Donald Murray’s Theory





Donald Murray’s Theory

Donald Murray was an English professor and American journalist who wrote articles and books majoring on the art of teaching and writing as well as serving different newspapers on the topic. He put forward the process theory of composition that focuses on the writing process as opposed to the product in the end. It is based on the idea that any student can deliver the course details of writing through awareness. In most cases, it is through exploration and personal determination regarding creativity and composition. Other measures include dialect, methods, voice, and freedom to take action in a way that he or she delights. The theory also addresses different classroom activities that include peer work apart from the deliberation of teaching, brainstorming, reviewing, editing, and delivering of different writing products. Donald Murray is one of the main contributors to the theory. His theory has a significant role in both teaching and writing apart from the criticism it receives and its effect on the role of students towards composition.


Much of Murray’s indication of the theory is borrowed from compositional methods in the classroom elaborated by Janet Emig and Peter Elbow. The process can be shown utilizing an assortment of techniques proposed to reinforce the connection amongst students and teachers. At the time of its creation, the theory signified that classroom talk and exercises influence learners’ capacity to impersonate what has been taught and expected. It is relevant in that they will comprehend what great written work is and figure out how to emulate it. A portion of the techniques incorporate conceptualizing as well as pre-writing and free writing exercises, drawing applied maps, taking part in an ethnographic examination, and research with Emig and Elbow’s insistence of practicality (Enos 24). Drafting also comes in handy. Class time can be spent writing research reports, and the students can approach their instructors for thoughts or assistance. Update on the techniques is also necessary as it shows a gradual process of growth and understanding of teaching abilities. Educators can assign class time for the amendment of drafts and direct students to focus on the vital features of a composition.

When it comes to the consideration methods in the classroom, Murray’s theory shows a systematic consistency on achievements realized through composing processes. An added measure in the process is a portfolio-based evaluation. Students are given a due date, for example, the end of a semester, and an objective, for example, exhibiting aptitudes like logical mindfulness, ordinary reasoning, and source acknowledgment and adjusting. The intermediate time as portrayed by Murray is spent drafting and changing papers (Murray 77). Most instructors focus on the directions given to students as pertains writing instead of encouraging their mastery and delivery of writing abilities through ideas and formulation. During the semester, students select the documents that the instructors consider to be their finest and place them in a collection, which can be assessed later. Frequently, learners are evaluated on their drafts and work they deliver towards the end of the academic period. it is then up to the teachers to formulate an overall mechanism of combining all written work into a final depiction of the students’ understanding and writing ability over time. it shows the progress thus far.

One of the main distinguishing features of Murray’s theory is reflection on the procedure of writing as well as composing. The early stages of teaching and expressing views on creative writing were not updated and involved a parallel system of thought and action. As a result, a divisive method was created when trying to impart the same knowledge to students working on improving their abilities. The principles of the theory were criticized for being monotonous and subjective as they could contradict the recommendations on handling assignments. The three teaching methods identified prove that language use and choice of topic are critical to the writing procedures. It also requires a decentralized setting of classroom where students have the ability to question clear methods of application. The process of writing was made possible by teachers who attempted to adjust to the classroom changes caused by a widening access to education in America within two decades.

Basic Tenets

The main three-step processes of Murray’s tenets on the theory are based on prewriting, writing, and rewriting. Murray’s work condemns the recognized institutional way to deal with displaying writing because most teachers in institutions are taken as instructors of different writing abilities within the institutions. In most cases, their educational techniques are inadequate in the composition classroom. Murray reminds composition instructors that they are not definitive evaluators of their students’ work. Their role is more encompassing as it reflects on the abilities and honed skills over time as opposed to the product. The instructors who oppose the theory are subjects to evaluation from society and professionals, especially on their abilities. They are assessed on their accomplishments and possible means of encouraging growth among the students. Moreover, Murray states that the educator’s essential obligation is to plan students to work when he or she is not there (McQuitty 467). At the end of the day, Murray needs to make a domain where students assume liability for their own particular learning. Their autonomy, he says, is cause for instructor pride.

Another feature of the theory’s tenets is proposed instructional method is that it strives to limit the teachers’ influence from a classroom setting. It argues that the classroom setting should not be instructional basis when writing is concerned. Exchange of ideas is advised. Murray trusts that viable composition educators are the individuals who do not teach in the most basic feeling of different instructions especially on writing abilities. He states that the traditional way of evaluation is through examination. They talk, and students tune in to their lessons on common punctuation, transformational sentence structure, auxiliary phonetics, and the historical background of the English dialect. While such an approach offers learners an authentic viewpoint on how dialect was utilized as a part of the past, it repeatedly secludes this form of a language from significance. Figuring out how to compose does not involve securing information about dialect mechanics and may have an impact on the activity of a writer (Kansızoğlu, and Cömert 541). Students must have opportunities in their composition classes to compose, reconsider, alter, share, and talk about their written work with their educators and fellow learners on the challenges experienced.

Since Murray trusts that the last judge of the writing is its target group, he needs learners to impart their work to an assortment of readers. While instructors have held the particular part of reader and evaluator in the arrangement class, Murray contends that students should bear a portion of the whole process of mastery and delivering the writing changes. His position is established in the thought that correlation through meetings between students and teachers is necessary (Murray 74). The advantages of gathering work, as Murray clarifies, are clear. Overall, there can be the same number of organization instructors, moderated by the students’ slow reaction and capability to understand their influence in writing. The aim is to help different individuals foster an improvement in their composing ability and excellence. Hence, Murray proposes that conclusive meetings are not framed until the point when students comprehend the advantages of using the theory. Besides, he notes that instructors ought not to continue until the point when they have made an area of influence in which students see the benefit of connecting with a characterized and reflexive written work process. For survey meetings to be viable among the learners, written work learners must be persuaded that feedback and modification are important. It is also valuable on the parts of the way toward composing. In addition, the students ought to comprehend that they have the essential duty to show themselves to compose and that they are able, through re-assessment and correction of their papers, to take care of their composition issues.

Pedagogy Implications

The teachings and implications from Murray’s composition theory affect the relationships between students and teachers. He contends that for a re-conceptualization of the part of writing instructors, there is a need to shift the focus from their methods into the effectiveness of the whole process. The viewpoint of conventional educator is focused on instructional methods. Such a move apparently restricts or even decreases the significance of the written work teacher. However, it does not. The opposite opinion of decreased significance is true. Murray’s model does not have instructors holding on the excellence of active voice over passive voice. However, it has them rather receiving the part of a mentor, diagnostician, and architect. To this end, Murray widens and extends the part of composing instructors. Graham (82) states that the main constraint that his model proposes concerns the measure of time spent in the classroom. Murray trusts that authors figure out how to write when they are writing, not when they are talking about it.

Another implication is that written work educators must do writing workshops inside the physical limits of the classroom satisfying the part of a specialist under Murray’s model. These workshops ought to be open, requesting, edifying, and adaptable, much the same as lesson designs. Students must have the chance to rehearse the written work process, some of the time succeeding on their own. They should feel great when they compose, and achievement is accomplished when the students manage to exceed the expectations placed on them. The instructor constrains learners to push past their usual ranges of familiarity by requesting that they assume responsibility for their writing. The educator does not give students formulae for writing but rather helps them to find the best approaches to shape what they need to state in their creations (Graham and Sandmel 397). The main concern is achieved when the revising part does not conform to the earlier established writing tenets without considering the time and detail placed in the process.

While Murray needs educators to do composing workshops in which students accept accountability for their composition and learning, he does not urge or allow instructors to distance themselves from responsibility of writing process. Mentors keep on playing a crucial part in the written work course regardless of the fact that they are not perceived that way. Murray trusts that a great composition instructor resembles mentors, since they put together ways to enable students to build up their potential and encourage them to show their best execution (Enos 64). Concerning past advices on the issue of efficiency, he recommends written work instructors to emulate sports coaches in the way they handle learners’ potential.

Notwithstanding their parts as designers and mentors, writing educators, as Murray considers them, should likewise take the role of diagnosticians. As such, the task of the educator is not to state that the student is writing ineffectively, however, to state why he or she is composing inadequately and to give an answer, which will work, for him. Like great restorative specialists, writing educators do not simply point to side effects and say this one is not great, and this one looks extremely wrong (Murray 61). Rather he or she examines the indications, analyzes their motivation, and gives treatment to mend or enhance the writer’s condition (Heejun 902). By determining the main causes of writing failure, composition instructors can help students improve their situation. They can demonstrate more grounded approaches to comprehensive and simple writing techniques.


The composition process theory according to Murray has several drawbacks as well as critiques in its application and establishment. The sympathetic view as per Murray did not have any desire to classify writing as a part of instructions in a classroom setting. Some critics have argued that Murray’s views are negative as they discourage instructors and distances educators from their work. One of the main critiques, George Pullman states that the characteristics of great written works are derived from such attributes as honesty, innovation, and timeliness. The author must accept writing with honesty. The issue here is that it is difficult to evaluate the truthfulness in a paper (McQuitty 471). The expressive view says that inventiveness constitutes great written work and must originate from the student alone. Self-improvement helps to take wiring to a higher level. The expressive view relates creativity to analyst’s treatment. Both views of expression and subjection go for clear reasoning, compelling relating, and fulfilling self-articulation. Writing ought to be shown through a gradual process of mastery.

As writing is private and is not up for interpretation, it should be highly organized. It is a major distinction made by Gary Olson when critiquing the theory. The expressive view needs nearness keeping in mind the objective to have great written work. Great composition ought to be natural, composed with an arrangement, and allow written composition determine the final piece. Peter Elbow equated this phenomenon to the process of plant development. A plant’s cells have the data to develop, however they do not know how precisely the final product will look like (University of Delaware). The issue for Faigley on the expressive view is that creative writing does not come about naturally. On the probability that writing arrangement was merely a statement of one’s ability, it would lead to a divided argument as opposed to a fulfillment of a process. Faigley argues that composed writing pieces must show duplication on the different skills that are logical and workable.

The rational view considered written work as being linear since it has a direct influence on the students. Great composition originates from comprehension, investigation, and practice. Murray’s thinking was that children could not see another point of view in writing. Instead, they viewed the aspect of instructions management through conversation, which is highly criticized based on investigation. Students must be instructed how to interpret their thoughts into writing. Criticism has been raised on Murray and Elbows’ implication of the theory’s purpose (Moore, and MacArthur 1449). It has been argued that it is one-dimensional and has shown no significant development since the implementation period of the 1960s. Janet Emig found that most of them did not utilize plots for composing arrangement. According to Murray (101), great written work comprised of phases of editing and revision. Subjective watchers consider writing to be an approach to arrange the world. They found that students who were educated in pre-writing setting composed better papers. Faigley found that the subjective perspective of any writing arrangement cannot ignore the influence that different races and backgrounds have on the dialects of the students.

One of the main constraints that have been associated with the theory is the implication it has on teachers who deliver writing techniques and composition. The social view on writing is that any written work must be comprehended from the societal influence instead of personal ability. A great written work originates from views within the person’s culture. It does not start from their personal side or external influence and neither it can be from a group setting. Social view, on the other hand, considers language to be communal practice. It is responsible for influencing the ability to think and deliver the thoughts through a logical manner with clarity in the expression. Reading, settles on importance of the content and involves connecting words to mean something that one intends. A detachment of the words from the ideas harms the composing procedure. A child gets expressions of language and expectations communicated through history and observing the environment. The fault as observed from the social perspective of the psychological view is the belief that great written work can be characterized. Since people from different groups differ, there cannot be one meaning of mastery when great written works are evaluated. Lack of knowledge of special dialect of the scholastic group makes an individual a poor writer.


The composition process theory is an ideal method that can be implemented for strengthening the relationships between instructors and students. It is necessary for classroom discussions as well as activities that can improve students’ ability while raising their hopes of implementing good writing as well as advancing on the delivery from instructions. Apart from the central claims that writing is personalized and cannot be placed under interpretation, the logical organization of Donald Murray’s influence is necessary regardless of the context that raises a supportive ideological system in the education of today. Some of the limitations that writing and the theory’s application can encounter include the students’ control of composition skills as well as the teachers’ overall growth in a periodical timeframe such as an academic year. It is necessary that evaluation of writing abilities should not be limited to only a single academic calendar. Instead, the necessary skills and abilities take time and the assessment should be consistent with it. . It should not be restricted or limited to the classroom context alone. The writing process comprises formulation of ideas, penning down drafts, writing, revising, proof reading, and adding the necessary ingredients to show creativity.


Works Cited

Enos, Theresa. Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age. Taylor and Francis, 2013.

Graham, Steve, and Karin Sandmel. “The Process Writing Approach: A Meta-analysis.” The Journal of Educational Research, vol. 104, no. 6, 2011, pp. 396-407.

Kansızoğlu, Hasan B., and Özlem Bayrak Cömert. “The Effect of the Process Approach on Students’ Writing Success: A Meta-Analysis.” Cukurova University Faculty of Education Journal, vol. 46, no. 2, 2017, pp. 541-586.

Murray, Donald M. The Craft of Revision. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013.

Murray, Donald M. Write to Learn. Thomson/Wadsworth, 2005.

Murray, Donald M. Crafting a Life in Essay, Story, Poem. Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1996.


McQuitty, Vicki. “Process-Oriented Writing Instruction in Elementary Classrooms: Evidence of Effective Practices from the Research Literature.” Writing & Pedagogy, vol. 6, no. 3, 2014, pp. 467-495.

Moore, Noreen S., and Charles A. MacArthur. “The Effects of being a Reader and of Observing Readers on Fifth-Grade Students’ Argumentative Writing and Revising.” Reading and Writing, vol. 25, no. 6, 2011, pp. 1449-1478.

University of Delaware. “Competing Theories of Process a Critique and a Proposal.” April 16, 2014. Accessed 15 February 2018.



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