Setting a Research Agenda for Lifespan Writing Development: The Long View from Where?

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I am writing in response to the recent Forum essay "Taking the Long View on Writing Development," authored by Bazerman, Applebee, Berninger, Brandt, Graham, Matsuda, Murphy, Rowe, and Schleppegrell (2017; and hereafter "The Long View"). I argue that "The Long View" was driven by the aim of identifying consensus rather than working through difference, that the principles represent commonplaces rather than a principled synthesis of research, that questions of epistemology and theory central to research agendas are essentially ignored, and that views of writing as semiotically exceptional and writing development as centered in school represent serious flaws in setting the agenda. The semiotic exceptionalism of "The Long View" represents a serious category mistake (Ryle, 1949). Taking "writing" as the unit of analysis occludes the diverse semiotic activity that necessarily shapes all textual artifacts and acts of inscription. Viewing writing as sharply distinct from orality risks reigniting Great Divide theories that had so many problematic effects on research, pedagogy, and people. Seeing school as the primary context for writing development ignores the rich roles of life outside school. In short, "The Long View" takes too narrow and problematic a view on issues of epistemology, theory, and literate lives to serve as the foundation for the critical research enterprise it aspires to conjure in our collective future. Instead, I suggest that research on the lifespan development of writing needs to begin with embodied, mediated, dialogic semiotic practice as its unit of analysis and to trace what people do, learn, and become across all the deeply entangled domains of their lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-219
Number of pages9
JournalResearch in the Teaching of English
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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