'How one learns to discourse': writing and abstraction in the work of James Moffett and James Britton

Tony Burgess, Viv Ellis, Sarah Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


James Moffett's Teaching the Universe of Discourse set out an agenda for the study of development in writing, which influenced James Britton's work in the UK. Subsequently, however, the work of both these thinkers was largely set aside in the approach to writing taken by national strategies in England. In this article, we trace the history of these developments, and seek to rescue Moffett's and Britton's work from being characterised as no more than a 'failed progressivism'. We argue for return to a focus on thinking and abstraction, as fundamental considerations for a writing pedagogy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-274
Number of pages14
JournalChanging English
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Abstraction
  • James moffett
  • Subject english
  • Writing

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