|Critical Reading, Writing, and Your Learning Patterns|
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For a written transcript to the video above, please click here.
|Prepare: Critical reading and writing are essential to being a successful student. An important part of being an intentional learner is developing reading and writing strategies that work best for you. There is no “one size fits all” recipe for academic success. The Week Three Instructor Guidance lists strategies to help you become a more intentional reader and writer based on each Learning Pattern.
Critically read Chapter 3 and view the video (above). The video shows the unique thinking and writing processes of individual learners as they approach a college-level assignment.
|Reflect: Since all four Learning Patterns contribute to excellent writing, consider how the Patterns you Avoid are needed just as much as those you Use First. Practice critical thinking as you reflect on the writing challenges Makayla, John, Paul, and Raheem face in Section 3.3.|
|Write: After considering the scenario of each learner, address the following:
Your initial post should contain a minimum of 250 words.
|Respond to Peers: Review your classmates’ posts and respond to at least two, each with a minimum of 50 words. Consider comparing and contrasting the strategies for college-level reading and writing your peer identified with your own Learning Patterns. Could these strategies support your learning preferences? Why, or why not? Provide suggestions for additional reading and writing strategies to help your peers use their Learning Patterns with intention.|
|Think about it this way…|
|This discussion is asking you to do four things:
|Type a heading for each section (e.g., My Advice for Makayla, John, Paul, and Raheem), and then write the information under each heading in complete sentences. This helps the reader quickly identify each section and helps you know that you have covered all of the requirements for this post.
MY LCI Scores:
Sequence (31) use first.
Precise (25) use first.
Technical (18) as needed
Confluent (22) as needed
3.3 What Is Critical Writing?
The Role of the Author’s Voice
Words mean more than what is set down onpaper. It takes the human voice to infuse themwith deeper meaning.
Maya Angelou (2009, p. 95)
Critical writing, like critical reading, depends upon yourcognitive processes performing myriad tasks with remarkablespeed. The main task, simply stated, is to communicate from theinside out by having the mind convert its internal thoughts toexternal expression (Johnston, 2005). Needless to say, criticalwriting is just as challenging a skill as critical reading. It requiresyour language processing “muscles” to be “flexed” regularly, sothey are ready to do some “heavy lifting” to place words in clear,logical, persuasive order—just like you need to keep real musclesstrong to be able to move and lift objects as needed. It takes practice, and the more you do it, the better you get.
For the college student, critical writing takes many forms (short answers, paragraph responses, postings, essays,research papers). Regardless of the required format, gathering your thoughts from inside your mind and presentingthem for public view can be the most challenging and, in some cases, the most agonizing of human acts.
The following depicts in words what the writing process involves in terms of the brain-mind connection:
When you write you are
symbolic representation by consistently using
lines scratched on paper or
symbols digitally relayed from a keyboard to a screen
that have the same meaning each time they are viewed by the human eye and
translated by the brain’s neuro-receptors and
interpreted, and either
immediately relayed to the recipient or
stored by the working memory for
at the appropriate time. (Johnston, 2005)
Critical Writing and Your Learning Patterns
Just as in the case of critical reading, critical writing also involves the intentional use of your Learning Patterns.Remember Diana? The artist and poet in Chapter 2 who was commissioned to write a book pairing her poetry and art(S25, P28, TR16, C25)? While she was thrilled with the opportunity, and ultimately produced a beautiful publication,the process for her was both stressful and rewarding. Her Patterns of Use First Precision and Sequence set off alarmsin her head. How to begin? How to get her paintings into a digital format? What will it look like? Will anyone want toread it?
The act of writing is more than placing wordson paper. It requires at a minimum asynchronization of your brain, mind, thoughtdevelopment, and language processing.
Once she had a clear plan of how to proceed and was confident that itwould evolve into something to be proud of, her Confluence (25) tookover and she paired her art with her words. Along the way, she struggledto interact with her editor and to consider what each comment’s impactwould have on her work. In the end, Diana succeeded in using all four ofher Patterns because she recognized that establishing order and accuracyallowed her to feel in control and allowed her Confluence to guide her inher selections of art and poetry.
Just as Diana used her Patterns to write critically, so too will you berequired to use your Learning Patterns to write critically in order tosucceed in your online program. Remember, there is no “perfect” Patternor combination of Patterns, and in the end, there are no excuses for notcompleting a task because of your patterns.
As you look at Table 3.4, “Two Approaches to Writing,” notice thecontrasts in the two writers’ approaches. Do you identify with eitherwriter or with portions of what they’ve said? How do you feel aboutdeadlines? How do you plan when you need to write something? Do youdo everything you can to avoid putting your thoughts into words? Or do you look forward to expressing your thoughtsin written form?
|Table 3.4: Two Approaches to Writing: The Effect of Learning Patterns on the WritingProcess|
|S25, P28, TR16, C25||S26, P22, TR30, C14|
|Anticipation: “I had to make room in my life to gatherthe poems [and paintings].”||Anticipation: “I can’t believe I have to write what I’mthinking. That’s really nobody’s business, is it? Is thiswhat I’m going to have to do for each course I takeonline?”|
|On compiling content: “I had no idea of how to makethe selections. I have piles of work in my studio.Should I go through all my paintings? What should Ido? I stalled for a few months on that task, needingdirection.”||On compiling content: “I’ve revisited some of my notesand research. Lots of good ‘stuff.’ Wish I could justsubmit it in this form. Why do I have to put it into myown words, when the experts say it so much better?”|
|Planning: “I broke up all the book tasks into smallertasks and goals such as:
· Today I will edit poems from the summersection.
· Tomorrow I will print them.
· The next day I will mail the hard copy to myeditor/publisher.”
|Planning: “I got the outline done. I’m good atstructuring things, at developing the logic behind mythoughts, but I just don’t want to put words to it all. Itstresses me out. I can’t get it from my head to thescreen. And even when I do, I don’t think it’s verygood.”|
|Deadlines: “I juggle many things—family, gardening,house duties, teaching classes, promoting my artshows, connecting to my e-list by sending out e-newsletters, entering shows, staying on top of emails,etc.”||Deadlines: “I have more than one thing due at thesame time. I hate that. I don’t juggle well. It takes mea long time to express my thoughts in writing. It’spainstaking. If I could do one thing at a time, I coulddeal better with these deadlines.”|
|Revisions: “After all the writing was submitted to thepublisher, and he returned each poem from eachsection with his suggestions written all over witharrows, lines, etc., I had to decipher what he hadwritten, then make decisions about whether or not tomake the changes.”||Revisions: “I ‘get’ what my instructor is saying. It’sjust, I got the writing done and now you want me tore-do it? Why? I said what I had to say, and now yousay it wasn’t clear. You want me to use more precisewords and clarify what I said. Well, at least youthought it was logical.”|
Writing for Your Audience
Everything is written for an audience, and for a specific purpose. The instructions that come with your iPad are writtenfor you, the owner, and their purpose is to explain to you how to load it with your favorite applications and get themost out of your new toy. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet for his Elizabethan-era audience, and for future generations ofplaygoers, and his purpose was to entertain his audience and expose it to profound ideas about human nature. Whenyou leave a note for someone, you write it with the person in mind and for a specific purpose.
When you write an essay for a timed, standardized test, consider the scorer of the test. Your purpose is to show thatyou can successfully answer the question in the way the test reader wants it to be answered. This goes for whateverwriting task the question requires—persuasion, analysis, and so on. Your Learning Patterns can play a big role in whatyou write and in how well you interpret the assignment.
Using Your Learning Patterns to Master Critical Writing
Critical writing, like critical reading, relies on the development of intentional skills. What you write for college coursesneeds to be accurate, logical, carefully reasoned, and thoughtfully crafted. One way to learn the skill of critical writingis to read the work of other writers and to use their methods as models to follow. Understand how you learn and thenread about the experiences of others similar to yourself, so you can identify how to deploy their strategies in order toimprove your writing.
Armed with the knowledge that all four Patterns contribute to excellent writing, and that you’ll need to focus on thosePatterns you Avoid almost as strongly as those you Use First, carefully read the following stories of writing”experiences.” See to whom you most relate. Identify how you can develop your critical writing skills by learning fromthese writing models.
So Much to Do; So Little Time
You want me to fill out the inventory. Then youwant me to do this other form. Now you wantme to write. Which is more important? I can’tget it all done.
Makayla (psychology major)
Makayla is a quirky, funny, serious psychology student and anidentical twin (S29, P20, TR17, C14).
With her Use First Sequence, she did not often succeed on timedtests, as she seemed mired in cement when she became stuck onan answer. Where others would skip to the next question,Makayla would linger. Where others might start in the middleand jump around to answer questions, Makayla held steadfast toanswering in order. If she logged on to her online group siteexpecting to find information or postings, she was stymied if what she needed wasn’t there at that particular moment.She found it difficult to move on to another task and to check back later.
Makayla was ruled by her Sequence, almost to the point of paralysis. She frequently emailed her instructor (often asshe worked late into the night) for more instruction on assignments. She’d send paragraphs to her to be sure she wason the right track.
Makayla executed her papers well, but found that she received lower grades for “lack of originality” and being “unableto present any new or different” ideas.
Does this mean that people high in Sequence aren’t creative? Absolutely not! It means recognizing that it’s okay to calmyour Sequence and to let your Confluence offer up ideas.
Hints for Writers Who Are Short on Confluence and Long onSequence
Here are a few tips to help Sequence users get started writing—and keep going:
- Picturea hotel desk bell on your Now pick up a pen and start brainstorming ideas forthat project you’re avoiding. Every time you allow thoughts of “That will never work,” or “What willthat look like?” or “We’ve done that before,” ding that bell. Write every idea down. Don’t stifle yourcreativity by censoring yourself. One idea leads to another. You may not invent something, but yousurely can tweak an existing idea or concept.
- Youmust get past the idea that you need an opening paragraph in order to Essays and reportscan be written in sections, and not necessarily in order. Start in the middle. Come back to thebeginning and write an introduction once your main points are down on paper. Eventually you willsee your argument or story as a whole, but for the time being, be willing to develop sections as theyunfold in your mind. Afterward you can put them in the order that makes the story or the argumentflow and add the introduction and conclusion.
- Mostimportant of all is to write free of the rules that keep you grounded and Write. Getyour thoughts down first; then pay attention to spelling and punctuation, verb tense, and exactwording.
When You Are LieutenantPrecision
Speaking of winning, I finally got my ownroom. It has spiders and the AC is weak and isright across from the port-a-potty so outsidemy door smells horrible, but it is a 6.5′ x 6.5’space all my own.
John (Army scout)
For families and friends with loved ones who are deployed,letters or emails are priceless. The boxed quotation from John(S27, P32, TR21, C23) helped his family picture his room in thebarracks when he was first deployed—but the one belowconfused them as they planned their reunion with him inGermany. It illustrates how his extremely high Precision made itdifficult for him to write a simple message. Someone low inPrecision would have written a much different, more directmessage, especially when pressed for time. That message mighthave read: “Wait to hear from SSG Smith to buy ticket. I’m notgetting up to date info in transit.” Our young lieutenant with highPrecision, on the other hand, writes the following:
Ok, at Shank finally. Sounds like Main Bodies 3 and 4 are being put together to fly (meaning we wait for afew extra days for them), so that date SSG Smith gave you is probably closer to correct than what I wasthinking. Everything has/will change, so at this point don’t trust anything from me and just buy thetickets a day out from when he tells you. Sorry it’s chaotic. Took me an hour and change to fight my wayto an MWR so I still won’t be online much longer than it takes to send this. Basically just wait until theabsolute last minute to buy any tickets and late is better than early when it comes to arriving. Whoknows how long I’ll be stuck somewhere beyond what we’ve been told. (John, Army scout)
While he feels almost compelled to give details, including the use of acronyms unfamiliar to the reader, he ends upwriting a convoluted message. Knowing your audience and purpose is crucial for every writer, but most often for thosewho are highly Precise.
Not surprisingly, Precision can get a writer into trouble in academic situations. If asked to write a 1500-word essay, awriter high in Precision feels frustrated. “How am I supposed to fit all this into three pages? I didn’t even get a chanceto talk about X, Y, and Z!” While others may struggle to fill a page, a person high in Precision sees every detail asimportant and doesn’t want to cut what’s been written.
On the other hand, those who Avoid Precision frequently feel they have nothing to say and have trouble starting theirfirst draft. After they have finished a draft, it may lack details or contain grammar or spelling errors. They feel lost orfrustrated as they worry that it’s just not going to be good enough.
When You Are a Person of FewWords
In my mind, I see everything as a machine.When I look at something, I see how it worksbut I struggle to explain to others withoutpictures or physically moving or pointing.Usually I’ve been the guy who tags along butcontributes little to the conversation.
Paul (physical science major)
You may have asked yourself at some point, “What do scientistsneed to know about writing? Why make them take a writingcourse?” Interestingly, it’s the scientist who can write thatemployers seek. In order to get new business, science andengineering companies need to write proposals for grants andother funding. They need to publish their findings, and they needemployees who are able to communicate effectively with bothgroups and individuals in writing. More and more, students whograduate with competence in their majors and who possessstrong writing ability are the ones who get the jobs.
As you might suspect, many science majors are Use FirstTechnical Reasoning. Paul is a “grease monkey” and proud of it. By his own admission, he never took class notes. Hecontended that he kept everything “in his head.” However, when he did not use his Learning Patterns (S20, P16, TR33,C24) with intention, he earned a failing grade because he did not follow requirements for his papers—there wereimproper headings, incorrect fonts, missing page numbers, and other formatting gaps—and he did not provide enoughsupport from research for his ideas. He finally made an appointment to discuss things with his writing instructor.
She advised him that he had to tone down some of his Technical Reasoning and recognize that his avoidance ofstructure and what he considered to be “lengthy” paragraphs could be what was leading to his failing grades. Hisgrades were a wake-up call to him, and he sheepishly admitted that he hadn’t bothered thoroughly reading theresearch he’d found in the library’s databases but had skimmed through the abstracts. Paul blatantly ignored the veryskills central to being a critical reader and writer.
By nature, Technical Reasoners like Paul would rather “show” than “tell,” but with an awareness of who you are as alearner and how you approach writing, you’ll be better able to express yourself in writing. With practice in pre-writing,drafting, and editing, your writing skills will improve.
When You Let YourConfluence RunAmuck
I can be easily annoyed, but I don’tworry very much. That’s whatmakes me different. I plan tosucceed by chance.
Raheem (sociology major)
Raheem’s quotation was what constituted his entire first submission in hiswriting course. When questioned about its length and its philosophy (hisidea of succeeding by chance), his response was, “It’s worked so far.”
“Why such a short essay?” his instructor inquired.
“Pretty much sums it up,” he replied.
Unfortunately his decision to follow a devil-may-care attitude was onlybolstered by his Use First Confluence and his high Technical Reasoning.Raheem was a “man of few words” who decided to live by chance, which puthim in jeopardy of compromising his academic success.
A few weeks went by and he produced zero research. His score of 11 in Sequence meant that when called on toresearch a topic, he would need extra focus and concentration on the sequential tasks of searching and taking notes.Group work was a nightmare for his teammates. He was entertaining, but he rarely contributed anything of substance.Raheem dismissed his Patterns as “hocus pocus” (S11, P16, TR28, and C31) and continued to rely on his idea of lettingchance take care of him. As more deadlines passed and the incompletes piled up, it became clear that he was not goingto pass the course. His decision not to employ critical thinking caught up to him.
Critical thinking, critical reading, and critical writing require scheduled, set-aside, focused time to think, read, study,and write. Trying to achieve a degree without scheduling this time and flexing your critical abilities regularly keeps youfrom reaching your full potential.
Law Assignment-Critical Reading, Writing, and Your Learning Patterns