Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Traditional Process Studies Had to Omit Procrastination

My study goes against the grain of process pedagogy, I think. You see, procrastination is a process issue, even if no process theorist has ever talked about procrastination in an article. But I'm really studying the written product! I'm not analyzing protocols of the steps the participants went through as they wrote their papers. I'm circling and categorizing errors. Sure, I'm also looking at questionnaires in which the participants gave some information about their writing process, but this isn't how process studies traditionally go.

And that's got to be part of the reason that procrastination wasn't studied during the heyday of process studies. If you're doing the cognitive protocol-based study, you're in a controlled environment watching the participant go through the whole process of writing. And while you can get useful information that way, you're missing a huge part of the picture of writing. The huge part that allows you to procrastinate for hours, days, weeks, or more. Time.

If you take writing out of a laboratory setting, a lot more goes on. You can't very well follow a freshman around for the whole semester to jot down every time she thinks about her term paper out loud. So while technically procrastination is a process issue, it didn't fit into the model for empirical studies that process theorists were using.

This is bad. What it did was allow our profession to have strong feelings about procrastination as an important issue since it apparently represented a dysfunctional writing process without research to support our beliefs. If we're teaching process, we're not going to just let our students wait until the last minute to start working on their papers--they need to be thinking and prewriting and drafting and revising over the course of time. Not just churning something out the night before the paper is due.

But none of this is based on empirical research. There weren't any studies done in our field to suggest that procrastination led to bad writing--and how do we know it's part of a bad process if we don't know it leads to a bad product?