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stop, collaborate and listen

All right, Comrades, here is my blog posting. Please excuse the tardiness.

I want to focus specifically on the idea of collaboration in the Harris article. This morning I had a wonderful consultaton with a doctoral candidate. He is a member of the Soil, Weather and CLimate department. I know nothing about biological sciences whatsoever. Also, this man's native language was Portuguese. It was a bit intimidating at first; I mean, I failed science three times in highs chool and twice in college. However,this was the most exciting and fun consultation I have ever done. This was because collaboration took place in perhaps its truest form.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines collaboration as "United labour, co-operation; esp. in literary, artistic, or scientific work". This definition was most fitting this morning; instad of a tutor/tutee situation as defined and advocated by several of the authors we have read in the class so far, there was indeed "united work" taking place. We would debate over word choice, explaining to each other the denotations and connotations of a given word in a sentence; we agonized over sections of phrases, writing and rewriting each clause until it sounded absolutely perfect; we would discuss the historical aspects of soil runoff and leaching [his dissertation was on turkey litter and its possible uses for renewable energy, taking into account adverse effects of turkey litter on the environment]. In this meeting, instead of me saying things like, "Well, do you see a problem in this sentence?", we actually had such palavers as "Dude, I'm saying, write it like this that'd be an awesome sentence" and him going, "No, dude, this way, and here's why". It was intellectually stimulating and, to be honest, quite exhilarating. I can't wait to go to grad school and agonize over theses in that manner.

Now, in this consultation, I totally broke the rules as set up by experts in the consulting field. Most of the people we've read would probably not advocate a consultant taking such a primary role in the creation of a document. It seems the essays we've read thus far advocate more of a passive colaboration; Harris, fo example, says that tutors are to "move writers into the active role of making decisions, asking quetions, spotting problem areas in their writing..." [208] but in such a way that does not involve debate and "united labor." Looking at the above quote, it can be inferred that Harris is a proponent of the tutor as coach, an asker of leading questions, and not a participant in the actual writing process. But in the situation I had earlier, was an active participant in the writing process; while not writing the paper for him, there was certainly cooperation in the creation of literature.

And this was totally appropriate for the situation. This type of consulting was beneficial because the writer was an advanced student who didn;t need someone to teach them how to write so much as a second set of eyes through which to view the paper. Of course, tis style of collaboration, this united front, is not applicable to every circumstance. In the case of less seasoned writers, leading questions and writing coaching is most appropriate. But in this case I suppose I went against the pedagogocal grain and threw myself into the ring along with the PhD student.

This posting isn't as clear as I'd like it to be. I haven't eaten all day and I'm rather hungry. Hoefully this post will create some discussion and I'll be able to clarify some statements or something.

peace OUT



Grant, you must eat. But this sounds like such a cool consultation - were you afraid of crossing a line while it happened and did it anyway? I have had a kind of similar experience with the consultation becomeing a true collaboration, but the whole time I was feeling a bit conspicuous - if other consultants around me were appauled at my throwing caution to the wind. Anyway, go you.

I am jealous that you made a Hammer joke before I did. . . damn you, sir.

i don't see the hammer joke...i DO see the vanilla ice joke. word to your mother.

Ahhhhhh! I am shamed; I don't deserve to own this pair of parachute pants.

More to the point: I think only accepting the "one true way" in anything (and consulting is no exception) is dangerous. We can point to different theories or philosophies, but we can't try to force the round peg in the square hole. These writing philosophies only do us any good if they end up producing productive sessions; making sure the result, not the method, is the focus is most important. That's where something like your session here works: taking Harris as gospel and verse would have hindered the session.

I'm glad you had such a successful consultation. I think your analysis of the situation is both complex and accurate. The type of collaboration you describe is not appropriate for many (most?) of our clients, but sometimes is so much more effective than the "Socratic method."

While we're on that subject, I actually hate the Socratic method. It may be fine, in theory, and there may actually be people out there who can use it successfully, but most people just can't. Asking "leading questions" where you are trying to lead the student to THE correct answer is just awful. When professors do this it makes me feel much more ignorant than when they just tell me something. Otherwise, it's like "You should know the answer to this, but clearly you don't so I'm going to rub in it for another five minutes before I finally put you out of your misery." Unless you are willing to consider a discussion of any answer your student provides, don't ask the question!

I agree, Emily about the socratic method being a little condescending. Before I ask a question I think to myself what kind of answer I'm seeking - I avoid questions where I would be implying that the tutee should already know the answer. I try to only ask questions where the answer is an exploration of a new idea. Does that make sense?

sorry sharkey, i didn't mean to shame you. you're still cool enough for the pants.

but yeah i have to agree with wendy, i always feel like such a jerk asking things like "what do YOU think needs to be in this sentence?" or something along those lines. i feel like it's less condescending to just subtly point out mistakes or let them know they have a few minor errors and that they could fix them on their own.