Genre Production Courses

Genre Production pedagogies tend to engage students in structured practice in the construction of one or more genres. This approach is distinguished from Analysis–Criticism pedagogies by its primary focus on developing students’ ability to follow the conventions of a genre (e.g., a resume, a research paper, case-study, an environmental-impact statement) rather than aiming to increase students’ knowledge about the genres in question. While this approach provides the tacit underpinning of many “writing-intensive” or “writing-in-the-disciplines” courses (e.g., journalism, ‘science-writing,’ creative writing, art and architecture, video-gaming, computer science, etc.), this overview focuses primarily on pedagogies in which the explicit purpose is writing instruction.

 Writing instructors in many disciplines practice Production pedagogies, including professional communication, SFL, ESL, and US First Year Composition. For example, one SFL-informed Production pedagogy involves three main practices: (1) modeling genres; (2) joint composition of genres with instructors; and (3) independent genre construction by students (Macken-Horarik, 2002). Within SFL, the Sydney School approach also uses in part a Production pedagogy in which instructors describe the components of a genre and students are subsequently expected to reproduce them (Johns et al., 2006). The emerging Brazilian school also engages in an explicit genre pedagogy, following a three-step model as described by Motta-Roth (2009): (1) context exploration; (2) text exploration; and (3) text production. Inevitably, the steps of context and text exploration include some elements of the genre Analysis–Criticism pedagogical approach. Production pedagogies in speech communication are less extensively developed, though a recent survey found that advanced public speaking courses are commonly distinguished from basic courses by their introduction of a broader range of genres (Levasseur et al., 2004).

Genre Production pedagogies necessarily place a premium on technical competence, a point on which they have been critiqued by those advocating what they believe to be more progressive Analysis–Criticism or even Theory pedagogies.  Devitt (2004) reviews arguments against Production pedagogies, noting that such criticism often comes from instructors wanting to avoid prescriptivism in their teaching or from theorists who want to eschew ideological acculturation. Perhaps more to the point, “no one could ever fully describe all the contextualized features of any genre” (Devitt, p. 194). A key argument against explicit genre pedagogy comes from Freedman (1993) who cautions that students better learn genres through being immersed in them without explicit, production-based pedagogy. Indeed, she says, “explicit teaching is unnecessary; for the most part, not even possible; and where possible, not useful” (p. 226). Yet even in this thoroughgoing critique of Production pedagogy, Freedman (1993) makes a critical concession to it: “Full genre knowledge (in all its subtlety and complexity) only becomes available as a result of having written” those genres (p. 236, emphasis in original).

Finally, it is worth remembering that many Production pedagogies, particularly those emerging from SFL, were developed as a means to progressive reform, on the premise that marginalized groups who gained technical competence with what were termed “genres of power” could gain access to (and so modify) inequitable social structures.