writing to learn (PDF)

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Title: Substantial writing

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A few notes on writing-to-learn and a useful strategy
1) Writing to learn is not the free-flow of ideas where we follow associations –
2) Writing to learn is what we do when we prepare to teach – we write and actively
construct knowledge.
3) When we write we transform ideas – fill holes, gaps and identify problems and
4) Writing produces a level of understanding that speech does not …a record of our
5) Writing-to-learn focuses on developing concepts and not focus on stylistic writing

A Write-to-Learn Strategy
A useful practice for using writing to develop concepts in any discipline is the SEE-I
method developed by the Foundation for Critical Thinking. It stands for State, Elaborate,
Exemplify, and Illustrate. SEE-I is actually a disciplined practice of paraphrasing. In their
book, How to Write a Paragraph: The Art of Substantive Writing1, authors Richard Paul
and Linda Elder suggests four SEE-I questions that can easily be employed as a writingto-learn task.
1. Could you state your basic point in one simple sentence? (state key idea using
own words)
2. Could you elaborate your basic point in one simple sentence? (explain thesis
sentence in greater detail…if we cannot elaborate our key idea, then we have not
yet connected its meaning to other concepts that we understand)
3. Could you give me an example of your point from your experience? (If we cannot
connect what we have elaborated with concrete situations in the real world, then
the concept lacks meaning to us.)
4. Could you give me an illustration, analogy or metaphor to help me see what you
mean? (Metaphor, analogy, picture, diagram, or drawing).


Richard Paul and Linda Elder. The Thinker's Guide to how to Write a
Paragraph:The Art of Substantive Writing. (Foundation for Critical Thinking,

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