Publication Date

Spring 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Jane Fife (Director), Elizabeth Alsop, and Alexander Poole

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Researchers in the field of composition studies have frequently made allusions to musicians when they’ve discussed the role of practice in gaining skill. In doing so, however, they’ve risked making speculative rather than testable claims and separating composition studies from recent insights on practice from other disciplines such as education and music psychology. These fields, I argue, offer testable frameworks with which composition instructors and scholars can teach and study writing practice. Such frameworks are necessary because composition researchers need to supplement qualitative studies of writers and writing with quantitative data to generate replicable tests of teaching methods that may benefit practicing writers.

This thesis draws on prior research in composition studies to illustrate the context of its central argument. It then breaks down some of the key assertions about practice that support this context before introducing frameworks from other disciplines that will allow composition researchers to replicate studies of effective writing practice instruction in the first-year college writing classroom. These frameworks or models of practice instruction include self-regulated strategy development and practice sessions conceived as stages of error and mistake management. Supplementing these models are descriptions of a few key activities built on these frameworks for students to practice writing in and outside the classroom.

Students need more than instruction in crafting better writing products to become more effective revisers and more expert writers. They also need explicit instruction that teaches them how to engage effectively in repeated, structured practice that imparts the tools they learn to solve writing problems with staying power and flexibility. This instruction is about more than handy tips or exercises; it’s about changing students’ and teachers’ assumptions about writing’s purpose outside the classroom.


Composition | English Language and Literature | Music Practice | Nonfiction | Rhetoric and Composition