Le Castellet, © Marva A. Barnett

"Writing as a Process"
Marva A. Barnett
In French Review 63 (1989): 31-44.
Winner of the 1990 Steven A. Freeman Award. Reprinted in the Northeast Conference Newsletter (Winter 1992): 16-19; 51-55.


This article first examines traditional teacher expectations of and reactions to students' writing in a foreign language, then considers writing as the mental processes it involves, and explores one method of getting our students involved in editing their own work, even as early as elementary and intermediate French courses. A survey of research on students' writing errors and responses shows that correction is pointless if not directed toward improvement; ironically, the written product has traditionally been considered a fait accompli, with no direct sequel in which suggestions could be implemented and improvements measured, even though teachers dutifully correct all errors.

Considering the cognitive process of writing means taking into account the centrality of the writer's thinking and communicating in writers' motivation both to write and to write correctly. After summarizing several methods for focusing on meaning rather than accuracy in early drafts of students' papers, this essay concludes by detailing one method of asking students for multiple drafts, including a step-by-step guide for students.