Category Archives: Taczak and Robertson

Key Terms! What a Concept, Taczak and Robertson

I really jammed out with this reading, both because I love reflection as a writer and enjoy teaching thoughtful active re-envisioning of writing in my classes. I have experimented both with “revision plans” — a reflection after receiving peer and instructor feedback but before undertaking revision — and “revision reflections” on final (revised) drafts of assignments, and think there is value in both. But now this four-part framework really drives it home for me in terms of thinking and talking more explicitly about reflection:

“as a 360-degree, reiterative approach to give students a series of opportunities to make decisions and create some understanding of their writing as a means of engaging in reflective practice as a four-part schema: (1) look backward to recall previous knowledge… (2) look inward to review the current writing situation they are working in; (3) look forward to project how their current knowledge about writing connects to other possible academic writing situations; and (4) look outward to theorize how the role of their current identities as reflective writing practitioners connects to larger academic writing situations.”

This is all driven home for me by T & R’s recommendation to explicitly define and use reflection as a key termpractice reflection in the classroom, and encourage students to develop a theory of writing. Key terms!?! I know I define terms for my students, but I think I was raised through the osmosis style of education — bat a big term around long enough and finally you’ll look it up and try it out and start using it yourself. So yeah, making reflection something you define, practice explicitly, and encourage students to talk about in terms of looking backward/outward/inward/forward is a great way to encourage them to think explicitly about writing choices.

It’s like the Reflection Hokey Pokey.

T & R says, “this approach allows them to theorize about their own writing overall, and it allows them to evolve not just as writers but also as thinkers about writing.” If our students can become active thinkers about writing, then I think we are getting closer.

Yancey may have more time on her hands than I

Taczak and Robertson tell us: “Yancey argues that reflection, when woven into a curriculum, becomes a ‘discipline, a habit of mind/spirit/feeling that informs what we do, always tacitly, sometimes explicitly, and that making such understanding explicit is a good’ and that when students use reflection, they ‘learn to know their work, to like it, to critique it, to revise it, to start anew’ while they also ‘invent [writing] identities’ (Yancey 1998, 201–2).”

Flatly put, do we have time in our short, one-semester encounter to adequately reflect? No. Now that we have the whole year, perhaps…

“Yancey’s definition of reflection in its attention to self-monitoring resembles the advice offered by David Perkins and Gavriel Salomon and by the researchers in How People Learn—we must help students become more aware of themselves as learners, which has been shown to increase the potential for transfer (Bransford, Pellegrino, and Donovan 2000b, 67; Perkins and Salomon 1992).”

Okay. Then, if we are going to make students more aware of how they learn, we also have a responsibility to give them terms/terminologies from psychological research, and also lay bare for them our own learning/teaching styles. That would square with the roll-up-your-sleeves attitude that some of the other authors we’ve encountered advocate. I like that. However, TandR don’t really give us much by way of resources. Sometimes, if a class is receptive, I will have us all complete a learning personality quiz Online, and see where we fit onto a grid. It feels a bit like horoscopes, and it’s fun. We also look at the Atlantic Magazine’s Timeline and plug in our birth years to see how different we are. Still, again, how can we integrate this kind of awareness into getting students to latch onto writing-specific terms?

TandR agree that some kind of new vocabulary (definitions, identifications) are necessary. So far, the results of using reflection were not painted as terribly heartening:

“What these findings mean, as demonstrated by the participants, is that reflection did help them in a composing moment to think about what they were doing with their writing, but it did not encourage them to become critical about what they were learning about writing. Thus, as a practice in doing writing, reflection had a limited usefulness. Some might argue that this utility is sufficient, but our research suggests that with a fuller curricular model—including key vocabulary, a reflective framework, and students’ theory of writing—students can and do transfer knowledge and practices about writing to other writing contexts.”


Taczak and Robertson

Thinking about writing gets at the why of a writer’s rhetorical choices, which allows for deeper reflection on the act of writing than reflecting only on the what of a writer’s actions.

There’s more in this chapter that I’d like to talk about than I can put in a single blog. I’ll just mention a couple of things: 1) the idea of teaching students the key rhetorical terms is, I think, crucial for transfer if we’re going to focus not just on the what but the why of writing; students think it’s pretty cool to be let into the discipline, like being in a new secret society, or at least that’s been my experience. 2) I appreciate the three component approach to the class: reflective theory, reflective assignments, and reflective activities; again, it’s like letting the students draw back the curtain to see The Wizard. 3) The four-part schema (look backward, look forward, look inward, look outward) leading to a final theory of writing reflection seems like an efficient way to conceptualize the scaffolding of reflective assignments and carrying them through an entire course. 4) Their specific use of reflection as a revision tool seems like a excellent addition to the always-painful revision process because it gives students something more than just “do better” as feedback.

This chapter and Teaching for Transfer in general) is one I’m very much looking forward to discussing as I appreciate the work Kathleen Yancey and her colleagues have been doing.

The importance of TFT–Taczak and Robertson

As the studies described here demonstrate, students who develop a reflective framework that allows them to understand writing indifferent contexts are able to reimagine previous writing knowledge that they can adapt to a new situation. Their understanding of how to repurpose previous knowledge is dependent on their ability to conceptualize the current context and what it calls for in terms of writing. This explicit understanding of each context also develops
through the use of reflection as a practice, not just an after-the-fact practice, but one that spans the entire context and beyond so that reflection becomes embedded in the invention, arrangement, and delivery of any piece of writing.

I can’t help but agree. Teaching for transfer means explicitly engaging students with the idea that we are helping them become writers who are adaptable to new writing situations. They need to be engaged with that content directly and they need a vocabulary that is suitable to become better writers. They need to always be thinking about how they can become a better writers in the future. As this essay discusses, using reflection alone without engaging reflection as both theory and practice does not deliver results. The question for us to consider is how are we going to embed teaching specifically for transfer in our courses?