Shelley Reid .


English 5213, Fall 2003, Collaborative Project

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There are a number of reasons to engage in a collaborative project in this class, over and above the fact that collaborative problem-solving is becoming a regular part of both academic and "real world" vocational and avocational settings.  First, this assignment will require you to cover some background in an area you're not already familiar with, and to deal with what will probably turn out to be a complex problem.  The support of team members will be useful in several areas:  division of labor, negotiation of abstract concepts, recognition of both trees and forests, connections to a range of actual teaching situations, and general moral support.

Moreover, research in composition and rhetoric today is perhaps most likely of any research done by scholars in English Studies to be undertaken collaboratively.  And of course, as you already know, much of composition research suggests that your writing students will benefit from having opportunities for collaborative learning and writing -- but they'll benefit more from it if you know enough about the process to design innovative, meaningful, and responsible assignments.  Thus and therefore, you will be assigned to a team of classmates who share some of your interest(s) in a topic for the duration of this assignment.

The assignment, in brief:

Working with two or three partners, develop a plausible scenario or two that all group members agree is of interest.  Conduct research -- which may focus on a single angle, or may delve into more than one subfield of composition -- into the problem(s) raised in your scenario(s), with the goal of producing a two-part finished product for your class peers: a 15-20 minute collaborative, class-engaging presentation; and an 8-12 source annotated bibliography.  All materials will be due on your presentation day, to be determined at a later point.

Some notes on collaborative research:

Although it may seem otherwise at the start, nearly all teams end up with too much information and too broad a topic.  Try relatively early in the process to narrow a broad topic down, using the preferences of team members, the projected interests of your peer audience, the central controversies and gray areas, and/or the availability of information as guidelines.

Although it may seem better to go into the project as equals, nearly all collaborative efforts benefit from leadership.  If your group doesn't choose a leader, leadership will still settle onto someone's (often grudging) shoulders.  If you choose a single "round 'em up" leader, you'll want to compensate that person by assigning him/her less research/drafting work.  You might choose to rotate leadership by weeks, or divide the leadership:  someone during a research phase, someone else during the drafting, someone else to coordinate the final bibliography and/or presentation.

This project will involve a balance of individual and team work.  As a team, you may delegate parts of this assignment to individual members:  completing parts of the research, writing pieces of the annotated bibliography, answering specific questions, drafting parts of the presentation, etc.  At the beginning of the project, when you are deciding on the focus and scope of your presentation, and at the end of the project, as you organize and fit pieces smoothly together, you will need to work more closely as a group.  Each member must be involved at each stage -- topic choice, research, drafting, revision, presentation -- for the project to succeed.  However, levels and aspects of involvement may vary somewhat at one time or another according to the strengths and preferences of team members.

Team members have serious responsibilities to their team; any breach of these responsibilities will have equally serious consequences.  Each individual is responsible for doing his/her share of the work, for encouraging other team members to work together, and for letting other team members contribute their own share.  Individuals are responsible for contributing high-quality work, and for making other members feel that their contributions are valuable.  In the context of this class, an "imperfect" final product that represents the contributions of all team members will earn more respect and credit than a "perfect" final product which has erased or is missing one or more team members' contributions

The assignments, a step at a time:

The scenario(s) are the starting point for this project, as one way to engage you in problem-solving and to mirror the kind of research that teacher-researchers most often do.  You might start with more than one or two closely-related scenarios, as you begin to look to see what kinds of information is out there.  Eventually you'll narrow down to no more than two scenarios that your peers in the class can visualize and understand.

The annotated bibliography is a good record of your findings.  Group-wide, you should expect to locate and read more than 8-12 sources (though all group members need not read all possible source materials), since you will want your bibliography to reflect respected, accessible, and relevant sources.

You should include the following among your 8-12 sources:

Sources published across at least 10-20 years (or the "life of the topic," if it's a recent development)

Sources that have differing arguments/views

Sources from a range of published venues:  books, chapters, articles from different journals, ERIC documents, etc.

At least two "ur-text" sources -- the ones "everyone cites" in their work

No more than one text already assigned for this class

Your bibliography should use correct MLA format to cite each work.  Annotations of 100-150 words should immediately follow citations, as in the sample below.  To make this annotation useful to your audience of teaching peers, it should include 2-3 sentences of summary as well as a sentence or two of analysis: you might note the style or accessibility of the prose, the reputation of the author(s), the emphasis on practical vs. theoretical information, and/or the connections that teachers working in the OSU program might find most relevant.  Your (collective) annotation prose should be clear, correct, and accessible.

Howard, Rebecca Moore.  "Plagiarisms, Authorships, and the Academic Death Penalty."  College English 57.7 (1995):  788-806.

After distinguishing between plagiarism with intent to cheat and plagiarism as evidence of ignorance of conventions, Howard focuses on how teachers should address instances of the second type of plagiarism -- or "patchwriting" -- which she thinks are more common.  She argues that, particularly since current ideas of authorship and text "ownership" are multifaceted and varyingly constructed, teachers should create policies that allow some if not all instances of "plagiarism" to be treated in "non-juridical," non-punishment-oriented ways.  Howard has written several other articles examining the cultural construction of and pedagogical reaction to academic plagiarism, and here lays out some clear paths through the gray areas of the subject.  Of particular use is her inclusion of an actual draft (three pages) of a formal statement on plagiarism, with definitions, procedures, and recommendations.

Setting a good target date for completing the annotated bibliography will be helpful (usually, as in 1213, I set such a date for my students).  At minimum, you should have a fairly complete list of sources two weeks before your presentation date. 

You will provide copies of the bibliography to the rest of the class at least 24 hours in advance of your presentation date; if you give me some advance notice, I'd be happy to make the copies for you.  Although I won't require you, as we require most of our undergraduates, to submit photocopies of the sources you find, you might hang on to a set of copies in case someone else in class gets interested and wants to take a look.

The presentation should be no more than 20 minutes long; it should draw from but not be simply a summary of the sources in your annotated bibliography.  Like your synthesis essay, your presentation will try to integrate information into a cohesive whole, focused on an analytical angle or question rather than attempting to cover an entire field.  You should aim your presentation to an audience of peer teachers who are themselves wrestling with theories and practices in connection with their own teaching.  Your presentation should have a clear structure as well as an underlying aim or focal question; you should make clear how the information you present is important in itself, is connected to some of the larger conversations we've been having in class this semester, and is useful for FYC teachers.

Your presentation should be both formal and engaging, well rehearsed while encouraging audience interaction (and the randomnesses involved therein).  Presentations which are only read from carefully prepared scripts tend not to succeed as well on the "engaging" criterion.  On the other hand, presentations which are only improvised from starter questions and audience comments sometimes neglect the argument and/or run overtime unless they're well-rehearsed.  You should be prepared to answer questions; indeed, you should try to ensure that questions will be asked.  All team members should have a significant role, though not necessarily a similar or equal role; play to your team's strengths while aiming for inclusivity.

Note:  You are not required to Solve The Problem Once And For All in your presentation.  Your job is to help us see what kinds of thoughtful questions and approaches we might engage in if we find ourselves teaching in a similar scenario.

Due day before presentation: Annotated bibliography copies for class members

Due at presentation 

Presentation notes (whatever form they take)

A group-written Post Script (please address the question about teaching this asgt.)

Individual Final Progress Reports (see below)


Associated Assignments

  Initial Plan:  Include your initial scenario(s) and key questions, a paragraph describing your current division of labor and/or leadership, and a schedule with at least 4 intra-group deadlines (in addition to the ones listed below):  "by 10/28, each person will have ___; by 11/5 we will have ___."  Due 10/21.

  Early Draft:  Bring four copies of a draft containing (at least) your current operating scenarios & questions, the issues and directions raised so far in your research, and your early ideas for topics & themes to present to your peers.  Due for Workshop, 10/30.

  Early Progress Report.  Each person submits an individual report, for my eyes only, in four sections:  a general description of the progress that has been made so far , a list of each team member's specific contributions so far (including your own), a statement addressing the current labor-division & schedule as compared with what was proposed in the Initial Plan, and a statement about goals and obstacles that lie ahead.  Due for Workshop, 10/30.

  Individual Final Progress Report. Submit an individual report, for my eyes only, in three sections:  a general description of the progress that has been made, a list of each team member's specific contributions (including your own), and a statement about goals and obstacles that were reached and dealt with.  Due on or immediately after your group presentation.


The collaborative presentation is worth 10% of your course grade.  Each team member will receive two letter grades for the presentation:  a team grade based on the quality of the final product, and an individual grade based on participation.  In nearly every case, both grades will be the same.  However, any significant lack of participation will result in a notably lower individual participation grade.  Conversely, any team member who in the end contributes significantly more than average to the project or is instrumental in its completion (as agreed on by his/her team members), without restricting other team members' contributions, may earn a higher individual grade.  Where team and individual grades differ, the individual grade will be weighted at about 1/3, and the team grade about 2/3, of the overall project grade.

Note:  Any serious failure to participate, breach of team etiquette, or counterproductive action (such as giving the disk on which the whole team's project is stored to an alien spaceship captain in return for her grading all of your Essay #3 drafts) may result in a significant reduction in an individual's team grade as well as his/her individual grade. 



Last updated June 2008.Email Shelley Reid