Writing for Professional Development: An Introduction [chapter]

Mireille Bétrancourt, Giulia Ortoleva, Stephen Billett
Writing for Professional Development  
Writing and professional development Across human history, writing has been a central medium of knowledge constitution and dissemination. This was, firstly, as a prerogative for societal elites. Yet, overtime the mastery of writing and reading has become the basis of formal education far more broadly across populations. Now, it is the key vehicle for all levels of education: from primary school to university where it is used as both the means of progressing individuals' knowledge and also the
more » ... edge and also the means by which their learning is assessed. It stands as the key instrument by which what is known by human society is articulated and advanced, and, thus, through individuals engaging with others' writing and expressing what they know, believe and can do through their own writing, thereby advancing further what they know, can reproduce and utilize that knowledge. Hence, writing plays a considerable role in human development at the both social and individual levels (Schnotz, 2001) . While learning and teaching writing skills has long been a topic in humanities, it is only in the second half of the 20th century that the relation between writing and learning becomes a matter of scientific investigation. The initial model advanced by Hayes and Flower (1980) paved the way for a lively trend of research on the cognitive processes involved in writing in relation with the writers' knowledge. Later, the research established that writing could also support the development of new knowledge, through reorganization and inference processes (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987; Galbraith, 1999) . Schematically, two main lines of research associated with writing emerged in the last few decades. The first one examined the process of learning to write, particularly in secondary and higher education, and also in the context of foreign language acquisition (Ransdell & Barbier, 2002). This line of inquiry investigated how writing is learnt to identify the developmental, cognitive and instructional aspects of writing and to understand how it can be taught and learnt in different contexts (Rijlaarsdam, Bergh & Couzijn, 2005). The second line of inquiry is less interested in the writing processes per se than in the impact of writing activities (e.g. reflexive, argumentative, expository etc) on the development of new ideas, beliefs, and knowledge, both at individual or collective levels. A range of theories have been developed and a large body of research has been conducted to identify the conditions under which writing can be conducive to learning (Tynjälä, Mason & Lonka, 2001). Far from being mutually exclusive, these two lines of inquiry in learning to write and writing to learn, are instead considered as offering complementary perspectives (e.g. see Jonassen & Kim, 2009) for argumentative writing. Together, it seems that these two lines of inquiry can add much to the understanding of both the cognitive and procedural capacities through which writing is undertaken and can also be learnt. However, whilst writing has received a great deal of attention across all educational levels, relatively few researchers have studied the impact and implications of this type of activity as a tool for professional development. This gap exists regardless of the fact that writing has become a key activity in the majority of workplaces. The key role of writing in the workplace has arisen because of changes in their organization: The growing use of technology to capture and distribute information together with the progressive reduction of some administrative support roles means that these tasks are no longer undertaken by specific support staffsuch as secretaries. Instead, workers with various roles and educational backgrounds are nowadays required to write more or less complex texts in
doi:10.1163/9789004264830_002 fatcat:oiokfaa3g5eejblplvm4545wgu