Annotated Bib: “Toward a Writing and Healing Approach in the Basic Writing Classroom: One Professor’s Personal Odyssey.”

Basic writing
Basic writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s Annotated Bibliography entry analyzes an article by Molly Hurley Moran, a composition teacher who learned the importance of incorporating personal writing in the classroom after writing a memoir about a personal tragedy in her own life. You may view the full text here.

Annotated Bib Entry

Moran, Molly Hurley. “Toward a Writing and Healing Approach in the Basic Writing Classroom: One Professor’s Personal Odyssey.” Journal of Basic Writing 23.2 (2004): 93-115.Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.

After writing a memoir about a tragic experience in her own life, this writing teacher decided to explore the usefulness of using personal writing in a basic composition course rather than focusing solely on academic writing. In her redesigned curriculum, Moran asks students to write about personal and often painful experiences in their own lives in an effort to improve students’ confidence in their writing skills prior to moving the focus to academic writing.

Since the 1970’s, many lower-level composition courses have focused on academic writing, which can be intimidating to students at this stage of learning to write. Since the 1980’s a debate has taken place as to whether freshman composition courses should focus solely on academic writing or if there is room for personal writing. Social constructionists like Peter Elbow argue that, while academic writing is important, the introductory composition course should focus on helping students find their own personal voices. Engaging in personal writing exercises can also teach students that their ideas and beliefs have value and should be included in their later academic writing.


“Most scholars who argue for using personal writing to lay the groundwork for academic writing do so not because they feel the former is easier… Rather, it is because they believe that abstract thinking and writing are necessarily grounded in subjective experience. Irene Papoulis, for example, asserts, “Every college student,  of course, must assimilate disciplinary conventions, but unless students learn to articulate their subjective responses to the thoughts they encounter, they will be crippled when it comes time to generate their own ideas” (133), a remark that echoes Robert Brooke’s view that “[I]earning to write meaningfully in our culture requires developing an understanding of the self as writer, as someone who uses writing to further personal thinking and to help solve problems. The development of such a role, such a self-understanding, is more important than developing any set of procedural competencies” (5)” (99).


Tell me about your own experiences in introductory composition courses. Have they focused mainly on academic writing, or did they incorporate personal writing? What are your thoughts on this debate? Please share in the comments below.

If you enjoy my scholarly writing, you might also enjoy my new book, Papers: A Master Collection on the Art of Writing. Buy your copy on Kindle today for just 99 cents!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s