Collaborative Writing Groups in the College Classroom
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This study analyzes college writing by focusing on texts produced over the course of a single semester by students working under 3 different conditions: independently and in permanent versus changing groups. Focusing on collaborative writing groups (i.e., on groups whose members share full responsibility for the production of a text), this study aims to (1) measure the efficacy of using collaborative writing groups (over other conditions) in a college level composition class and (2) determine how issues related to group cohesion (whether students remain in the same group for an entire semester or for the duration of a writing project) shape writing improvement. The method employed for gathering and analyzing data integrated two social scientific research paradigms: a process-product quantitative design, which measured student writing performance and writing improvement vis-a-vis group cohesion (students’ attitude, retention and absentee rates); and a qualitative design, which described participants’ impressions of the social and interactional processes involved in collaborative writing groups. Participants were approximately 150 college freshmen at a mid-sized, public university, enrolled in 6 sections of a second semester freshman composition course; 2 instructors, and the author. For an entire semester, two sections wrote the majority of their assignments in permanent groups, two sections wrote in groups that changed with each writing task, and two wrote independently. Groups consisted of 4–5 students, heterogeneously mixed. Results show that collaborative writing groups are efficacious; all students significantly improve their writing; retention rates for group classes are significantly higher than individual classes; and students enjoy writing more in (permanent and changing) group classes. From researcher observations, and from analyses of participants’ comments (as noted in the transcripts of tape-recorded sessions) it was observed that permanent groups engaged in more dialogic collaboration, while changing groups used more hierarchical collaboration. Although there are benefits to all groups, students in permanent groups approached and constructed the activity of writing in line with a more process-oriented pedagogy.
Keywordswriting groups shared texts collaborative writing college composition
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