Collaborative Writing

Definition

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Affordances & Constraints

The details of this chart are less important than the process of creating it. After trying collaborative writing with a colleague or two, reading/watching how others use it in the classroom, and trying out an assignment or two with your own students, get together with a few other educators and fill out your own chart. Here's a blank chart we give out as a part of a Think-Pair-Share. You might want to divide it into sections and consider the affordances and constraints by user (teacher/student/special needs student/advanced student), use (narrative/nonfiction/scripts/note taking/etc.), taxonomy (Bloom/SAMR/etc.), etc. Hopefully you'll revise the chart as you use collaborative writing in a wider variety of ways. This exercise can definitely be combined with ideas of balancing technology, content and pedagogy. (Check out this podcast on TPaCK and SAMR.)

Affordances
Constraints
  • see affordances from Group/Individual Work
  • built in peer editor
    • especially limits need for editing spelling and grammar compared to individual writing
  • opportunities for students to teach each other and to practice using language/ideas from mini lessons
  • someone to bounce ideas off
  • can work with the entire piece written collaboratively (dialogic), with parts being written separately (hierarchical) and then synthesized, or somewhere in-between (brainstorm/outline together, draft parts separately, revise together, and write conclusion collaboratively)
  • the rationale for the collaboration could be:
    • a task that is too big for one person to complete in the time allotted
    • a task that requires multiple areas of expertise or interest
    • a task that requires the synthesis of a variety of resources, perspectives, subtopics, etc.
  • students can learn to deal with creative conflict
  • provides a place for "early, tentative, stupid writing to coalesce into something more substantive" Jones
    aids students understanding of the affordances and constraints of distributed cognition (group brain)
  • see constraints from Group/Individual Work
  • difficult if students do not have teamwork skills already or who are unfamiliar with each other's strengths/weaknesses
    • especially the distribution of power
  • waste of time if students cannot be politely and helpfully critical
  • specific tools can help or hinder collaborative writing by their specific affordances/constraints and the students' familiarity or lack thereof with the tool(s)
  • students (and parents) can be resistant if collaborative work is not a normal way of learning/working at school or in the classroom
  • students have to learn to deal with creative conflict which requires instruction, mediation, and more
  • how do you structure/teach this so it does not become a "dumbing down"?
  • how do you grade the group work and each students' effort/achievement?


Integration Ideas

General

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Language Arts


Science

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Social Studies

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Other Thoughts

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Examples


Related Pages & Resources