Generative AI and Writing as a Process: Part I

Writing as a process in an era when students are using generative AI to produce writing

“Writing as a process” is a WAC principle that notably acknowledges the interactive and iterative components of writing. Taking into consideration the different steps in the act of writing, it’s an aspect of academic writing that implies a view of knowledge as tentative and dialogic. Interactive activities situate writing as a process of inquiry and discovery. Activities promoting this kind of development involve productive talk about the writer’s emerging ideas and encourage multiple drafts and global revision. In WAC, an assignment’s interactive components provide students with the opportunity to brainstorm ideas before drafting, get feedback on drafts from peers, or visit a campus writing center.

One of the key methods of « writing as an iterative process » advocated by Bean is revision. The writing theorist Peter Elbow has argued, “meaning is not what you start out with but what you end up with… Think of writing then not as a way to transmit a message but as a way to grow and cook a message”. In that sense, revision offers the possibility to strengthen the process of meaning-making by acknowledging how a finished product evolves from a lengthy process of drafting and redrafting through an iterative process.

Not only does asking students to follow a step-by-step writing process prevent them from overusing AI since it usually only offers final products, but it also allows students to deepen their thoughts. In considering writing as an interactive process ’s WAC principle, students are given the opportunity to enhance their writing through continuous feedback, whether revision occurs as a result of a peer’s review, the instructor’s mid-term feedback, or their own reader’s perspective on their first drafts. In other words, this pedagogy emphasizes writing as an interactive exchange between writers and readers. Expert writers experiment with the recursive process of thinking itself whenever new ideas emerge during the drafting process. As a matter of fact, final products are often substantially different from the first drafts. An across-the-curriculum emphasis on multiple drafts encourages the dialogic process, whereby writers become engaged with a question and, once engaged, develop, complicate, or clarify their own ideas.

Bean’s Engaging Ideas offers suggestions for promoting revision by building interactive elements into an assignment, among which :

  • Assigning debate-driven models and problem-focused writing tasks. The author advises demonstrating the connection between writing and inquiry to encourage students to ask questions and investigate them. He believes that students are more willing to modify their essays when they are responding to genuine paradoxes or issues, whether presented by the teacher or posed by the student.
  • Encouraging students to engage in active learning activities that develop their question-posing skills. Students should be enthralled by questions and understand that the impulse to write stems from the writer’s wish to offer a fresh perspective on a problem, contradiction, or query. Students practice the thinking strategies that underpin revision through classroom activities that allow them to explore their own answers to questions.
  • Facilitating talk times and writing center conferences. Students ought to communicate their ideas with classmates, peers, or writing center advisors or tutors. An instructor can provide students with the opportunity to discuss their ideas during the initial stages of drafting by including a writing center’s visit into the writing process.
  • Promoting peer review of drafts, either in class or out of class.It can be a beneficial tactic to have students prepare a rough draft far in advance of the final due date and then swap drafts to serve as readers for one another.
  • Have writing conferences with students, particularly if they are struggling with the assignment.  According to the author, teachers in American institutions spend more time writing comments on finished products than holding conferences earlier in the writing process. This could be an opportunity to demonstrate and confirm that the assignment instructions are understood.
  • Providing edits or revision-focused remarks on nearly finished versions.  If students have the opportunity to revise an essay after the instructor’s comments, it can be an opportunity to improve their grade. There are various choices, such as self-assessment, peer reviews, portfolios that greatly ensure revised work, and alternating grading methods to encourage revision.
  • Giving students samples of the instructor’s ongoing projects will help them understand how a professional writer approaches the writing process. It would help students to realize that teachers have writing difficulties on occasion as well. According to Bean, students’ self-images can be improved to a greater extent if they are able to recognize the professor’s personal struggles as a writer. It may also be an opportunity to provide an example of a writing process.

These briefly selected suggestions could supplement an instructor’s agenda  by focusing on process-oriented tasks to assign to students. While developing different skills ranging from interactive components of revising to deepening critical thinking, methods promoting revision underline the importance of the process in the act of writing.

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