Collaborative or team writing is the process of producing a written work as a group where all team members contributed to the content and the decisions about how the group will function. Group assignments can be difficult for many students with busy schedules because they require planning, coordination, and frequent communication with other students. However, teachers nonetheless view group work as good preparation for the types of complex assignments students are likely to receive in workplace settings. Also, collaborative assignments offer students the benefits and experience of building on existing knowledge through the dynamic interplay with and among other students, the subject matter, and you, the teacher. With careful coordination and communication, group writing assignments can yield excellent results and valuable experiences.
- Collaboration helps students understand writing as a public, communal act, rather than as a private, isolated one. Many students write papers that make sense to them but that aren’t clear or persuasive for others. Peer reviewers help students to understand that they aren’t writing for themselves, but for readers.
- Collaboration therefore helps student writers to develop a sense of audience. Too often students write only to please their instructors, whose expectations they rarely understand. Knowing that their peers will read their papers gives students a concrete sense of to whom they are writing, and why.
- Collaboration helps students to better understand the conventions of academic discourse. When talking about their papers with their peers, students will learn where their readers stumble. They can also find out why. Often, these conversations lead to a better understanding of the writing conventions that the student writer has neglected or misunderstood.
- Collaboration helps students realize that academic conventions are not simply arbitrary rules, but in fact reflect readers’ expectations. If student writers want to be understood by an academic audience, they must heed the conventions of academic writing.
- Collaboration gives students practice in analyzing writing. It is easier to see where a classmate’s writing is going awry than it is to find flaws in one’s own prose. It is also easier to critique student writing than it is to analyze the published writing that instructors often give their students as models.
- Collaboration encourages students to talk about their writing. In peer review sessions, students have to field questions about their writing. They have to explain and sometimes defend their writing strategies.
- Collaboration helps students to understand writing as a process, and to increase their sense of mastery of what is often a complex and difficult task. The best way to learn something is to teach it. When instructing their peers, students learn how to improve their own prose.
- Collaborative groups draw upon the strengths of all their members. Although one student may be stronger in critical thinking skills, another may excel in organizing. By working in groups, students learn from each other while they complete assigned tasks.
- More and more workplace activities involve project teams. Giving students opportunities to work collaboratively on academic projects can help prepare them for the advantages and pitfalls of collaborative work on the job.
- Students working in collaborative groups can take advantage of group members for built-in peer review as they complete writing projects.
- Not least important, collaborative writing assignments usually entail much less grading time for the instructor.