More than 250 educators are convening on the UCSB campus this weekend to talk about writing – from the effect of blogs on language to the difficulty of teaching writing in rural schools.

Titled “Writing Research in the Making,” the conference will feature more than 100 panel discussions and workshops that will offer attendees news of developments in writing, writing instruction and writing research, which is an academic field of study that includes analyzing texts and different research approaches writers might take before they write. Activities begin at 8 a.m. Saturday morning with a convocation in the Phelps Hall courtyard and will conclude Sunday evening.

Charles Bazerman, chair of the Education Dept. of UCSB’s Gevirtz School of Education and faculty sponsor for the event, said the conference would benefit students by improving their teachers’ research techniques.

“The immediate goal would be to improve teaching and help teachers to better understand how students learn,” he said. “People will be talking about the latest findings in writing research – the best methods for researching and research problems.”

Conference attendees will be coming from all over California, from out of state and from as far away as Australia, Bazerman said. Among the many topics that will be discussed in the conference’s various talks will be the challenge of teaching writing in rural schools, the effect of blogs, or online journals, on writing and longitudinal literacy studies, in which professors look at a students’ entire bodies of writing throughout their college careers.

Karen Lunsford, an assistant professor in the Writing Program and Education Dept. and one of the event’s faculty sponsors, said the event would be a unique opportunity for writing educators.

“It’s a good chance for different professionals in this field to come together and have conversations about their research,” she said. “We’re also hoping people can form professional networks among each other and help each other dream up new projects.”

Whereas most writing conferences approach the subject more generally, Lunsford said “Writing Research in the Making” will focus on writing research. Lunsford said an aspect of writing research of particular interest to educators are the changing ways of writing examinations, especially in light of the Jan. 30 decision by the SAT I board to include a written portion in the test. The change, which could be implemented as early as March 2005, will also be discussed during the conference.

Lunsford also said she hoped the conference interests more people in writing research.

“Part of the convention is to help make visible the amount of research that goes into writing,” Lunsford said. “We’re hoping we can encourage more people to go into this field of study.”

Paul Rogers, a graduate student in the School of Education and the conference coordinator, said studying academic research is important because of the high demand for trained writers in the workplace. He said both educators and students should re-examine the value of writing research as means to improve writing.

“For a long time, literacy education has focused on reading, but writing is highly in demand,” Rogers said.

UCSB previously hosted a writing conference in 2001. Lunsford said she hoped UCSB would host future conferences, though not necessarily on an annual basis.