Minimalist Theory: When and When not to Use it
Minimalist theory is one of the most valuable tools a consultant has when helping a student improve as a writer. It allows writers to come to their own conclusions and thus helps them improve their future writing. However, minimalist theory is sometimes hailed as gospel and enforced as the only way to consult. While minimalist theory is certainly valuable, it defiantly isn’t the only way to consult nor is it the only way to have a student improve as a writer. It is important as a consultant to be able to distinguish when and when not to use minimalist theory.
Minimalist theory is, in its basic form, a type of consulting that allows the consultant to let the writer come to their own conclusions about their writing. It is more hands off and guiding rather than straight up telling the writer what they should do to improve their writing. It may include asking the writer questions or asking them to practice their skills. Take this exchange between a consultant and a Junior writing an informative essay:
Writer: I just can’t figure out how to make my essay flow the way I want it too. It’s so confusing!
Consultant: Well, let’s take this part of your essay and see if we can rework it. How do you think you might be able to improve the flow of this sentence?
Writer: Well, I could try some different word choice, or I could rearrange the sentence.
Consultant: Ok, and how exactly might we do that?
Writer: Possibly, instead of saying “The general said that it would be no good” I could say “The general stated that the plan would not work” or “The general expressed concern about the plan.”
In this exchange, the consultant didn’t tell the writer how to fix their essay, but rather asked questions and guided them towards their own conclusion about how to fix the flow of their writing. This allows not only the writing to improve, but also the writer themselves, as well as encouraging problem-solving skills.
Minimalist theory is a valuable tool for the reason that it helps the writer themselves improve. It can be used effectively with more experienced writers, such as Juniors and Seniors, because these students are already strong in their writing and will be more receptive to a minimalist style of consulting. Minimalist theory is also effective in improving the skills of a writer who struggles consistently in a particular area. The minimalist style gives these writers more practice with honing a skill that they struggle with, and thus improves them as a writer. If used effectively, minimalist theory can provide writers with valuable skills that they can use to improve not only their current piece of writing, but future writing projects.
While minimalist theory is a fantastic tool, it should not be hailed as the only way to effectively consult or improve the skills of a writer. Minimalist theory can sometimes be less effective with younger writers who do not have as many writing skills and thus may need extra help. These writers can also be unresponsive to consulting tactics and might require a more direct style to get them to engage with the consultation. As well as this, there may be a situation where a writer is genuinely completely lost. In this situation, a minimalist style of consulting could be frustrating or confusing. Additionally, every writer is different, and thus requires a different style of consulting to get the most out of a consultation. While some will respond to and learn well with minimalist theory, others will get much more out of a more direct style of consulting. Ultimately, it is up to the consultant to decide where on the spectrum from minimalist to direct the consultation needs to be in order for the writer grow in their writing.
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