Articulating a sociocognitive construct of writing expertise for the digital age

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Corrigan, Julie A.
Slomp, David H.
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The WAC Clearinghouse
Background: In this article, we articulate an updated construct describing domains of expertise in writing, one that meets the contemporary needs of those who research, teach, and assess writing—particularly in a digital age. This article appears in a collection published as a special issue of The Journal of Writing Analytics that explores both the challenges and the opportunities involved in integrating digitally delivered formative assessments into classroom instruction, illustrated by the example of Workplace English Communication (WEC). Each article in this special issue addresses different aspects of the challenges involved in developing assessments of complex tasks. The three framework articles that lead this special issue all highlight the importance of robust construct models as a foundation for assessment design. In this article, we present an integrated sociocognitive-oriented construct model for expertise in writing that informs the assessment design work discussed in this special issue. Research Questions: With the overarching purpose of developing a contemporary, integrated construct, we conducted a critical review of journal articles focused on expertise in writing ability, exploring the following research questions: o RQ1: What knowledge domains necessary for writing expertise are described in research articles from 1971 to 2020? o RQ2: How do these domains coalesce to describe a construct of writing expertise for the digital age? o RQ3: How can this broad construct be extrapolated to an idiographic model that describes the expertise required for writing in workplace contexts assessed by the WEC modules? Methodology: We conducted a critical review of writing scholarship from the past 50 years. The purpose of a critical review is to synthesize the significant scholarship in the field in order to advance theory. We chose 1971 as our starting date, which was the year in which Emig published her seminal study examining writing processes, as opposed to products. Our search parameters included the following: the articles were to address writing constructs or theories in their title or abstract, be peer reviewed, written in English, and written between 1971 and the present (spring 2020). We consulted the databases of ERIC (Educational Resource Information Center), Academic Search Complete, and ProQuest. Then, we conducted a second round of searching via a hand search of the top five ranked journals in writing research. From our initial screening, we eliminated any articles that were either duplicates or irrelevant during a close read of the texts. Articles were eliminated if they were not explicitly focused on construct/theory development and/or made little contribution to construct development; also, some were eliminated if they did not contribute anything new to construct development due to saturation. Once we arrived at our final list of texts, we read the texts and coded them using NVivo over two rounds including provisional coding and pattern coding. Results: Our critical review of 109 texts revealed that the following writing knowledge domains have predominated the literature: metacognitive, critical discourse, discourse, rhetorical aim, genre, communication task process, and substantive knowledge. We bring these domains together to form a sociocognitive construct of writing expertise, which describes the knowledge domains necessary to develop expertise in the digital age. Discussion and Conclusion: After discussing the knowledge domains revealed by our critical review of the literature, we then describe how we take our construct from the nomothetic level and apply it at the idiographic level in the context of the WEC modules that are the focus of this special issue. We conclude by elucidating the implications this construct has for writing curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
Open access article. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) applies
Construct , Sociocognitive , New literacies , Workplace English Communication (WEC) , Writing assessment , Writing theory , Writing analytics
Corrigan, J., & Slomp, D. (2021). Articulating a sociocognitive construct of writing expertise for the digital age. Journal of Writing Analytics, 5. 142-196.