Here’s my handmade response to Janet Emig’s classic essay “Writing as a Mode of Learning,” an article we’re reading in a graduate class I’m teaching on composition studies this spring of 2011. This article is included in one of our course texts: Cross-Talk in Comp Theory. Here’s her opening paragraph:
Writing represents a unique mode of learning–not merely valuable, not merely special, but unique. That will be my contention in this paper. The thesis is straightforward. Writing serves learning uniquely because writing as a process-and-product possesses a cluster of attributes that correspond uniquely to certain powerful learning strategies (7).
I like especially the connection she makes between three modes of learning (enactive or via doing, iconic or via image-making, and symbolic or via restating through words or analogies) and the hand, eye, and brain, respectively. She relates these trios further to what happens in writing:
If the most efficacious learning occurs when learning is re-inforced, then writing through it inherent re-inforcing cycle involving hand, eye, and brain marks a uniquely powerful multi-representational mode for learning (10).
Unfortunately, with this focus on learning and writing as related processes, and the connections between thought and language, Emig has left out one powerful contributor to effective learning: the heart.
See here an earlier drawing of mine on the connections between mind, heart, eyes, and hands. The center could just as easily represent writing as reading or learning.