Wiley’s Approach to Formulaic Writing

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Valentin Dragan
English 1B
Professor Susan Gridley
September 30, 2012

Wiley’s Approach to Formulaic Writing

In their quest to find a simple way to assure students have the writing skills they need, teachers are tempted to use formulaic writing. Having a method to rely on seems to be a win -win situation for teachers and students as well. In his article “ The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (and Why We Need to Resist)” Mark Wiley is trying to analyze to what extent teaching writing, as a formula will affect the writing process. Wiley is emphasizing that the tendency towards formulaic writing comes from the increasing pressure on schools to rise the test scores, and based on statistics, essays that comply the formula received high scores on test and advanced placement exams. Although the article was written 12 years ago, the topic is still current considering the recent teachers strike in Chicago. Similar to a more than a decade ago, among problems such as budget deficits, school closures and teacher layoffs, the Chicago teachers also object to their performance and jobs being tied to standardized tests. Wiley’s article is analyzing the formulaic approach in writing and he is specifically addressing the Schaffer Method. He describes the Schaffer approach to teaching writing in great details. He continues by presenting the strengths of Schaffer formula and also the downside of the formulaic writing. He concludes that Schaffer method should be used as a strategy but resisting the formulaic. His analyze about the method seems to be very persuasive. Wiley is right about the fact that the success of Schaffer’s method suppress important aspects of writing process essential to student’s future development. Schaffer’s method should be taught as a segment of the writing process, a tool that can be accessed when necessary rather than the only tool available.

Because in a school setting, the writing teachers are the decision makers in regards to what writing method will be adopted, they are Wiley's primary audience. His position as the composition coordinator, makes Wiley a trusted authority. Also being an English teacher, help readers identify with the writer. He connects and creates credibility with his audience in several ways. Besides being knowledgeable about the subject, he demonstrates fairness and courtesy to alternative views. He analyzes the issue considering the advantages as well as the limitations in using Schaffer's method. Wiley uses specific examples in order to give his argument presence and emotional resonance. “I understand what teachers are up against, particularly in urban schools: resources are scarce, buildings are in disrepair, classrooms are overcrowded, and scores of new teachers are needed; yet too many of these teachers are poorly prepared to teach writing"(61). In other words, he involve his audience on one hand by empathizing with them, and on the other hand highlighting that too many of these teachers are not prepared to teach writing, thus, their tendency to favor a formulaic method.  

The increased pressure on schools to rise test scores and make sure high school students are ready for college, and because too many teachers are looking for quick fixes, determined Wiley to write the article (61). Although the article was published in 2000, similar issues seem to bother the teachers today. According with Salon Media Group in March, “education researchers from 16 universities sent a letter to Emanuel and the head of the Chicago Public Schools warning against such measures, pointing out among other things that such test-based teacher evaluations have been shown to be highly unreliable measures of teacher quality. Moreover, poverty, homelessness, crime and other social issues beyond the influence of teachers often influence standardized test results. And we know this type of teacher evaluation risks creating teachers who ‘teach to the test’ instead of the creative, dynamic teachers we...
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