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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: October 22, 2001, November 21, 2006
Latest Update: February 3, 2006

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Providing Academic Support Groups
for Writing Practice

By Geraldine Ford, Mildred Coulter, Caroline Ibekwe, Ruby Montgomery, and Maria Martinez.

The following notes are offered as an example of how we approached collaborative writing in the past. Most of these students were graduate students who chose to do a thesis project instead of taking the qualifying exams. They wanted to "do something meaningful." Unfortunately, we didn't have the equipment we have today. We hadn't yet created transform_dom, and none of us was as sophisticated in the use of the technology.

We still have some of those problems. I didn't call Adelphia to fix my e-mail today, because I needed to put up our reading list for No Child Left Behind. Some of us still don't have easy access to computers, or don't have one in the convenience of our homes. Given all those drawbacks, we're lots closer to being able to function over the Internet and avoid some of the contingencies we face in time and multiple agendas and traffic.

Even though you've gotten pretty good and are engaging in some genuine dialog on social issues on transform_dom, lots of you are still hesitant about joining one another in collaborative writing. It's time to start.

There are two calls for collaborative writing under News and Announcements:

  • Call for Papers
    Casazine - Online Magazine for members of Casa. "CASA offers a platform for people to discuss and combine efforts and information working towards social transformation. For more information on CASA 2005 Borders, Markets, Movements and to find out about the summer meeting CASA 2006: Constructing Social Change go to http://www.casa.manifestor.org/." Jeanne joined this group a couple of years ago, though she couldn't make their summer meeting. I think our goals fit. Some of you should consider following this. I think their summer meeting this year might be in Montreal. Check out the site. Contribute a paper to CASAZINE.

  • Conference in June 2006

    Please check out the proposal I submitted on Christmas Eve. If you want to go, we need to start thinking about money NOW!

    I would especially like to have you add to, edit, shape the project we'd like to submit to the Independent Scholars Conference in June. I asked Michael Griffin to see if he could check out whether that's been accepted, since I can't use e-mail. Even if it hasn't, maybe we can reach them, and share a project with people who share our values and interests. That's good progressive policy, folks.

    How would we do it? Well, here's how I started taking notes of our meetings a few years ago. For starters, help us clear out the office and move in. I guess that's a recurring social problem around here. Then whenever two or three of you manage to find each other for a couple of minutes, write what you accomplished on learning records or transform_dom, depending on whether it's plain old business (learning records) or a discussion (transform_dom). Then the rest of us will join in with you.

    I can even give you templates to follow if that will make it easier. This is a chance to work collaboratively on writing. Such chances don't come along too often. Come play with me. It's fun. jeanne Thesis Project Meeting: November 20, 2001
    Members Present: Millie Coulter, Ruby Montgomery, jeanne, Pat, Maria Martinez, Caroline Ibekwe, Robert Walker, Carolyn Gilmore-Jones, Marlene Boykin (later in the evening).

    Topics:

    • SBS B-325. Complete the move into Dear Habermas office.
    • Planning for the Collaborative Writing Support Project..

    Notes:

      jeanne suffering asthma attack in office
      Marlene: Let the dust settle! Let the dust settle!

    1. Topic: The "Real World" Problem - The Office.
      Journal entry by jeanne.

      Thanks to everyone! The steroids helped! I was finally able to stand up almost straight on Tuesday, November 20. And bless you, you all helped straighten out the office. Of course, I won't mention that I had a lot of help from some of the same people in getting it messed up like that, but we did have a war this semester, and I know, I must learn patience.

      Never again will anyone put food in my office except in drawer 2. Never again will art works be thrown casually upon the floor. Never again will anyone give me WET acrylics to carry up to my office!

      BUT we will work on our paintings, work on our "Other" dolls, work on our hand-made books. It will never be perfect. No one could possibly do everything we've tried this semester, but we did manage to help everyone participate in an activity that really mattered to them, and we did learn collectively to do interactive conceptual linking. Yeah, team!

      jeanne

    2. Statement of the Problem:

      The theoretical problem we were facing was the lack of any model for the human spirit in our learning environment. We have all been limited in our imaginary by the dominant discourse that suggests that learning takes place by formal progression along a linear pattern of activity. Because we were trying to create a new framework for learning that was more appropriate to the actual lifeworld in which we found ourselves following September 11, we experimented a lot and listened to each other even more.

    3. Background:

      I heard Tyron say: I wrote a page last night on alterity, but I didn't mail it to you; I wasn't satisfied with it." And then I knew. I knew that we needed more than just "banking education," more than just an understanding of the process of critical thinking. We needed a supportive environment in which to practice collaborative work. Tyron was working alone, not talking with us, not sharing ideas, and trying to edit his own work as he went. We needed to put Dunbar with him, to remind him that he didn't have to perfect his writing; he had to get it to us so we could all share it, on site, and in our offices. He and Dunbar were already sitting in the cafeteria going over a Weber text from a course they had both dropped. They were talking about theory. But they weren't relating that to formal "learning." They were still thinking in terms of tests, of barriers to jump, of authority to please, rather than of living ideas to work out together.

      Pat and Marlene and Darby and Jaime and lots of others, spent many a workshop evening in my office agreeing that they needed it. But they just wouldn't get off their duffs and put it together. And I clucked, and fussed, and tried desperately to meditate asthma away, and couldn't find the energy to move, let alone to inspire them to the battle of critical thought. And then I remembered to listen in good faith, and surprise! None of us had ever been where we were trying to go, into a land of collegiality and academic discourse and collaborative learning. It was, after all, my dream. And here I was fussing that others, most of whom were as tired as I was (we're urban folks, remember) weren't leading us on to beautiful offices given over to impressive intellectual discussions.

      These are just a couple of my memories. Those of you writing on this team need now to add your own to the stories that illustrated for us our need for this collaboration.

      Given the problem of need for congenial groups to share academic discourse and to accustom us to the climate of collaborative as opposed to competitive work, we needed some models to follow. And I was lucky enough to find one in the National Novel Writing Month.

      Here's the e-mail I received from Chris Baty, whose project NaNoWriMo is, on November 10, 2001.

      "Dear Team,

      Here we are, a third of the way through. Our apartments are disgusting, our friends are annoyed, and our bosses have started casting suspicious, sidelong glances at our monitors as they walk by our cubicles. If you are like most people, you are behind on your word count. And, like most people, you are entering the dreaded Week of Fatigue.

      The Week of Fatigue is the low point of National Novel Writing Month. It's the dastardly seven-day period when the kick-off adrenaline wanes, workloads increase, and downtime becomes a sweet and distant memory.

      And on top of that, you've hit a fork in your novel. You've wrapped up the exposition and introduced all the characters. And now something book-like has to happen. Someone needs to fall in love. Or get amnesia. Or go on a road trip. But who? And how? And what ever happened to that soft and luscious thing called sleep? We remember sleep. Sleep was our friend.

      We liked sleep a lot.

      All these forces conjoin to create some serious crankiness and general unhappiness. Which is why you need to go ahead and plunder all those treats you stockpiled in the Nano "training" period. Call in sick and sleep late. Demand back rubs from significant others. Whine until friends take you out to dinner. You are writing a novel for god's sake---it's the least they can do.

      And know that, if you keep on writing, the Week of Fatigue will end. Your novel will start being kind of fun. You'll find time to sleep again. And, accidentally, through no fault of your own, you may end up with something resembling an actual story. The kind you might let somebody read someday.

      But that's getting a little ahead. For now: Treats. Luxuries. Whining.

      Next week: Easier.

      Three weeks from now: Champagne.

      Keep up the great work,"

      Chris

      Now, I wasn't more than a couple of thousand words behind then, and I hadn't yet considered giving up. But Chris' letter made me feel some enthusiasm, tired as I was. And I thought, there's our model. Why aren't we encouraging our students that way? Why aren't we proffering a hand, encouragement, and the promise of champagne to come? Thorndike's rescinded his second law: punishment doesn't work.

      The next day I put together the beginning of the collaborative writing support team. Ruby Montgomery and Millie Coulter had been working with Maria Martrinez and Robert Walker. They had provided each other important support, and together had become relatively proficient at using the site as a team. They had exhibited skills that looked like they'd be pretty good at what Chris Baty was doing for the NaNoWriMo. Caroline Ibekwe decided to help, and I'm sure that others will as we clear out both offices and work on the collaborative writing for the end of the semester.

      Added February 3, 2006: Well, I was a little too optimistic. But it's still a great idea, and I'm gonna try again next Fall. By the way, National November Writing Month will be coming up in October 2006, for those of you who'd like to try your hand at their novel writing. jeanne

    4. Review of Literature: Conceptual Links You'll Want to Use

      • Psycho-physical anchor in reality We need to check our theories of reality against what's actually out there. Once we become so convinced we're right and we "know,"

      • Self esteem Article on the importance of self esteem as a construct. Learning, particularly social learning and application of knowledge base learning, requires a a realtionship-based approach because it is a relationship-based approach we seek to provide to promote civil discourse. See Relational Therapies: Respecting Self and Other

      • Thorndike's Second Law of Learning. Punishment doesn't work. We need to be supportive and encouraging for effective and critical learning to take place.

      • Normative ordering and "knowingness". The other side of this concept, from what Susan and I explained when we wrote the Oppression and Revolution text is that if you are accustomed to responding to an institution by a formal process, it follows that relearning to relate to the members of that institution through a relational process in which you are an equal learning partner is going to feel awkward, and take a lot of getting used to.

      • "knowingness" "Lear also speaks of a "crisis of knowingness in the culture." We assume as part of our dominant discourse that we know certain things. Often these things we know are the underlying unstated assumptions of our dominant discourse. For example, it is generally "known" that people can get work if they really want to. After all, the economy is good right now. This knowledge assumes that the person without work has access to respect for the work he/she does, that the person is free enough of depression and any other disability related to his/her not working to effectively undertake work, and that the person sees a just place for himself/herself in the lived reality of the "working class." Those are pretty hefty assumptions that do not take into account the shift in work from physical labor to service and a new digital world, structural contexts, such as inner city deterioration, such as the feminization of the work force, such as the increasing bureaucratic nature of the work force, the devastating loss of extended family in the excessive mobility of the last decades, and the savage depletion of our mental health institutions."

    5. Methods and Procedure: comes next.

    6. Data Description and Analysis: comes next.

    7. Conclusions and Suggestions for Further Study: comes next.


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