ERIC Number: ED317991
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1990-Jan
Reference Count: N/A
Toward a Dialectical Theory of Composing. Occasional Paper No. 17.
This paper argues for a dialectical conception of theory that avoids the problem of trying to yoke together theories that embody conflicting epistemological and idealogical concerns in any unified way. Called a "cognitive-social epistemic," this dialectic is a theoretical construct that subsumes a family of cognitive and social theories that accounts for how writing gets produced. This construct acknowledges the power of social and ideological forces that can circumscribe thought and action; at the same time, it recognizes the critical role that individuals play in the construction of meaning through manipulating a community's symbols. Embedded in these two broad conceptions of a dialectical theory of composing are three principles that emphasize systematic inquiry and reflexivity in both theory and research. First, the development of theory depends on critical reflection, particularly upon the conceptual frameworks and methods that motivate work in composition. Second, the development of such a construct depends in large part on fine-grained observations of the processes that are of interest, observations that are meaningful to both teachers and researchers. And third, the adequacy of explanations can be measured by the extent to which the theories reflect the social contexts studied, not by how well they fulfill the ideological concerns that a given theorist might privilege. A review of social theories of knowledge in composition and the kind of teaching that has grown out of these theories focuses on (1) a weakness in the antifoundationalist program (which deconstructs categories of truth but gives no clear foundation or criterion for action); and (2) a need to realign discussions of literacy and literate practice to find a way to talk about how individuals create knowledge that leads to action. (Eighty-one references are attached.) (KEH)
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Center for the Study of Writing, Berkeley, CA.; Center for the Study of Writing, Pittsburgh, PA.