And again. . .

Lauer, Janice. “Toward a Metatheory of Heuristic Procedures.” CCC 30.3 (Oct

1979): 268-269.


In this short article, Lauer puts forth 3 criteria for teachers to develop as a metatheory, which can be used by teachers to assess various invention heuristics they might teach their students. Lauer believes “[t]he chances of discovering insight increase through the use of heuristic models, which guide writers’ inquiries, helping them to retrieve past meanings and to symbolize new associations” (268). Lauer’s 3 criteria:

1. transcendency (or “non-data-conditioned” (268)), when writers can use the heuristic in a variety of environments, which makes the heuristic easier to be internalized and habitual (an external source internalized), according to Lauer. Lauer sees this as a plus because it also gives students “increasing heuristic power” (268);

2. flexible direction: A heuristic has flexible direction if it “specifies a clear sequence of operations” (268) These heuristics have step-by-step procedures, but they are flexible enough to allow recursivity-the going back or jumping ahead in the steps of the process, based on sensitivity to the rhetorical situation;

 3. generative capacity “engages the writer in a range of operations that have been identified as triggers of insight: visualizing, analogizing, classifying, defining, rearranging, and dividing. . .The most highly generative models would be those which claim to leave no dimension of the subject unexamined” (269).


Lauer believes developing a metatheory with criteria such as this would help teachers move “beyond the role of a critic lamenting the vacuous products to the role of an enabler offering students useful guidance during the process of composing” (269).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: