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Shifting Sands: Process to Product

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Ismail Baroudy photoRecently, composing is theoretically viewed as a dynamic process via which student-writers discover what they already know. Student-writers, in fact, experience writing as a process of creating meaning. By contrast, student-writers based on the traditional approach were formerly trained to mimetically practice reproducing different types of paragraphs and texts; thus, focusing on the form of the finished product they use and produce. Despite the historic paradigm shift, from product to process, the researcher asserts that student-writers still need structures and models to emulate on writing by process for real audiences and real purposes. As such, the present study focuses on the possibility of rationally restoring product by integrating process and product in L1 or L2 writing classroom settings. In fact, it is a re-exodus from process to product should occur to fulfill the optimal objectives.


The whole modeling tradition in writing witnessed precious little research on the effectiveness of using prose specimen in the composition classroom. Surprisingly, the instructors themselves who enthusiastically made use of prose modeling in their classrooms did not even question its dubious value; its unexplored identity. Though mere imitation can not be rendered reasonably advisable in conducting or granting writing sessions a constructive academic atmosphere within an educational program, on abiding by every one’s judgment, its being invariably, round the years, past and present, functioning as a salient component of teachibility as well as learnability. Hairston (1982), though relatively biased towards “winds of change”, supports the practice of providing students with “models of excellence to imitate”.

Needless to say, whether intentionally or otherwise, a considerable amount of learning and even teaching is seen to occur through the device of imitation. Such experience may take place even when the model is implied and abstract rather than concrete. It can also happen being perceived in absentia as an imagined or potential substitute replica. Some, due to their being inferior if compared to other alternatives, may be eliminated outright for being nothing but a sterile educational tool (element). Some dissenting voices too may imagine to themselves learning without imitation, but that may occur bringing about a product that can be rendered incomplete, fragile, impaired, lacking genuine durability or suffering from procedural inconsistency.

Despite the absence of critical thinking in this domain, a trend of rhetoricians and composition theorists of orthodox advocacy adopt product-modeling as a “valid pedagogical method” (Stolarek, 1994:154). Moreover, the use of model passages, usually extracts or paragraphs, is widespread in ESL writing exercises at all levels and goes largely unquestioned by ESL teachers, the simplistic notion that people learn to speak a language mainly by mere imitation has been absolutely abandoned. Thus, it is assumed that “the imitation of a model, a sample of writing that is by definition successful, is a valid means of helping students to learn to write in their first or second language.” (Watson, 1982:5) Models are, then believed to be indispensable resources, which if justifiably exploited, can substantially contribute to the successful teaching of composition.

Certainly, stimulating models should not be ignored in favor of emerging but not well defined and untried not well experimented devices. Krashen (1978) visualizes models to work as inputs students can use, take in, utilize and incorporate in their own work. Models can contribute significantly to student-writer’s own participation in the writing process. In doing so, resource and support, both stimulus and guidance help in promoting linguistic and rhetorical awareness. Besides, experimental rehearsal and cultural experience will optimistically get eventually crystallized.

There exists no more than a single possibility of taking models of writing into consideration. The manipulation of model resources varies with myriad interpretations provided for defining what the skill of writing can actually be. Writing may be envisaged as the transference of lexical items and structural patterns, which may unsatisfactorily result in a collection of sentences rather than clustering to form discoursal units as genuine products. But, if the provision created is rendered unconvincing, product-modeling, in a way, can then be monitored to encourage genuine compositions. The brainy rationale behind the choice of specific type of models is known to be characteristically loaded to impart themes or topics. Student-writers can be seen actively engaged in specific writing tasks, in the hope of performing analysis as well as doing or discussing some type of problem-solving exercises. They may produce an acceptable piece of written composition that can in some sense be considered to be the product of creativity and experience, though stimulated by a model type of input or intake. Hence, one is rewarded by a sense of relief particularly when models seem to raise awareness to put models to different uses serve various uses.

No matter what category of research on modeling in the domain of writing composition demoted the significant role it plays in developing student-writers’ abilities. Whether deemed unproductive or anti-creative, modeling can not be overlooked. This is due to the fact that it acts like a lubricant easing friction and reducing the pressure imposed by the assigned writing curriculum of whatever nature be: form-based or content-based, writer-based or reader-based, communicative or prescriptive and even product, process or of genre category. Some patient reverie into the case in question lets the masked merits to get all of a sudden unveiled. Luckily, such a procedure known as product modeling boasts virtues which, if truly demonstrated, may forestall harsh criticism If that student-writers are intelligently exposed to the “lexical items”, “structural patterns” and “conventions”, models can readily help them go beyond sentence-level. This is usually achieved on having interaction with the real sense of modes of rhetorical organization, stylistic variation, and communicative purpose and audience awareness systematically met. Authentic models rather than artificially manufactured ones provide the practitioner with the unique opportunities of becoming intimately introduced to the minor details of a culture. Within such a culture, customs, values, worldviews and attitudes toward life are seen to have been delicately interwoven.

Student-writers are led by product-modeling proponents to improve their styles through imitation exercises and since models familiarize them with novel structural conventions and patterns, their creativity are consequently enhanced. It is said that imitation, if performed reflectively, boosts many student-writers’ sense of originality and authenticity. Admittedly, when student-writers are provided with stylistic options, they have, in fact, an opportunity to concentrate on invention. Besides, expressive and pragmatic knowledge, another variety of models is seen to have been rendered essentially necessary to experience writing within the context of a single culture.

In a survey on the use of prose modeling in the composition classroom conducted by Stolarek (1994:155), some seventy instructors from four universities were asked to express their views on a questionnaire. Seventy six percent stated that they use prose modeling on a regular basis in their classes with the majority of respondents believed that modeling was most effective in providing students with stylistic insights.
No experienced writer or expert in writing entertains the notion of teaching writing with the aid of some relevant intervening models if the student writer is to attain higher standards of writing. Donald Murray (1968) used models as problem-solving resources related only to student-writers’ writing processes, where they would be provided with the opportunity of discovering their own writing problems. If those problems are discovered, then; the most relevant models, which generously offer fair solutions, can be effectively utilized. Eschholz (1980), by focusing on the composing processes of the student-writers, introduces models functioning as somehow intervention techniques for individual students who are experiencing difficulties in their writing. They are thus granted facilitative aids, so that they may enjoy a fuller sense of purpose, direction and organization without their creativity being drastically tampered with readily cherished.

Though models, when utilized in the process of writing, are demoted to undertake a secondary role, they can in fact be desirably treated as something of “resource rather than ideal” (Watson, 1982:13).
Student-writers on exploring the models with each other or with the teacher, on critically comparing their successive draft-products with those of superior models; they will be involuntarily drawn in the process by the eccentricities of the unfamiliar model. That’s why theorists who concentrate on the process rather than the products of writing often accommodate modeling into their methods, (Stolarek, 1994:55). Fortunately, process oriented writing research to justifies the more of models when they are fully integrated into a sequence of activities that constitute the writing lesson (Watson, 1982:13).

Raimes (1978) exemplifies an inte approach in which models are the integral part of writing. Models are there but not in their traditional place at the beginning of the unit. Students first focus on communicative, linguistic and rhetorical features needed to be appropriately dealt with. Exposure to the model is somehow deliberately delayed. Only when they have already embarked on the process of their own composition-producing endeavours; and have prepared and are invited to read the model for the sake of comparison rather than mere imitation.

In her scholastic research project, Stolarek (1994) investigated the diverse responses expert and novice writers show when they are assigned to write in an unfamiliar prose form according to some instructions given in advance. However, before extending those instructions, some models of unfamiliar prose forms were made available to them to have them reproduced. The findings indicates that: “novice writers who are given a model of an unfamiliar form to imitate respond in a manner which is more introspective and evaluative and far more similar to the responses of expert writers than novice writers who are not given a model”. Such model imitation seems to indicate that when a student-writer is confronted with an unfamiliar prose form it induces him to somehow tap the abstract schemata that he/she happens to have. This phenomenon can is manifested on successfully interacting with the model provided to let a reproduced products get imaginably realized.

Product-modeling, now-a-days, is reported to have been masked by modern intentions to serve some optimistic, constructive skill-raising objectives. They have been shrouded to adopt a newly directed function to accomplish its stipulated classical purposes: enabling learners to copiously write. It has been discovered that feedback to students’ writings in its traditional sense suffers seriously from a set of shortcomings. Such types of feedback fell short of fulfilling the objectives for which they were given. Traditional feedback was nothing but rough detections and corrections, which due to its nature, hampers students undertaking academic writing from attaining autonomy.

Such students essentially need to be enabled to “accept responsibility for editing, correcting and proofreading their own texts” (Allwright, 1988:109). Accordingly, a new method of feedback termed ‘reformulation’ has been suggested to meet the above target, liberating students to do their own editing. Thus, the new method bestows upon the student-writers the privilege of behaving autonomously so that they are fully empowered to develop their own inner criteria for judging the quality of their own writing reflectively.

Allwright (1988:109) introduces a type of detailed feedback. And technically calls it “Reformulation”. He then defines it as an “attempt by a native writer to understand what a non-native writer is trying to say and then to rewrite it in a form more natural to the native writer”. In fact, it is “intended to a sympathetic reader’s interpretation in an acceptable English, of the original writer’s text”. Following such a procedure in providing feedback, the non-native student will be provided with a superior version of writing if compared to his/hers. This raises his/her consciousness about linguistic and non-linguistic characteristics of a successful text produced by a linguistically dependable native speaker. Those reformulated texts are detected as approximate perfect models. It helps elicit the underlying priorities it hides to have them consciously or unconsciously incorporated in the later writing efforts undertaken to produce a more appropriate version of a text categorically.

Product-modeling is seen to have been recently found indirectly presented to function effectively providing prewriting activities, as well. Some techniques are urgently required to monitor best such a kind of significant sub-process. To incite students into action may involve drudgery struggle, creating a situation difficult to be persuasively supervised. Hence, modeling may be one of the efficient techniques, which can be deliberately utilized to activate the repertoire of the student writer's untapped ideas. The extensive varieties of models made available to meet different levels of wants and to fulfill various kinds of expectations can be appropriately exploited to generate ideas that are inherently required to guarantee the production of a convincing type of a text. Models are topically identified and classified to respond immediately and positively to any type of exigency of writing may emerge. Those models utilized in provoking thoughts can be challenged in content rather than in form or can be supported by extending them. They can be used as potential models of thinking to be enthusiastically manipulated by student-writers ‘argue for or against’ them.

Most of the teaching methods whether of traditional or innovative integrate modeling as a crucial component in their technique stuffed corpus. So, of course, some of the academic objectives for which they were created can be effectively found in the curricular spectrum furtively incorporated deep within. In real life situations, people do not say humans or things are this and that so much as humans or things are like this and that. Models like theories can not be judged in terms of their accuracy so much as in terms of their usefulness.

Suggestopedia as a model of teaching second/foreign language, in its foundation as a teaching methodology purports ‘to describe how attentiveness is manipulated to optimize learning and recall’ (Richards and Rodgers, 1986:143). Its theory of learning incorporates infantilization as a model that of parent to child (Richards and Rodgers, 1986:143) in terms of which the older students recycle the minutes characterizing children in their self-reliance, sense of immediacy and instant responsiveness. The learners’ role is to behave as childlike as possible yielding all authority to the teacher and occasionally assuming the names of native speakers of the foreign language students to eventually turn suggestible. Thus, modeling is a type of metaphor entreating a successful experience as that of manifested in super teaching and super learning.

The Natural Approach by the same token is said to have been developed as a model of second/foreign language teaching to match naturalistic principles as noticed in successful second language acquisition. Modeling is best manifested in the light of acquisition/learning hypothesis (Krashen and Terrell, 1983) where by acquisition as “the natural way, paralleling first language development in children” (Richards and Rodgers, 1985:131). Depending on the natural order hypothesis research (Krashen and Terrell, 1983), certain grammatical structures and morphemes are acquired before others in the first language acquisition of English, and a similar natural order is found to be followed in second language learning.

Curran (1972) formulated the Community Language Learning methodology to suppress anxiety, hostility, and conflict as major deterring factors exerting pressure on the fluent currency of language learning. Community Language Learning intelligently draws on the counseling metaphor to redefine and rehabilitate the role of teachers (the counselors) and learners (the clients) in second/foreign language classrooms. It capitalizes mainly on the counseling metaphor from which learning and teaching behaviour can be plausibly predicted or accurately inferred.

Asher (1969), in advocating the manipulation of a Total Physical Response theory in second/foreign language teaching settings, parallels successful second/foreign language learning with that of the process of a child’s language acquisition endeavours. He concludes that adults can learn a second language most fluently and properly by recapitulating the processes by which children acquire a vernacular. Asher’s view of child language acquisition is merely a true duplication of the learning psychologist, Arthur Jensen’s seven-stage model: a stimulus-response model of language acquisition, in describing children’s verbal development. Asher (1969) considers the parallel mechanism, which exists between first language acquisition and second/foreign language learning, to provide the naturalistic setting model most required in the process of acquiring a second language rather than that of learning it.

A model whether a pattern or a blueprint is seen to serve as a representation of the way things are or of the way they can or should be. Models can be very specific and concrete and are often based on derived from the existing or the emerging theories as those describing models of language acquisition by children.

Here, it can be concluded that models i.e. products, the same as the processes, exercises on effective role in taking student-writers accomplish their goals. Accordingly, the ignoring of one or another, i.e. product as model and process as behaviour, to ignore mobility and productivity as two urgent requirements of contemporary age.

Rationally, resources made available by research, practical experience and intuition should be constructively harnessed to promote the teaching and learning processes of writing classrooms. This will certainly secure myriads of beneficial consequences, which are surely interpreted and directed to the welfare of every one; every living being.

Models of atomic structures, models of features of universe, and teaching and learning models, too are used both as an aid to the better understanding of phenomena and a plan for action. Human beings in general hold in possession models that govern their views of the world and that guide their perceptions as well as their behaviours. Two such models underlie much of what psychologists think and believe about human beings. On the one hand, the mechanistic model reflects the belief that human beings are very much like machines, predictable and highly responsive to environmental influences. The product-modeling approach can be explained on the basis of this view and student-writer can be categorically referred to, as well. On the other hand, the organismic model holds that it is more useful to view humans as dynamic, more responsive to internal forces than to external simulations. Those who are sympathetic toward processes belong to the second category. In fact, it can be concluded that in both process and product assisted writing the role of models should not be ignored.
The term model may refer to an actual person whose behaviour serves as a stimulus for an observer’s response.

The manifestation of such a case is a student observing closely a successful student-writer in the act of writing.

The processes he/she goes through to come up with an unexpected product can be observed by means of conducting some appropriate research. Models more often can be conceived as symbolic devices. These include such things as oral or written instructions, pictures, mental images, cartoon, film characters, and religious figures as well as content and characters in books and on television.

Such models are prevalent especially in a technologically developed society. This does not deny that peers, siblings and parents may also serve as models, or teachers and students may be held up as exemplar to be faithfully emulated.

A developmental view of how children learn socially acceptable behaviour can be well demonstrated by the common concept of imitation. This, in fact, serves as the process of copying the behaviour of others; the same thing occurs when we imitate successful writers and the same as we try not to do with unsuccessful ones. Thus, in process writing there exists a practice of copying a model, but it is not a finished product, it is a series of sustained and supporting activities cumulatively enhancing the quality of the texts produced. Learning through imitation, which can be simply referred to as observational learning, involves acquiring new responses or modifying old ones as a result of encountering the prototype model of something. According to Bandura (1969:18), the process involved in imitation is “one of the fundamental means by which new modes of behaviour are acquired and existing patterns are modified…”. It is largely through the processes of social learning and imitation that some paradigms (i.e. process writing) and exclusive expressions stealthily sweep deep in an area of academic interest.

Bandura’s (1962, 1977) position regarding learning can be verified in learning situations where imitation and modeling play a significant role. Bandura believes that much human learning is a function of observing the behaviour of others or of such symbolic models as fictional characters in books or television programs. He asserts that it is probably correct to assume that we learn to imitate by being reinforced for doing so, and that continued reinforcement maintains imitative behaviour. Hence, some aspects of imitation, or observational learning can be explained in terms of operant conditioning. Such a learning theory explains how children learn by being positively reinforced, e.g. by goals through getting food, etc.

Moreover, animals like people appear to be susceptible to the dramatic effect of imitation. Among many that support such contention are Herbert and Harsh (1944) who demonstrated that cats can learn rapidly after watching other cats perform special types of behaviours. Some animals appear to imitate humans, too. When monkeys and chimpanzees are reared in human families, they typically adopt many human behaviours (Kellogg, 1968). Unsurprisingly, people also imitate animals.

People behave squirrelly, can act like mules, and occasionally go ape. They may be called pigs or turkeys and yet sometimes may behave like that of an untamed ass. Thus, imitation, modeling and copying are not only a human-specific character but also generally they are shared by certain other species as well. Hence this type of learning should not be ignored.


Allwright, J. (1988). Don’t Correct – Reformulate! In P. Robinson (Ed) Academic Writing. ELT Documents, 129:109-116.

Asher, J. (1969). The Total Physical Response Approach to Second Language Learning. Modern Language Journal, 53:3-17.

Bandura, A. (1962). Social Learning Through Imitation. Nebraska Lincoln: University of Nebraska.

Bandura, A. (1969). Principles of Behaviour Modification. New York: Holt, Rinheard and Winston.

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Morristown NJ: General Learning Press.

Curran, C. (1972). Counseling Learning: A Whole Person Model for Education: New York: Grune and Stration.

Eschholz, P. A. (1980). The Prose Models Approach Using Products in the Process. In T. R. Donovan and W. McClelland (Eds), Eight Approaches to Teaching Composition. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English.

Hairston, M. (1982). The Winds of Change: Thomas Kuhn and the Revolution in Teaching of Writing. College Composition and Communication, 3:76-88.

Herbert, J. J. and Harsh, C. M. (1944) Observational Learning by Cats. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 33:88-85.

Kellogg, W. N. (1968). Communication and Language in Home-raised Chimpanzee. Science, 62:423-427.

Krashen, S. (1978). The Monitor Model for Second-Language Acquisition. In R. C. Gingras (Ed.) Second-Language Acquisition and Foreign Language Learning. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Krashen, S., and Terrell, T. (1983). The Natural Approach: Language Acquisition in the Classroom. San Francisco: The Alemany Press.

Murray, D. M. (1968). A Writer Teaches Writing: A Practical Method of Teaching Composition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Raimes, A. (1978). Focus on Composition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Richards, J. C. and Rodgers T. S. (1986). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching: A Description and Analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Stolarek, A. E. (1994). Prose Modelling and Metacognition: The Effect of Modeling on Development of Metacognition Stance Towards Writing. Research in the Teaching of English, 28:154-173.

Watson, C. B. (1982). The Use and Abuse of Models in ESL Writing Class. TESOL Quarterly, 16:5-14.

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