I am creating a writing studio as part of the work of my National Writing Project site at Morehead State University and I am very excited about this work and its potential for impacting both the teaching and learning of writing at MSU on many levels.
Why a writing studio and not a writing center or writing lab? Studios have a long tradition as a place for artists or musicians to work. A studio is a place of creation and collaboration and synergy. I want to create a program that fosters the kind of discussion and energy and growth you might see in a studio.
A writing studio focuses on the writer and not the writing by providing a cognitive apprenticeship in a community of practice (see Lerner’s The Idea of a Writing Laboratory) where learning takes place through guided practice. The guidance takes the form of group discussion focused on cognitive and metacognitive issues rather than physical skills and process. The idea is that through observation, coaching, and independent practice, students develop as successful learners and acquire the reflective and self-regulating tools required to be a successful writer.
In Teaching/Writing in Thirdspaces, Grego and Thompson describe a writing studio as a reflective space where writers communicate about generating and developing ideas as well as refine approaches, processes, and attitudes about writing. Greg and Thompson point out this is generative learning that builds understanding through work and experience. Sessions are focused on the production of student work and the processes student engage in to produce it.
Too often the teaching of writing is a closed system that focuses on errors and students ignorance of rules and conventions, but a studio allows us to explore together the rhetorical situation. As Greg and Thompson note: studio presents a different way of “being” with student writers and this different way of being excited me as a teacher and as a teacher of teachers. While this type of cooperative inquiry is reminiscent of Elbow’s work and the way that I teach writing myself, it takes the writing workshop and peer review approaches used by many (including myself) to another level that I believe can plan in important role in the development of metarhetorical awareness. I am interested in the idea of focusing discussion not just on student writing but instead using it as the rhetorical context.
As I study and research in preparation for embarking on this project in August, I am excited by the potential for MSU and the Morehead Writing Project as well as how this work will impact me as a teacher of writing. However, I am still struggling with the implications of this work for me as a technical communicator and taking the writing studio model far beyond the basic writing and composition classrooms that are its traditional home. Grego and Thompson describe the writing studio as a place to explore and negotiate the institutional spaces/places that influence our lives and our writing and as a rhetorician this is something we should continue to address as communications professionals. I expect I will be writing a lot more about this in the weeks to come but I would really appreciate others’ thoughts on the implications of writing studio for technical communication students and professionals.