Cognitive Research and Writing

The Keene State College Writing Task Force will sponsor a presentation by Dr. Ronald T. Kellogg on Thursday 29 April at 7PM. His talk will address what recent neuroimaging of the human brain might tell us about the cognitive processes involved in the production of writing.

Kellog received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in experimental psychology and is a Professor of Psychology at Saint Louis University. Author of The Psychology of Writing (1994), Cognitive Psychology (2003, 2nd. Ed.), and the Fundamentals of Cognitive Psychology (2007), his research currently focuses on the role of working memory in text composition and writing expertise. Recent publications include a 2006 book chapter on professional writing expertise in The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, a 2007 article on improving the writing skills of college students in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, and a 2008 article outlining a cognitive developmental theory of writing expertise in the The Journal of Writing Research. He is a consulting editor for the American Journal of Psychology and also serves on the editorial board of Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

Professor Kellog’s presentation, “Acquiring Advanced Writing Skills: Recent Insights from Cognitive Science,” will address how in the past decade, cognitive science has established independent brain circuits for the executive, verbal, visual, and spatial components of working memory. This short-term memory system transiently stores and manipulates mental representations during intellectual tasks such as written composition. A central component of working memory, executive attention, is readily overloaded when juggling the demands of planning ideas, generating cohesive sentences, and reviewing plans and text. Just as young writers must first automate handwriting and spelling to engage higher level processes, college students must automate to some degree their planning, sentence generating, and reviewing. Mastering these high level processes frees attention for monitoring their interactions and keeping in mind multiple representations of the text. The cognitive science of skill acquisition and expertise indicates that writers must deliberately practice and receive feedback to attain such mastery. The implications of these conclusions include a need for (1) increased practice opportunities in college, (2) integrated writing experiences from freshmen composition through the major field courses, and (3) ways to alleviate the grading problem in providing appropriate feedback.

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