WPA Network for Media Action

 Newest Message Framework!

(Developed in 2011, and approved by the CWPA Executive Board)

A Note About NMA Message Frameworks

NMA message frameworks are intended as starting points for NMA members to create their own messages. These might include (but are not limited to) letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, comments for local radio or television stations, and so on. Remember: the more locally grounded your message, the more likely it is to be included in local media. Feel free to add information based on your experience, your class, and/or your writing program.

Effective Teaching Practices in General Studies Writing Classes

Working always within the context of good teaching practices generally (1), teachers of first-year college composition classes and similar general studies writing classes should seek to use the most effective teaching practices for improving student writing, according to the following key principles:

• Effective writing instruction is based on inquiry, using challenging tasks that meet student interests. Pedagogically effective student writing arises out of inquiry into questions that students can find to be compelling. (2)

• Effective writing instruction engages students in developing better individualized writing processes. Students need to learn the writing processes used by more effective writers, and they need to tailor those processes to their own needs and temperaments. (3)

• Effective instruction approaches writing as a whole and varied activity, by its nature including feedback from peers and experts, that aims to create authentically communicative results. Most isolated drills and decontextualized instruction have shown no value in improving student writing, in large part because authentic writing is always embedded in complex rhetorical situations. (4)

• Effective writing instruction helps students learn and use rhetorical concepts such as audience, purpose, context, and genre. Students should use both writing practices and analytical reading to identify and apply these concepts in a wide variety of writing situations. (5)

• Effective writing instruction begins with and builds upon the full range of textual knowledge that students bring to their educations, encouraging collaboration and technology as important tools for more effective writing and communication. Students benefit from using professional writing tools and methods in ways that connect with their own extensive experience communicating in a wide range of contexts and genres. (6)

• Effective writing instruction encourages students to reflect on their writings, using various methods such as conferences with tutors and teachers, structured review of model examples (7), portfolios (8), and students' written analyses and reflections on their own writing (9).

• Effective writing instruction uses writing as a means of exploration, critical thinking and disciplinary learning, even while helping students to understand the complicated relationship between communicative writing and writing to learn. (10)

• Effective writing instruction asks students to learn the transferrable concept of genre. Students need to practice the conventions of various genres and reflect on the conscious decisions that they are making as they use these conventions. By this means, writing instruction should help students consciously consider how they might transfer strategies across different contexts for writing, rather than simply perfect their responses within a particular and narrow setting. (11)

• Effective writing instruction trusts mainly in the proven global effect of the practices above to improve written expression. The best writing instruction approaches sentence-level concerns only through approaches with proven effectiveness, such as sentence combining, varied imitation and functional grammar, and eschews approaches that lead to less effective writing, such as direct grammar instruction. (12)

• Moreover, effective writing instruction takes place within effective programs that nurture writing ability throughout undergraduate education. Students should have upper-level writing-intensive courses in which they learn the genre expectations common to their disciplines and projected career fields. (13)


1. Writing teachers should ground effective teaching practices in effective general teaching and learning practices. College writing students should be offered respect, high expectations and fair assessments. Teachers should fully communicate their goals, assignments, and assessments. Learning experiences should engage all learning styles with appropriate balance. Students should be invited to attempt performances that are challenging yet feasible, guided by well-timed feedback. In all aspects of teaching, composition teachers should maintain a professional focus on student development. We have no reason to believe that the vast scholarship on teaching and learning practices generally applies differently to writing classes. Furthermore, college writing teachers should also attend to scholarship in their field. Writing teachers should connect writing with larger philosophies and theories of language, media, communication, and processes. The state of knowledge about writing instruction grows and changes rapidly, so that no teacher can responsibly avoid current scholarship.

2. Hillocks, George Jr. Research on Written Composition. Urbana: NCTE, 1986. Print.

3.National Center for Education Statistics. "Can Students Benefit from Process Writing?" NCES 96-845, NAEP-ACTS 1(3). Washington: NCES, 1996. Web. <http://nces.ed.gov/pubs96/web/96845.asp>.

4. Hillocks, Research.

5. Council of Writing Program Administrators, National Council of Teachers of English, and National Writing Project. Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing. Council of Writing Program Administrators, 2011. Web. <http://wpacouncil.org/files/framework-for-success-postsecondary-writing.....

6. Goldberg, Amie, Michael Russell, and Abigail Cook. "The Effect of Computers on Student Writing: A Meta-Analysis of Studies from 1992 to 2002." Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment 2.1 (2003): 1-51. Print.

7. Hillocks, Research.

8. Greenwald, Elissa A., Hilary R. Persky, Jay R. Campbell, and John Mazzeo. The NAEP 1998 Writing Report Card for the Nation and the States. NCES, 1999. Web. <http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main1998/ 1999462.pdf>.

9. Yancey, Kathleen Blake. Reflection in the Writing Classroom. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1998. Print.

10. Langer, Judith A., and Arthur N. Appleby. How Writing Shapes Thinking: A Study of Teaching and Learning. Urbana: NCTE, 1987. Print.

11. Devitt, Amy. Writing Genres. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2004. Print.

12. Weaver, Constance. Teaching Grammar in Context. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1996. Print. See also, Hillocks, Research.

13. National Research Council. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington: National Academy Press, 2000. Print.



Tired of headlines such as these?

Universities' Dirty Secret: Post-Secondary Institutions Dumbing Down First-Year Courses Times Colonist (Victoria, B.C.)

New SAT Question: Can Johnny Write? Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT)

Copy & Paste; Internet Makes Plagiarism Easier The Ledger (Lakeland, FL)


Join the WPA Network for Media Action and work to change them!

Discussions like the ones that start with these headlines take place every day in the form of news stories, editorials, features, and letters to the editor. Whether they're framed as success stories with a small focus--a great class, a successful project--or more problematic stories with a bigger focus – plagiarism, perceived problems with writing in school or the workplace – these discussions often happen without the voices of literacy educators like WPA members.

The WPA-NMA provides tips on how to begin entering the conversation about them on your campus and/or in your community.

Subscribe to the NMA Listserv


Through the WPA-NMA, you can:


Participate in the National Conversation on Writing (NCoW)

 Learn more about WPA-NMA's initiative, The National Conversation on Writing (NCoW).
The National Conversation on Writing is an effort to gather person-by-person accounts of peoples' everyday experiences with writing.
Follow the link above to:

  • Learn how you can contribute
  • See videos, including "Who is a Writer?: What Writers Tell Us" (with interviews by WPAs, writing instructors, and students around the country)
  • Listen to audio recordings
  • Read transcriptions
  • See what's going on elsewhere

 New NCoW site:  http://teach4learning.org/ncow.org/site/index.htm



Respond to or initiate stories about writers and writing using NMA issue frameworks

NMA issue frameworks contain position statements developed by experts and approved by the WPA Executive Board, links to additional resources, and tips on framing your message for media audiences. With them you can:

  • Write a letter, op-ed column or feature story responding to a hot issue
  • Develop stories to attract interest in a (different) way of framing writers and writing




Current NMA Campaigns and Message Frameworks


Plagiarism can be avoided when classes are well planned, students are engaged in assignments, and instructors provide frequent feedback on student work. Check out the Plagiarism resources page to learn more.

SAT/ACT Writing Exams
Successful writing requires drafting, revising, and editing. The new writing component of the SAT/ACT exams do not allow for these activities. Instead, students are expected to respond to a question in 25 or 30 minutes and one, handwritten, draft. While we applaud inclusion of writing in the exams, students will not use the approach to writing that is the hallmark of success for these tests.

Because the exams include a one-draft sample, written quickly, it also is inappropriate to use these samples for placement in college writing courses. They do not reflect the process used in real writing situations of drafting, revising, and editing and do not reflect the test taker’s ability to produce writing under real-world circumstances. Check out the SAT/ACT resources page to learn more.


Machine Scoring
Computers cannot evaluate writing. They cannot be programmed to evaluate the ideas in a piece of writing; they cannot understand the tone, style, or context for a piece of writing. Machine-scored writing supports an emphasis within writing on how effectively a piece of writing mimics a template, rather than on the effectiveness of conscious choices made by a real writer to represent her or his ideas about an issue. Check out the Machine Scoring resources page to learn more.

Grammar and Mechanics
Effective writing is free of surface errors. Typically, people use the term “grammar” to refer to these errors, but it is more precise to refer to the different kinds of errors that frequently appear in writing such as errors of punctuation, sentence construction, or usage.

Direct work on these important aspects of writing is most successfully done at the end of a writing process that involves invention, drafting, revision, and editing. However, writers develop skills to address them through the process of writing and reading that ask them to acquire fluency so that it becomes a habit of mind, not just knowledge of rules.

Studies of writing conclude that there is no evidence that the constant and comprehensive study of traditional grammar rules helps improve student writing. Understanding the rules of a language by studying it in context – that is, within a body of writing – can help all writers make conscious and critical choices, especially during the editing stage. Check out the Grammar and Mechanics resources page to learn more.

Citizenship and Writing Courses
The language abilities taught in college composition courses are essential for active citizenship. Careful reading and research helps students to stay informed. Critical thinking skills help students to better understand what is at issue in civic debates. The Citizenship and Writing Courses page has additional language and information.


Want to Become Part of the NMA?

The NMA needs you! If you want to change the discussion, or if you're already changing it through your work, please let others know. Join the NMA Listserv

If you have questions about the WPA-NMA, contact the NMA coordinator.