Writing apprehension: A critique

Rebecca Livengood Hettich, Purdue University


Writing apprehension is a problem because it has consequences for students' learning experience, and for the decisions they make about engaging in productive, fulfilling writing projects. It is also a problem for teachers and writing center specialists who recognize apprehension in the behaviors of students, but have no practical and reliable means of intervention. This lack of specific guidelines for treatment is tied to two related research issues: one, a lack of a clear and consistent vocabulary across research studies with which to describe writing apprehensive phenomena; and two, a lack of consensus on how writing apprehensive behaviors, along with other kinds of affective writing experience, are represented and prioritized. Inconsistencies in terminology are revealed in an examination of three contexts of discussion within the composition field: (1) how and whether the writer is controlled by cognitive perceptions or affective states; (2) whether the writer's apprehension and behaviors during composing or within a learning environment are determined by social conditions and discourse conventions; and (3) how various assumptions about agency, volitional attitude, and individual difference contribute to, or help to resolve, terminological inconsistencies. The examination of these three discussions within this study indicates three interrelated concepts that have bearing on the understanding and treatment of writing apprehension: agency, individuality, and attitude. These three notions are especially relevant to how researchers account for individual students' expressions of apprehension and the observed behaviors of avoidance of writing situations.




Lauer, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Language

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