Why teach writing skills?
A national report recently affirmed that 40% of community college registrants are not equipped with the necessary writing, reading and mathematical skills to participate in college level course, mandating developmental or remedial courses to teach these needed skills (Strong American Schools, 2008). The cost of this endeavor has reached an epidemic 2.3 billion dollars annually (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2017).
Statistics provide a reasonable foundation to explain the necessity of teaching writing skills, but lack the emotional conviction for many individuals. So, why are writing skills important?
- Form of Communication and Thinking Skills – Communication is the heart of a family, organization and community. It is the way by which both ideas and information are shared from one individual to another. It is, therefore, the foundation to success in life, work and relationships.
- Top Skills for Employment – The Small Business Chronicle lists communication skills as a top needed skill in the workplace. “Excellent skills in reading, writing, public speaking, active listening and customer relations diplomacy are essential to sharing information, brainstorming solutions to problems, negotiating deals, working with the media and interpreting feedback” (Hamlett, 2017). Link: work ethic -desired work qualities.
- Work Advancement – Communication skills are essential to career success. First impressions are developed at the initial job contact during which communication skills are swiftly evaluated and judged. From the first contact of an application or cover letter, writing skills have the ability to open a door for further career opportunities or forever close a door.
- Gateway for Success – Due to the prevalence of technology in daily lives, writing skills have become more essential. Daily emails, text messages and even communication via social media are based on the ability to effectively communicate a thought or idea. These writing skills are important in one’s personal life and even more so in a professional sphere.
- Increases Confidence – A lack of self-confidence is based on a foundation of an inner critic which consistently whispers negativity. This inner critic can be dissuaded through writing. Journaling, in fact. Beyond journaling, self-confidence is acquired after writing a successful report, gaining a job from a well-written cover letter, receiving accolades for a nicely researched piece of academic work or the simple satisfaction of recognizing a personal contribution to a field of study, profession or your personal life. Link to journaling
- Stimulates Thought Processes – formulating ideas, opinions and thoughts – Some of the greatest inventors and thinkers of all time used writing to general ideas, record thoughts and explore connections. DaVinci is a marvelous example of using journals to explore and invent. Even modern day influencers often share the need to journal such as Jim Rohn, David Sedaris and even Benjamin Franklin. link to learning journals
- Increases Comprehension of New Information – Writing is not only important but an essential skill even a “tantamount survival skill” to understanding and comprehending reading material, states Steven Graham and Michael Herbert. Writing has an ability to increase reading in three major ways. First, reading and writing aid in learning new information and ideas. Second, reading and writing are connected through common cognitive skills. Third, writing and reading are communication skills which build on each other through allowing the writer to have an increased understanding of themselves and their comprehension process which leads to a better comprehension of reading materials (Graham & Herbert, 2010). link to reflective process
- Used as an Outlet – Not only can journaling create an outlet for individuals, but creative writing has been proven to be an outlet as well (Cooper, 1951). Writing has been repeatedly proven as an effective means in treating depression as well as aiding in additional mental health situations.
- Preserves Ideas – Journaling has become a creative (if not addictive) pastime for many people. Writing doesn’t always have to have rules. Everyone during their lives needs to be encouraged to break the rules. Preserve ideas and thoughts in a creative way which is fun.
- Provides Feedback – Feedback doesn’t need to be just for teachers on how to improve one’s writing. It is more than a red mark on a piece of paper. Feedback can be used in writing in the workplace and personal life as well, not necessarily on grammatical errors or even sentence composition, but on ideas themselves. Valuable feedback on thoughts and ideas can be collected through writing.
- Stimulates Solutions to Complex Situations – Writing has been recognized as a valuable means to create solutions for problems. Entire creative thinking theories have been developed to aid in this process. link to reflective process
Writing is an essential life skills to be used daily in both personal and professional lives. “Preparing adult learners for further education or work advancement requires that educators help learners improve their writing skills, increase confidence in their ability to write, and embrace the goal of writing well as a means of communication and expression” (Literacy Information and Communication System, 2017).
Cooper, J. W. (1951). Creative Writing as an Emotional Outlet. Elementary English, 28(1), 21-34.
Graham, S. & Herbert, M. (2010). Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading. Carnegie Corporation: New York, New York.
Hamlett, Christina. (2017). Top Desired Skills in the Workplace. Small Business Chronicle. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/top-desired-skills-workplace-11647.html
Literacy Information and Communication System. (2017). Why Write? Why Teach Writing? Retrieved from https://lincs.ed.gov/state-resources/federal-initiatives/teal/guide/whyWrite
NCSL: Nation Conference of State Legislatures. (2017). Hot Topics in Higher Education: Reforming Remedial Education. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/improving-college-completion-reforming-remedial.aspx
Strong American Schools. (2008). Diploma to nowhere. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.broadeducation.org/asset/1128-diploma%20to%20nowhere.pdf
By Tracy Atkinson
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.