Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Fred Preston


Plato said, “When the mind thinks, it talks to itself.” The mind must use words when developing ideas, when formulating concepts, when digesting and assimilating information. When the student writes, the mind should think. However, this does not always occur. The main problem in student writing is that the student does not think. For writing is thinking, the most exact and exacting kind of thinking.

This thesis suggests that in order to improve student writing, the conditions for improved thinking must exist. These conditions would include a change or environment from the traditional, authoritarian one to an open, self-appraising one. In the traditional classroom, there is little room for independent thought; the teacher usually asks questions to which he already knows the answers; he has students follow texts which are often arbitrarily chosen, and therefore, often inappropriate; students write for one person, a hypercritical one, who is more interested in the technical aspects of the paper than the ideas; and the writing assignments are often unrelated to student life except that the student will be equated with the paper and an arbitrary measurement will determine the student's worth accordingly.

The main sources for this study are James Moffett, Herbert Muller, Neil Postman, Charles Weingartner, Ken Macrorie, and Frank O'Hare. The synthesis of their ideas has resulted in a revitalization of a philosophy expounded by John Dewey. His belief that students learn what they do is upheld by recent research in the area of thinking, especially as it is related to writing skills. If students are given opportunity to think, they will learn to do so. By putting an emphasis on the thinking aspect rather than the technical aspects of writing, the teacher is able to motivate students to care to improve their writing because they see a need to do so.

This need for radical revision has been tempered with the realization that the present educational structure does not allow for such changes to be made. But the thesis suggests that some specific, productive changes can be made by the teacher as regards his perspective. After this occurs, the inconveniences of the traditional and/or establishment can be dealt with; it is the teacher, after all, who is the translator of the environment.

Finally, this paper is not a curriculum guide; it cannot be because the curriculum must grow out from the students' needs. It advocates a change in perspective and suggests that such a change will result in students who think. And students who think will write better because writing is thinking.