Using Science to Teach Writing
When it come to scholarly subjects, writing has always been a tricky subject. When teaching a subject in Math, for example, an instructor passes on information regarding strict rules that must be observed. Learning the basics of English is very similar, full of detailed rules and guidelines, but when it comes to writing courses, many classes fall short of actually helping their students improve.
Using Science to Teach Writing
By Milagros Devin / filmsforaction.org

Flawed Teaching Methods

            It’s hard to blame the instructors for this failure; writing has proven to be a notoriously difficult skill to teach. Many people view writing as something that you’re either naturally good at, or something that you’re not. Most writing courses take a similar view, even high level courses at prestigious universities, and they tend to use two main methods of teaching writing.

First off, there’s the age old mantra, “practice makes perfect.” Many writing instructors encourage their students to practice writing, and that certainly isn’t bad advice. Beginners will initially learn a lot about the art of writing simply by tinkering with sentence structure, but they’ll quickly hit a wall until they continue to gain and apply new knowledge. Those with an interest in writing stand to benefit the most from this method, as these individuals will naturally learn from their experiences faster, and they’ll learn to naturally recognize the components, patterns and characteristics that make up strong sentences. Most people will find themselves in the middle; they understand the basics of the written word, but they struggle in figuring out how to make their writing stronger, read articles like this and this method will not work for those that fall into the middle category. Simply put, practice only makes perfect if you already know how to properly practice.

The second primary method of teaching is through encouraging imitation. The idea is that students will learn how to write stronger sentences by studying the works of authors who utilize that skill. Like the last method, if an individual already has an interest in writing, they’ll probably be able to pick up on little details about the texts rather easily. This is because they already have an eye for what works and what doesn’t, and having a natural interest in something encourages people to learn about their passion. Again, this method is a great idea for those that have a real interest in writing, but for everyone else, it’s not an effective way of teaching sentence structure or flow, as most people won’t be able to recognize the components that hold together a strong sentence.

A New Focus

If these two popular methods are mainly useful for teaching students that are already interested in writing, a new approach might be necessary to help teach students that don’t have an interest in writing. An original idea is to get assistance from inexpensive (so that an example writing and students' one have similar level of proficiency) writing services and analyze their work. Through looking at research collected on the reading brain, scientists have been able to pinpoint different factors that lead to a sentence being boring or captivating to a reader. A host of information has been gathered on the subject of the reading brain, and by using science, we can take something that’s largely subjective, like the art of writing, and form some very real and helpful guidelines to teach students how to write strong, effective sentences.

Teaching writing has always been a challenge, but with the information that’s been gathered, any student could significantly improve their personal and professional writing style. A traditional writing course might be great for refining a writing skill, but some people need to build their skill up before attempting to benefit from such a class. For this reason, a dedicated writing course that’s based around the science of forming strong sentences could be a very successful alternative for those that have been largely ignored by traditional writing courses.

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Using Science to Teach Writing