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Round 2!

My second supplemental article was “Constructing Each Other: Collaborating across Disciplines and Roles� by Joan Mullin. This essay examines how collaboration and adapting to disciplinary borders plays out in a “writing-intensive situation,� where a writing consultant is placed as a writing fellow in a geography classroom. The article follows the journals and interviews of several people involved in the process: Joan, the director of a writing center, Doug, a writing tutor, Neil, the professor, Trish, the graduate assistant and Jason, a student.

This article might be really hard to explain without it being 8797 pages long, so I’m going to summarize the process of this collaboration, and focus more on the findings. The entire process was an exercise of collaboration, as Joan, Neil and Doug worked together to define Doug’s roles and Neil’s expectations in the classroom.

Through this semester job, Doug had to contend with many issues, such as resisting the urge to only talk about grading to the students, not separating writing from content, clarifying meanings of words such as “discuss� to students and determining his role as a “writing fellow.� Likewise, Neil learned how to refine his assignment requirements and to critically examine how his assignments determine the type of writing he receives.

Collaboration in this situation appears to be at its prime, as Doug, Neil and Joan compromised, negotiated, shared ideas and were honest to each other in their expectations, doubts and demands. Mullin writes that “everyone involved enacted “a reflective pedagogy critical to success in writing center tutorials, in writing center-teacher interactions, and in individual classrooms in which we are the primary facilitators� (205). They really perfected the art of collaboration through the process. Again, Mullin writes that “we learn as much from our apprehensions as we do from our misapprehensions, where we collaborate not toward consensus but toward understandings that allow us to reach a common goal� (205). Thus, everyone had to sacrifice a little of what they wanted—I wonder if this can be applied to writing consultations. Do writing consultants have to sacrifice what they want in order to effectively collaborate? Or is that going against what a consultation is?

The other aspect of the article focused on the different demands of writing styles between science courses and English courses. Jason, an English major, had to adapt to the different requirements of this science class. For him, “the writing process was largely a thinking process that allowed all of the information and ideas about the subject to coalesce and make a coherent whole. In the geography course, however, I found that I needed to be much more mechanical about writing—stick to the basics, research what you are told, and do not stray so far from the question….it was intellectually useful to force myself to write in the way expected by the course� (201). The difficulties of transitioning between these two requirements at first negatively affects Jason with lower grades, but as the course progresses, he adapts to the different requirements and challenges not only his writing style, but also his intellectual development.

I can relate to this view because it does not see the English format for writing a paper as bad, but as different. I think this clarification is crucial to make; instead of the different writing styles being a battle between the oppressed and the oppressors and the right and wrong way to write, I view the different writing styles as crucial for meeting the different requirements of each individual discipline.