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What are the implications for instruction if effective writing requires planning, which includes the development of an organization and the generation of content information; translation and revision

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Writing is considered as a process that is made up of different cognitive practices. Flower and Hayes (1980) developed a writing method wherein the importance of planning is emphasized.  Planning and organization are important skills in effective writing as well as the ability to manage the composing process. There are researches that proved that successful adult writers usually develop an initial set of goals or plans to guide the writing process. The writings plans are continuously enriched and developed by adult writers as they write (De La Paz & Graham, 1997, p. 1).

            Planning as an important element of effective writing can be subdivided into several processes – goal setting, generation, organization of ideas, translation and revising.

The Process of Effective Writing

            As Hayes and Flower (1980; 1985) proposed, planning is a process and in order to be an effective writer, one has to follow the process. According to Flower and Hayes (1980) “a great part of the skill in writing is the ability to monitor and direct one’s own composing process. They contended that skilled writing is a goal-directed activity and that writing processes such as planning, sentence generation, and revising must be orchestrated so that the writer can with attention between these functions and a host of mechanical, substantive and environmental concerns”.  


            Researchers such as Hayes and Flower (1986) push the idea that effective writing can be learned by students if they are taught and encouraged to apply the process of writing employed by skilled writers. According to Flower and Hayes (1980), “skilled writers usually develop an initial set of goals or plans to guide the writing process. As they write, they continue to enrich and refine their plans. Moreover, they achieve their goals and intentions by deftly orchestrating a variety of strategies for generating, organizing, evaluating, and reformulating what they plan to do and say, paying particular attention to their purpose and audience”. Planning and organizing the writing process, therefore is important in achieving expertise in writing. 


            Goal-setting is considered as a critical component of effective writing (Hayes & Flower, 1986). Teaching effective goal-setting will help students to become effective writers as it has beneficial effects on task performance. Goals affect students’ performance by influencing what is attended to, mobilizing effort, increasing persistence, and motivating the development and use of strategies for accomplishing the target goals.

            Goal-setting therefore, has instructional implications. Teachers must encourage students to establish the goals that they want to achieve in writing and monitor these goals while they are in the process of writing. Goal-setting is an effective strategy in helping students to become effective writers. By setting goals, students will be able to create a plan and prepare for the writing task.


            According to Graham and Harris (1994) most students who are not effective in writing fail to plan and edit their works. Explicit teaching incorporating modeling, guided use of planning strategies, and feedback should be used to teach students to use their time effectively. Planning sheets, prompts cards, writing checklists, and organization forms are strategies that provide students with a format for planning (Watson & Skinner, 2004). Planning according to Hayes and Flower (1986) is the process that involves the production of thoughts and their organization in order to put them into writing, therefore achieving the objectives of the writers.

            The writer is the one to devise the writing plan and it mainly is dependent on the knowledge that the writer possesses. There are three types of knowledge that are found to be important in the writing process. These are: conceptual knowledge, socio-cultural knowledge and metacognitive knowledge.  Conceptual knowledge comprises of information regarding concepts and schemas that are accumulated in the long-term memory. Socio-cultural knowledge on the other hand, is comprised of information relating to social and cultural contexts. Metacognitive knowledge can simply be described as knowledge about what one knows.

            Planning refers to generating ideas, organizing ideas, and setting goals to achieve during writing. Planning can be seen as invoking the reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving, and other high-level thinking aspects of writing.

Idea Generation

            Generation is the process which involves the creation of sentences in accordance to the writing plan of the writer (Hayes & Flower, 1986). Idea generation can be described in terms of threes stages. First, the writer identifies a memory probe that is used to explore long-term memory. Second, the output from the search is evaluated. Third, and optionally, if the idea passes this evaluation it is written down. Idea generation is an important sub-process in writing as it helps the writer to determine which ideas he will put into writing. In order for the writer to generate ideas, he or she must posses wide knowledge about the topic that he or she is working on. Ideas are generated from long-term memory. In order to assist the students in the idea-generation process, the educator can provide information for the students. The teacher can also encourage students to research on the topics that they are interested in and take-note the important information and details for future use. The teacher must encourage students to look for information in both traditional and non-traditional resources.


            Organization is also a sub-process of planning. After accomplishing the processes of goal setting and idea generation, the writer is ready to generate ideas and arrange them logically in order to achieve his or her goals.


Translating is the act of expressing the content of planning in written language. Translating refers to the semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic operation involved in putting ideas into words.


            According to Hayes and Flower (1986), revising is an essential element of the writing process. Good writers according to Hayes and Flower (1986), invest time and effort reflecting on how what they have written may sound to their audience while attending to elements that are somehow dissonant with their original intent.


            According to Flower and Hayes (1980) “a great part of the skill in writing is the ability to monitor and direct one’s own composing process” (p.39). hey contended that skilled writing is a goal-directed activity and that writing processes such as planning, sentence generation, and revising must be orchestrated so that the writer can switch attention between these functions and a host of mechanical, substantive, and environmental concerns. According to their model, this is accomplished by a control structure, the monitor, which activates and coordinates the interplay among the various elements involved in writing. Teaching self-management is probably one of the most effective strategies for programming generalized outcomes. Students can learn to select their own goals, self-prompt important behaviors in a variety of settings, and self-regulate their performance. Self-management enables students to function more independently with a range of skills in a variety of situations and over time. One approach to teaching writing that incorporates self-management is the self-regulated strategy development model (Harris, Schmidt, & Graham, 1998), which includes six instructional strategies: (a) develop and activate background knowledge, (b) introduce the strategy, (c) model the strategy, (d) have students memorize the strategy, (e) support students' strategy use, and (f) provide opportunities for independent performance.

Self-regulation is thought to enhance writing performance in two ways. First, self-regulatory mechanisms, such as planning, monitoring, evaluating, and revising, provide building blocks or subroutines that can be assembled along with other subroutines, such as procedures for producing text, to form a program for effectively accomplishing the writing task. Second, the use of these mechanisms may act as change-inducing agents, leading to strategic adjustments in writing behavior.


            According to a number of theorists (eg. Flower & Hayes, 1980), to become an effective writer, a student must be taught the process of writing which is generally composed of planning, generating sentences and revising. Flower and Hayes viewed writing as a goal-directed activity involving the need to deal with the process of writing and the content being addressed. This goal-directed activity is more than the broad goal of the overall task, but includes many subgroups that assist in achieving the task.


Flower, L & Hayes, J 1980, The dynamics of composing: Making plans and juggling constraints, in L Gregg & E Steinberg (eds.), Cognitive processes in writing (pp. 31-50), Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.


De La Paz, S & Grahan, S 1997, Strategy instruction in planning: effects on the writing performance and behavior of students with learning difficulties” Exceptional Children, vol. 63, no. 2, pp. 167+.


Hayes, J & Flower, L 1986, “Writing research and the writer”, American Psychologist, vol. 41, pp. 1106-1113.


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