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Marcia's proposal

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Marcia -- collaborative writing is a good topic--one that I get asked about all the time when I run sessions in AHC and IT. You mention business applications also, and I would bet that all of the professional programs would prick up their collective ears when the topic arises. Add to this the collaborative writing that graduate students do with faculty members for journals and conferences, and you're really onto something.

You ask good questions--here are some more: Is it really feasible for academic writing to be done by more than one person at a time? Is collaborative writing always done in shifts? Is successful collaborative writing dependent upon assigned roles? If so, how can the assignment of collaborators and roles be done fairly? How does an instructor grade collaborative efforts fairly? Are collaborative writing assignments really less work for instructors, or are they, instead, more work upfront and in the end? How do the principles of cooperative learning and collaborative learning relate to collab. writing? We hear so much about team-writing in various professional settings (IT, medicine, business)---how do those efforts get organized?

Although you'll note I'm very skeptical about how business and academic collaborative writing relate... Perhaps if an instructor modelled ways that collaborative writing is used in their field. (In journalism, my former field, it was always "divvied" up, and there was an editor who served as a project manager to keep us all on task. Although I don't think the instructor would ever want to work as a project manager. Yuck.)

I've never had much luck with in-class, collaborative writing in the context of a first-year comp course...I've really only used it as a "discussion starter" or a way for students to get together and try to synthesize readings, never as a formal graded assignment . I do know of some instructors in GC who have used it in Service Learning courses, where students are producing newsletters, magazines, etc. For me, sometimes it works, but often it devolves into chit chat, one person really ends up doing the writing, etc. etc. I'd be interested in any sort of "hands on" strategies to make it more meaningful and useful in that context (or if I'm better to steer clear in the first place!)

Marcia, I'm very interested to hear your presentation. You and others have mentioned this, and I'll echo that I'd like to hear about the instructor's role. How should collaborative writing be presented to students (what rationale, what instructions, what assurances about evaluation)? How should the instructor support and guide students through the process (if she doesn't want to be a project manager, and if she aims to strike a balance of control)? Should evaluation be done collaboratively as well? And I share the question: How do people write collaboratively? :) What are some models of what this looks like? (Everyone gathered around for drafting, or each writing a segment ...)

Okay, practical aspects, I got it...

I'm a bit skeptical, too, about the value of collaborative writing. I agree with the theoretical rationale for using it, but in my experience as a student, these assignments usually seem to be simply divided up into pieces, not really written together. I like the idea Gary mentioned of a newsletter-type collaboration, which seems like a realistic way to piece together the different pieces that students write.

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