have read. Research has shown, however, that many students do little rereading when it comes to complicated texts, nor do they stop to gauge their comprehension of texts.  Monitoring is the ability of readers to separate themselves from texts, either those that they are writing or they are reading, in order to evaluate their composing processes (Tierney and Pearson 576-577).  Students can engage in a number of activities to improve their revising and monitoring skills during reading.  Obviously, students must reread texts, ask questions, and participate in discussions.  In addition, they can return to their prereading anticipation guides and K-W-L activities to confirm or to correct their predications.  Summary writing is an excellent activity to encourage students to revise and monitor their reading.  With summary writing, students learn how to condense large amounts of information into a few main points by separating main ideas from minor details and substituting general terms for specific details (Alvermann and Phelps; Gold and Pintozzi).

Programs and Practices

        Gold and Deming in their chapter, "Reading and Writing, and the College Developmental Student," reviewed a number of  Basic Writing programs that utilized  practices to foster the reading-writing connection.  Two-year colleges like the Community College of Allegheny, the Community of College of  Philadelphia, Foothill Community College, and  Long Beach Community College included activities to encourage students' metacognitive awareness, to strengthen their ability to access their prior knowledge, and to use reading as a source for  writing.  Four year colleges and universities including the University of Pittsburgh, San Jose State University, Georgia State University, and San Franciso State University have designed linked reading and writing classes, paired reading-writing-content level courses, and scheduled team-taught reading/writing courses. . Many colleges have used summary writing, reader response and a host of other activities to move students through the stages of composing.  (149-173).  Donald Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky's Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts: Theory and Method for a  Reading and Writing Course, a germinal text exploring the use of reading and writing in the college basic writing class, describes the program at the University of Pittsburgh. This program  incorporated linked, sequential assignments,  used student and professional writing, and the created a positive atmosphere for students to experience their expertise as readers and writers.


        Both reading and writing have a place in the basic writing classroom for one process informs and complements the other. Research and experience attest that both reading and writing involve planning drafting, aligning, revising, and monitoring  and that instruction in each of these stages should improve competence in both reading and writing.  Furthermore, this instruction when made explicit will help students to view themselves as creators of meaning both of what they read and of what they write.
        Nancy Morrow reminds us that reading and writing are "ways of knowing the world" (466), and she encourages  instructors  and students to consider the various uses of reading. Students should be supported in their pursuit of these uses: "Reading to build an intellectual repertoire.reading for ambiguity.reading for the unexpected.. Reading for the play of language.reading for strategies of persuasion.reading for genre conventions." (467-469).   Eliminating the teaching of reading on the college level or even limiting instruction to solitary college reading classes might thwart students' attempt to integrate authentic literacy practices into their academic and personal lives. Instead of limiting, we should expand our programs and practices to include both disciplines.

                                                         Works Cited

Alvermann, Donna, and Stephen Phelps. Content Reading and Literacy: Succeeding in Today's
        Diverse Classrooms.  Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1998.

Atwell, Nancie. In the Middle: New Understandings about Writing, Reading, and Learning.
        Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998.

Bartholomae, Donald, and Anthony Petrosky. Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts: Theory and
        Method for a Reading and Writing Course.  Upper Montclair, N.J. Boynton, 1986.

Chase, Nancy, Sandra Gibson, and Joan Carson.  "An Examination of Reading Demands across
        Four College Courses." Journal of Developmental Education 18.1 (1994): 10-16.

Dickson, Marcia. "Learning to Read/Learning to Write." BWe: Basic Writing e-Journal 1.1
        (1999). <

Gillet, Jean, and Charles Temple.  Understanding Reading Problems: Assessment and
        Instruction.  New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

Gold, Maria, and Mary Deming. "Reading, Writing, and the College Developmental
        Student." Handbook of College Reading and Study Strategy Research. Eds. Rona. Flippo
        and David Caverly. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000. 149-173.

Gold, Maria, and Frank Pintozzi. Taking Charge of Your Reading. Reading and Study
        Strategies for College Success. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers, 2000.

Goodman, Ken.  On Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1996.

Graham, Malinda. "Reading Strategies for the Secondary Level."  Georgia Council of Teachers of
        English Annual Conference, Callaway Gardens, GA. 26 Feb. 2000.

Herber, Harold. Teaching Reading in the Content Areas 2nd edition. New York: Prentice Hall,

Henry, Jeanne.  If Not Now: Developmental Readers in the College Classroom. Portsmouth,
        NH: Heinemann, 1995.

Morrow, Nancy.  "The Role of Reading in the Composition Classroom." Journal of Advanced
        Composition 17 (1997): 453-472.

Ogle, Donna. "K-W-L: A Teaching Model that Develops Active Reading of Expository Text."
        The Reading Teacher 39 (1986): 564-570.

Raphael, Taffy. "Teaching Question-Answer Relationships, Revisited." The Reading Teacher
        39 (1986): 516-522.

Shanahan, Timothy. "The Reading-Writing Relationship: Seven Instructional Principles."
        The Reading Teacher 41 (1988): 636-647.

Shanahan, Timothy. "Reading-Writing Relationships, Thematic Units, Inquiry Learning . . .In Pursuit
        of Effective Integrated Literacy Instruction." The Reading Teacher 51.1 (1997): 12-19.

Tierney, Robert, and P. David Pearson "Toward a Composing Model of Reading."
        Language Arts 60 (1983): 568-580.

Vacca, Richard, and JoAnne Vacca. Content Area Reading. New York: Longman, 1999.

Wambach, Catherine. "Reading and Writing Expectations at a Research University."
        Journal of Developmental Education, 22.2 (1998): 22-26.

Basic Writing e-Journal

Daniel J. Royer and Roger Gilles
Grand Valley State University


        Directed self-placement (DSP) is different from other placement methods-from the most simplistic use of standardized test scores to the most localized and sophisticated use of writing portfolios-in the way it fosters student agency, particularly for basic writers who have historically been given very little control over the shape and focus of their early college careers.
        Assessment experts such as Brian Huot and Kathleen Blake Yancey have urged those of us involved in writing-program administration to create forms of assessment that "look beyond the assessment measures themselves . and have positive impact and consequences for the teaching and learning of writing" (Huot 551). Yancey focuses particularly on the consequences assessments have on students' larger personal and educational lives by asking us to consider, "which self does an assessment construct?" (484).  Indeed, which self do most placement methods construct for basic writers? What personal and educational consequences do conventional placement methods have for basic writers?
        The initial consequence of all conventional placement methods is that students are told where to go; they are told what course to take.  Even the term, "placement," reveals the long-accepted systemic relationship implied by the placement procedure: Teachers and administrators, as agents of the university, "place" students where the students belong.  Teachers are active, students are passive. Teachers know, students do not.  So no matter how "accurate" the placement-and no matter how well the students end up doing in their first and subsequent courses-the first consequence of placement is always the same: student agency is denied.  And this at the very doorstep of the college or university, typically during summer orientation or the first day of class.  Some recent portfolio placement systems may ask students to reflect on their own writing, and even to suggest a placement, but the placement decision itself is still firmly in the hands of the faculty and administrators.  As an introduction to college life, traditional course placement thus sends a message oddly discordant with the basic educational values of agency, choice, and self-determination.
        But of course the consequences of any placement method go beyond the initial moment of decision-making.  Here we would like to take a look at how DSP creates positive consequences for basic writers at three crucial "moments" in their first-year college experience.  The principles we see at work might be traced back through liberatory pedagogies and other educational movements that have been willing to trust and empower students.  For us, however, the richest sources are in classical pragmatist philosophy and Deweyian educational thought, primarily because of Dewey's location of agency within both students (as inquirers)  and teachers (as experts).  But first things first: before detailing these "transformed moments" and explaining the importance of the pragmatist conceptual framework, we should overview the practice of DSP and note its potential impact on the basic writing classroom.
        The basic principles and practices of DSP are described in "Directed Self-Placement: An Attitude of Orientation."  In that article we describe in some detail the idea of explaining to all new students during summer orientation the nature of a choice they need to make as they begin their educational lives at our school, Grand Valley State University.  In brief, we explain to students that they may begin with our regular first-year writing course or they may begin with a basic writing course designed to build their confidence and get them ready to do well in the regular first-year course.  Either way, the must pass the regular required course, though some students choose to do so in two semesters and others in just one.
        That article also explains how we developed a series of informative guides that are presented to the students in stages.  Several months prior to orientation, each student receives a letter explaining the importance of the choice and a brochure that gives details about the two courses and a checklist that helps to guide them in their decision.  At the orientation itself, the students find a summary of the brochure on a "choice card" in their orientation packet.  Finally, an advisor speaks to each group of students before enrollment, explaining, once again, the importance of making a wise choice and then answering any questions students might have about the two courses.
        After several years now we have seen students choose the basic writing course as a way to get themselves ready for the required course at a rate of about 20%.  Students are choosing this course, knowing that their credits for the course do not count towards those needed for graduation.  They understand that the course is not required, that it is for those students who acknowledge through their own honest self-assessment that they are not quite ready to begin the regular college-level writing course, and they enroll after hearing us remind them that most of the 80% who choose to jump right in and begin with the regular course do just fine.
        A unique feature of directed self-placement is that it permits the construction of a self that we believe all educators would applaud.  American pragmatism has charted much of this territory in books and essays on education, thinking, learning, and psychology.  From Charles Sanders Peirce's "The Fixation of Belief" to Dewey's How we Think, Democracy and Education, and many essays on the nature of learning and inquiry, these thinkers have sought to make room for the living self that is too often eclipsed by positivistic assumptions or stubborn commitments to received traditions.

Transformed Moments: Three Consequences of Directed Self-Placement

        If the college experience can be viewed as a connected series of educational moments that begin with the student's first look at the school's admissions brochure, or first visit to the school website or campus, then to assess the impact of DSP we might consider the potential it has to transform several well-known moments in the lives of those involved with first-year composition. Here we focus on three such moments.  We would like to highlight the way these moments broaden rather than narrow what counts as "evidence" of proper placement for basic writers, and we would also like to emphasize that in good pragmatist fashion, writing placement can become an integral part of the educational process: students can be woven into the educational fabric, committed to the educational decision at hand, no longer an alien object in our placement procedures.

Summer Orientation

        The role of writing faculty at summer orientation has for the past several decades been an odd one. In the midst of welcoming speeches by deans of students and coordinators of academic services, the writing faculty show up-usually through a back door-to administer and evaluate the dreaded placement test.  Students in sandals move from a cheerful campus tour to a crowded lecture hall with cramped writing trays to write cramped essays in crowded blue books.  Then they're released for lunch, and two hours later they receive a slip of paper or a hushed report from an orientation group-leader: "You've been placed in ENG 101"-or 100, as the case may be. Or, more recently, students are spared the timed-writing exercise because they've already submitted a portfolio of their high-school writing, so after lunch the portfolios appear with a slip of paper inside: "You've been placed in ENG 100."  That old high-school question-"What'd you get?"-works through the room. New friends compare slips and rejoice or commiserate, as the case may be.  The sorting has begun.
        Before DSP, then, orientation day was a testing day, a sorting day. Students started the day with a question-"Which class should I take?"-and they left with an answer.  It was the banking concept of first-year composition.  Advisors like tellers read test scores or placement results off computer screens angled for privacy.  Students asked, faculty answered. Student uncertainty was met with faculty certainty: "We know where you belong."
        But with DSP, orientation day is a problem-posing day, a day for faculty to answer a question with a question: "Given what you now know about the year-end expectations of the academic writing community you've decided to join, with which course would you like to begin?"  Faculty are still knowers, of course, but what they know is their own program-the courses and the community standards for success in those courses.  But now, the students are knowers as well.  They know their own histories and their experiences with writing.  They know their own abilities, and their own needs.  What we can offer them is what Dewey pressed for in Democracy and Education: direction and guidance. There is often an unconscious assumption that students act only from individualistic or selfish motives.  "But," Dewey notes, "they are also interested, and chiefly interested upon the whole, in entering into the activities of others and taking part in conjoint and cooperative doings. Otherwise, no such thing as a community would be possible" (29).  What Dewey describes as the "environment as directive" gives us alternatives to external modes of controlling students. By establishing a common understanding with students, DSP makes possible the kind of educational activity that Dewey describes as "intrinsic to the disposition of the person, not external and coercive." Moreover, he adds, "to achieve this internal control through identity of interest and understanding is the business of education" (47).
        So while faculty still play an important role as guiding experts, students are given full control over this crucial first-year decision.  We think this is particularly important for basic writers.  Just because they may struggle with certain aspects of writing, we need not assume that they cannot be thoughtful about their own experiences and abilities and act responsibly in their own best interests.  In fact, Erica Reynolds' research, "Self-Efficacy and Directed Self-Placement: Apprehension, Confidence, and Gender Components," surveys a range of studies that indicate that self-efficacy, which is expressed as a situation- and subject-specific personal confidence in one's ability to successfully perform tasks at a given level, is a strong predictor of actual ability.  And might skewed self-confidence (low or high) be a particular stumbling block for basic writers?  Reynolds further points out:

        Research, by Daly and Wilson (1983) and others, suggests that no correlation
        exists between writing self-efficacy and general self-confidence. Self-efficacy
        is subject- and situation-specific and general self-confidence has not
        been shown to generalize across personality or academic domains.
        Dale Schunk (1991) explains that even "within an academic area, a high
        self-concept  does not imply that students feel highly confident in all academic areas."
        For instance, "students might judge their competence high in science and
        mathematics, moderate in English and social studies, and low in French and
        Latin" and within mathematics, "students might feel efficacious about algebra
        but not geometry." (7)

        Students who choose to begin with the basic writing course signal to us a desire to take things slowly, to test the waters of college writing before jumping into the standard course.  Students who choose to begin with the standard course-including those who might previously have been labeled basic writers-signal to us a desire to dive right in. This eagerness, we believe, can go a long way in helping a basic writer to make great strides in the standard writing course.  If all of our students begin their first writing course thinking, "This is the course I want," we feel we are in an ideal educational position.

The Placement Complaint

        Before DSP, if writing program administrators talked to students about placement at all, we might have said something like this: "If you have any questions about your placement, please come see me in my office."  And students did come-though rarely with questions.  Rather, they took the "certainty" we'd handed them at orientation and challenged it, and we usually argued back.  Our message was, "You may think you know, but we know best."  We defended our placement methods as reliable and valid, even when we had suspicions ourselves.  We agreed to look again at the placement essay or portfolio, and as we scanned the pages we searched for weaknesses
-anything that would justify the placement that had already been so confidently handed down. Sometimes, even as we said "I can see why you weren't placed in 101," we wondered to ourselves who among the faculty could possibly have scored the essay so low!
        If we were stubborn, the students would finally leave, still angry but perhaps a bit less confident about the grounds for their resistance.  At best, the students would see that not just two, but now three writing faculty thought they were "basic" or "developmental" or "remedial" writers.  At worst, they would seethe with the conviction that they'd been misunderstood, overlooked, ignored.
        On the other hand, if we were honest with ourselves and admitted on occasion that the placement method wasn't perfect, that we did indeed make mistakes, then the students would leave knowing that the "certainty" they'd been handed hadn't been certain after all-that when faculty first say "We know best," they sometimes mean "We think we know best."  Educationally, what is at stake is nothing less than the status of knowledge itself.  Because of our hastily made claims of certainty-which are later challenged and occasionally shown to be false-we call into question our ability to make any claims at all.  We create skeptical students, which ultimately is not a bad thing, but we portray ourselves as simple believers in truths that we cannot always support.  The students earn their skepticism at our expense.
        With DSP, placement complaints simply don't happen.  Since the placement decision is the students' own, they have no one to complain to.  WPAs might, however, still invite students to visit the office if they have questions.  But now we really mean it: come see us if you have questions. During their visits, students may express their own uncertainty about the course that is right for them-and our role is to help them work toward a more certain position.  First of all, then, we are guides, not judges, which is consistent with the kind of pedagogical stance most of us have been trying to take in the classroom these past few decades.  But also, we model in these discussions a far better educational practice than we had before: without certain knowledge, the students and faculty work together to explore the variables and reach a satisfactory, though still tentative, conclusion.  In the end, we protect the students' agency, but we show the students that good decisions must be made in a rich context of knowledge and understanding.  Michael Williamson says, "Tests don't have validity; decisions have validity."  We are helping the students reach a valid decision.
        Regardless of the students' final decision, however, we never have to leave the uncomfortably productive realm of uncertainty.  The best the student can say is, "I think I now know the best course for me."  This is a solid educational goal, to help students generate hypotheses and then to test them-for Dewey, this is the fundamental pattern of educative inquiry.  We'd prefer to have our entering students thinking rather than knowing, testing their uncertainties rather than challenging our certainties.  In the past, it was only after crisis and argument that uncertainty was allowed to creep in. The pose was certainty, but the reality was uncertainty. Now the reality from beginning to end is uncertainty. There is no "true" placement to haggle over, only better and worse decisions to make.
        In our embracing of uncertainty, however, we do not disavow knowledge about writing.  We know our own program, and the kinds of writing that succeed in that program.  After a semester of work and interaction with particular students, we know the difference between an "A" and a "C" course portfolio.  We know a lot about writing.  What we don't know is the entering students' writing-which has, after all, been produced outside the context of our program and institution.  The key is that we don't pretend to know what we cannot know.  By doing this, we affirm our ability to make knowledgeable claims about student writing-but only when the time comes.  We affirm that the time for faculty to make knowledgeable claims about student writing is at the end of a course or sequence of courses, not at the beginning.
        At the same time, we affirm the value of our students' past experiences as writers.  Students do not come to us from a vacuum.  They come to us from high schools and high-school teachers, from reading and writing lives that deserve to be taken seriously.  The implication of a one-shot placement mechanism is that we, the college faculty, can learn more about the students as writers in a single day than the students (and their teachers) have managed to learn in twelve or thirteen years of writing in school.  Assessing their "place" within our own program does make sense, of course, but we believe it makes more sense to add in a one-shot fashion information about our program to the students' extensive knowledge about their own writing experiences and abilities than it does to add in a one-shot fashion our assessment of students' writing abilities to our extensive knowledge about our program.
        In other words, we prefer to weight the balance toward the students' experiences and abilities rather than toward the quirks and details of our program.  Again, Dewey's insistence that our roles as teachers and members of the community is "to select the influences which shall affect the [student] and to assist him in properly responding to these influences" and to recognize that all education-from infancy on-"proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness" of the community (Pedagogic 432).

The First-day Writing Sample

        Different schools handle this differently, of course, but in many programs faculty are asked to collect samples of student writing on the first day of class, or during the first week of class.  The purpose is to make sure that students have been placed properly.  If teachers see that a few students in a basic writing class write with fluency and purpose, they might recommend shifting the students into the standard class.  Or if teachers see that a few students in the standard class struggle on what appears to be a fairly basic level, they might recommend shifting the students into the basic writing class.  The choice is typically made by the teacher in consultation with the WPA; the students may be consulted, but the final decision is not theirs.
        Because of the utter conventionality of this process, it sounds reasonable.  But on second thought, we can see that it undermines the initial placement decision that had been given with such certainty and authority.  At orientation we say, "We know which course you need," and then on the first day of class-the very next time we see the students-we say, "We need to check your placement."  Students thus discover that we aren't so certain after all.  And yet we meet that newly admitted uncertainty with another "certain" decision: "You actually belong over here."  If the students trusted our decision the first time around, many of them have to start wondering after the second.  Is it any wonder that students so often challenge our grading at course's end?  We show them in our placement processes that we often don't know how to assess writing well or fairly.
        And the students whose placements we change are in effect being singled out as "difficult to place" students.  Despite the lack of agency students have with traditional placement methods, at least they have the comfort of being placed in a course with others presumably much like themselves.  Then during the first week we change our minds and place them with other, different students.  It's not surprising that even students initially placed in developmental courses sometimes resist changing after the first day.  They just want to settle in.  The question that must linger in the minds of students whose placement has been changed is, "What is it about me that makes me difficult to place in a writing class?"  Of course, some students are relieved to make the switch, or they feel vindicated after having questioned the initial placement in the first place; either way, the lesson they learn about the writing program is not a flattering one.
        Also important is the way we respond to the first-day writing samples of students we do not want to move.  When the school or program makes the placement decisions, our initial teacher-response to student writing is likely to some degree to justify each student's particular placement. So when we respond to student writing in the developmental classes, our comments might at least partly be aimed at confirming that the student is indeed a basic writer:  "You're in the right place," we need to assure them.  Justifying the placement decision, however unintentionally, pulls us away from the central task, which is simply to help students improve their writing.
        With DSP, a first-day writing sample is an opportunity for the teacher and student to "test" the student's placement decision.  Based on what he or she sees in the student's writing sample, the teacher can provide some direction or feedback on how the student compares to others in the class, or on how the student's writing matches up against end-of-semester standards for the course or program.  This is really an extension of the placement process, similar in a way to the use of first-day samples in traditional placement methods, but now it is the student's hypothesis ("I think I belong in this class") that is being investigated, rather than the teacher's thesis ("You belong in this class").  The whole process is an open-ended inquiry-again, much more conducive to the larger "environment as directive"(Dewey, Democracy 28) that most of us hope the college campus embodies.
        Moreover, the first-day writing sample is an opportunity for the teacher to begin articulating a learning strategy for each student.  If a student in the standard composition class appears to struggle with development, the teacher can emphasize the need for that student to work extra hard on development strategies during the course.  If a student in the standard class appears to struggle with mechanics, the teacher can emphasize the need for that student to work extra hard on editing strategies.  The point is that it's the student's choice to be there in the course, and we as teachers can let each student know what he or she will likely have to do in order to succeed in the course.  For some, it may be quite a bit.  But what traditional placement methods fail to take into account is the motivation of individual students-or other personal variables that might affect a student's ability to do well in a course, such as part- or full-time work, domestic responsibilities, and the like.  Raw writing ability alone is not the sole factor in student success.  If a writer with marginal ability is willing to write extra drafts, visit the Writing Center religiously, practice regularly at a good OWL website, and so on, he or she can undoubtedly accomplish more in a given semester than another student of higher ability with no motivation at all.  As we talk with students about their first-day writing samples, we can gauge with them what it is they will have to do and whether or not they are willing to do it.
        And finally, the teacher's responses to the student writing do not need to justify the students' placement. The responses can be fully authentic responses to the students' situations as writers looking for ways to improve and ultimately to meet the expectations of the first-year composition program.

Agency, Articulation, Assessment

        Dewey reminds us that some methods of inquiry are better than others, just as some methods of surgery, farming, or navigating are better than others.  Dewey describes successful inquiry as that which begins with an "indeterminate situation," a situation that is uncertain, unsettled, disturbed.  Accordingly, inquiry is the process whereby such a situation is transformed through interaction with the social environment into one that is determinate or settled. Directed self-placement provides just such an educative situation. "Purposive education or schooling should present such an environment that this interaction will effect acquisition of those meanings which are so important that they become, in turn, instruments of further learnings" (Democracy 320).
        Understood in this way, the best learning stems from authentic inquiry.  Ultimately, the inquiry in which basic writers become involved isn't "settled" until the end of the first-year writing program-or, in some schools, the end of the four-year writing program.  By that time the writers have had one, two, or perhaps several semesters to work on their writing.  Our hope is that these writers have pursued their work with the "internal control through identity of interest and understanding" that Dewey describes as a hallmark of joining a community.  But of course we must invite them into this community by allowing their participation in important decision-making moments. In short, we believe that we can set these writers on the right track by taking three things very seriously:

Works Cited

Dewey, John. "My Pedagogic Creed." 1897. Rpt. in John Dewey on Education. Ed. Reginald D
        . Archambault. Chicago: U of Chicago P. 1964. 427-39.

---. Democracy and Education. 1916. New York: Macmillan, 1923.

Huot, Brian. "Toward a New Theory of Writing Assessment." College Composition and
        Communication 47 (1996): 549-66.

Reynolds, Erica. "Self-Efficacy and Directed Self-Placement: Apprehension, Confidence, and
        Gender Components." M.A. Thesis. University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale. 1999.
        [Note: More excerpts from this work and more information on DSP is available at]

Royer, Daniel J. and Roger Gilles. "Directed Self-Placement: An Attitude of Orientation." College
        Composition and Communication 50 (1998): 54-70.

Williamson, Michael. "Assessing Students, Assessing Ourselves." Presented at the Fifty-first Annual
        Conference on College Composition and Communication. April 12, 2000.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. "Looking Back as We Look Forward: Historicizing Writing Assessment."
        College Composition and Communication 50 (1999): 483-503.

Basic Writing e-Journal

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