Presentation on theme: "Why assign collaborative writing?. Why do it? It provides a “modest reduction of the amount of grading” It provides students an “example of group interaction”"— Presentation transcript:
Why do it? It provides a “modest reduction of the amount of grading” It provides students an “example of group interaction” It “mimics most workplace writing” It improves students’ abilities to learn subject matter, especially those who haven’t succeeded in more traditional classroom environments & “reduces students’ sense of alienation” It “improves the overall quality of student writing”
Will it…….. ? Do collaborative writing assignments really mean less work for the instructor? Probably not: It requires a lot more set-up and modeling up front Says collaborative guru Ken Bruffee: “Organizing collaborative learning effectively requires doing more than throwing students together with their peers with little or no guidance or preparation. To do that is merely to perpetuate…the many possible negative efforts of peer group influence: conformity, anti-intellectualism, intimidation, and a leveling down of quality.”
Will it….. ? Do collaborative projects really help students learn about group dynamics in ways they couldn’t in a “normal” classroom? Perhaps, but: If this is something you want students to analyze in an academic manner (not just “it’s hard to get along and agree with other people”), it should be a primary focus. If it’s a primary focus—as it might be in a psychology course—the group dynamics themselves should be a topic of discussion and/or the topic of a subsequent paper. (Robert Miller)
Does it……… ? Do collaborative projects really mimic most workplace writing? Perhaps: Much workplace writing—in journalism, public policy, technical writing, non-profit management, advertising—is collaborative. But: Most workplace writing is collaborative with hierarchies. In journalism, there is usually an editor- reporter relationship; in business, generally a project manager-writer relationship. Collaborative learning in classroom generally works without these rigid roles.
Does it…….. ? Does collaborative learning really improve students’ abilities to learn subject matter, especially those who haven’t succeed in the more traditional classroom? Does it reduce students’ feelings of alienation? Probably: Students who have a hard time learning solely from the student-teacher relationship may have an easier time learning with the help of their peers. Probably: Collaborative learning provides additional motivations to learn. Probably: Collaboration have alleviated some of “Dave’s” problems in Introduction to Poetry. But: Collaborative learning calls for new skills and processes that must be modeled and learned.
Will it…... ? Will collaborative writing really improve the overall quality of student writing? Probably: Collaborative papers are sometimes or often far better than what one student does on his or her own. But: Sometimes, they are far worse—Miller says that the group of his best writers turned in the worst paper. But: One of the possible effects of collaborative writing—especially when it isn’t set up well from the start—is inconsistent voice, poor organization, and, as Bruffee says, “conformity, anti-intellectualism…and a leveling down of quality.”
Pitfalls & Stumbling Blocks How to grade (“It’s not my fault!”) Too many cooks (“It doesn’t fit together.”) Introverts can get left behind (No one listened.) Too few cooks (“I did all the work.”) Remembering group decisions (“People forget and go off in their own directions.”) Scheduling (“Scheduling!”) Groups with dissimilar interests (“We couldn’t even agree on a topic.”) Other group problems (“I was working with a complete moron!”)
Theorists’ Suggestions Don’t begin collaborative writing assignments right away—but do start learning collaboratively from the first day Collaborative assignment should be something better accomplished by a group than by an individual Allow student-initiated collaboration Let the class decide how groups will be constituted Give groups flexibility to decide their methods and timetables, but require that they commit them to writing Explain in advance how the project will be graded— ideally, ask for students’ input Give student groups “real purposes” and ”real freedom” Make it fun—”play” can be an additional source of motivation
Interviewees’ Suggestions The larger they are, the harder they fall—often, the groups that do best are twos and threes Projects should connect to how a given discourse works in the “real” world Project should require a lot of thought and discussion Assignments often work best when group members can divide work into distinct chunks—but not too many specific components. Don’t make it too large or complex–“Too much work for too many students will totally bring down the quality of the project.” Assignments with low stakes work best—a smaller portion of the grade + more fun/play Assignments that allow creativity are “a plus”
Questions… Have you had a successful collaborative- writing experience, as an instructor or as a student? How would you do it differently now? Is there a difference between “cut-and- paste” and “real collaboration?”