As a reader I wasn't aware of the amount of research it takes to write an interesting essay or story. The question of who, what, when, where, why and how is usually present in any piece that I read. Up to now I had been ignorant of how the story came together.
In Writing Project #1 we were asked to provide a story. In Writing Project #2 we conducted interviews and described the physical space. I was surprised how much information is needed to place your reader 'inside' the piece so you can tell your story.
When I looked at the Writing Project assignment itself, I thought "I can't do it!". Then as the writing assignments progressed, I could see that, broken into stages, the project is much more manageable. The most challenging part was how to present the information in a progressive way. The reader is taken through a series of steps to the conclusion you suggest.
With the conclusion of two major writing projects, the most critical part of the writing process has been applying my own interpretation. I tend to 'report', to fill the piece with information with no claim or generalization. That's a mistake unless it's a newspaper article, a scientific article or an academic paper.
If today I was invited to teach someone about writing, I would suggest being more observant. In the progression of the course, we've been guided through exercises in observation more than anything else. Observation involves more than observing externalities. It requires investigation into your own motives and responses. Drawing conclusions based on the information shouldn't be avoided, it should be embraced.
Reflection and reflective writing are processes that are new to me. I can now appreciate that the reflective process is as much a part of writing as the writing itself. My major challenge in future will be to be to get as much as I can into the project before editing. I'm almost phobic about the finished product and tend to fine-tune every sentence at the expense of clarity and purpose.