Applying the progressions to writing tasks
Adults write for many different purposes and in many different forms. Writing may range from very informal (such as a scribbled personal reminder note) to very formal (such as an essay or a letter to apply for a job).
The demands of tasks vary considerably and, for adult learners, the expectations of a course may also vary greatly. For example, the expectations for an explanation written by a learner on a course at Level 1 or 2 on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) are very different from the expectations for one written by a postgraduate student.
The differences would obviously relate to the content knowledge, but they also relate to the learner’s mastery of all aspects of the writing process itself.
The learning progressions for writing outline the steps that learners will typically move through as they develop their writing skills and their knowledge of the writing process. By using the progressions as a guide, along with whatever checklists or rubrics you have for the requirements of a particular course, you can examine the demands of the tasks you expect the learners to accomplish for that course.
In the same way, you can identify the demands of the tasks the learners want or need to accomplish in their daily lives. Using this information, together with what you know about the learner’s writing knowledge, you can plan for teaching and support to help the learners gain the skills necessary for the tasks.
The learning progressions for the writing strand cover the writing process as well as the technical knowledge and skills required. They are:
These aspects of writing operate together, but writing tasks are often more challenging than a casual look will reveal. For example, a task that may seem quite straightforward (Describe how to apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) requires an understanding of the text and language features of procedural texts, such as the use of sequenced steps and imperative verbs.
The amount of background knowledge that a task assumes will also vary widely, and this needs to be taken into account too.
Mapping tasks against the progressions
Checklists, templates and rubrics you use in your course will often outline minimum requirements: refer to these as you work through the mapping guide. If you do not have these, use the mapping guide to build a checklist as you map a task. This process is not meant to replace the tools you use, but rather to complement them.
To map a task:
1. Make a copy of the ‘Mapping a writing task guide’ (Appendix A.1) for every task you will be asking the learners to do.
2. Clarify the expectations (the requirements or standards) for the task. This is where you will use course checklists and other tools if you have them.
3. Work through each of the writing progressions, noting:
the most relevant step of each progression; this will form the map of the task, and
the specific expectations for the task (these will most likely reflect the text type, the level of accuracy, or the length of the writing). These notes will form a checklist for the task.
4. Record the map on the ‘Mapping text summary chart’ (Appendix A.2).
5. Compile a checklist for the task as it relates to the course expectations.
Using models or exemplars for tasks
Tutors and the course materials they use will often provide models or exemplars (see Knowing the learner) that show the learners the kind of writing they are expected to produce. These models can be mapped against the progressions to show the step of each progression that they represent. This is illustrated in the job application letter example of a mapped text in Appendices A.3 and Appendix A.4.
Using the map and checklist for teaching
When you have identified learners’ skills and knowledge (see Knowing the learner), you can use the map and the checklist to compare what the task requires with what the learners can already do. The differences between the two will indicate teaching and learning needs. If the differences are too great, you may need to adapt or change the task, or provide extra support for the learners. The learners can also use the checklist to evaluate their own and each others writing .