Writing to learn: An express of all patterns of knowing.

Writing to learn: An express of all patterns of knowing.


Mason, Deanna M.




February 2014


The Notebook, 14(3) [Electronic publication]


Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence, Saint Louis University: St. Louis, MO.


The Notebook: Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence

Writing to Learn: An Expression of All Patterns of Knowing

Deanne Marie Mason, Ph.D. Nursing-Madrid

Writing is an act of creation; to capture intangible thoughts and lay them to paper, concrete and whole. Just as an artist must move beyond technique to create beauty, so must the writer.

Nursing theorist Barbara Carper identified fundamental patterns of knowing: empirics, ethics, personal knowing, and aesthetic (1978, pp. 13-23). These patterns of knowing regard the relationships between science, the facts of the physical world, art, and the interpretive existence of the human being living in a physical world.

To write, one must begin with an empirical pattern of knowing. The use of observation and the ordering of thought leads to what will be captured with the writing. Empirics also address knowledge of mechanics, structure, and form.

Ethics involves responsible, open-minded judgment and reasonableness in evaluating content. Intellectual doubting is part of apprising quality. As Peter Abelard stated, “By doubting we come to inquiry; and through inquiry we perceive truth.” Which sources to include, or not include, are part of ethics as well.

Personal knowing directs how the writing is created. The motivation and act of writing should be harmonious; if not, there is loss of meaning, independence, and self- confidence to the work. A disconnect occurs when the writing and the writer are divided; the work should be driven from the inner self rather than an imposed discipline.

Expression of the personal self must be revealed, on some level, for the writing to resonate to the reader.

Practice and experience assist in the development of aesthetics. Beauty depends on the imagination and resourcefulness of the writer in the pursuit of perspective - the development of a subjective sensitivity to individual differences. Technically well- executed papers may not be aesthetically pleasing. However, aesthetically pleasing papers usually display characteristics of empirics, ethics, and personal knowing. Beauty is not necessarily displayed in the act of creation, but is revealed upon completion.

An approach to improving student writing should include encouraging engagement in all patterns of knowing. Thus, moving beyond the empirical and ethical patterns to include personal knowing and aesthetics may lead students to connect more to the writing and themselves.

Carper, B. A. (1978). Fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing. ANS: Advances in Nursing Science, 1(1), 13-23.


23 January 2015



Contact Information

Dr. Deanna Marie Mason

Calle Téllez, 26, 28007 Madrid
T. +34 912 192 862

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