TEN GUIDELINES FOR WORKING AND WRITING TOGETHER

(adapted from Donna B. Nelson-Beene's work of this title)

1 You and each member of your group should think of yourselves as important members of a team. Just as members of all sorts of teams (athletic teams, for example) have responsibilities to their teammates, you too should feel a sense of responsibility to your class team. This means you should attend all group meetings, be on time, and be fully prepared for the task at hand. If you have agreed to bring materials - such as photocopies of your work or printouts of articles - to the session, be sure you do so. 6 When your own writing is the subject of discussion, you must be open to suggestions and you should not be offended by the constructive criticism your partners offer.
2 When your group sits down together, it is only natural you will greet one another and you might start talking about something unrelated to the task - the weather, the upcoming game, the "cute babes" (of either gender) in your classes, or a recent news story, perhaps. Not only is such dialogue at the beginning of a group session a normal part of group behavior, but such dialogue also is essential in helping the group establish its comfort zone. However, the members of your group should share the responsibility of ending the opening dialogue fairly quickly in order to move on to the assigned task. Once your group has become engaged in working on the task, you should not bring up unrelated topics of conversation. 7 When your writing is being discussed, you will be offered a variety of viewpoints and suggestions; however, it is important you think of these not as ideas you are compelled to try, but rather as alternatives you might decide to try. Even though you are working in a group you will still be an independent writer who has the final authority over your writing. Remember it is not the group's job to take this control from you or to appropriate your text in any way.
3 During each session it will be important for all members of your group to practice good communication skills. These skills include making eye contact with one another and using group members' names when you are referring directly to them. Your group should see to it everyone receives a roughly equal amount of time to speak and they should encourage anyone who tends not to speak up to do so. Since communication includes listening as well as speaking, the group members should listen attentively to what each person has to say. 8 Time passes quickly when groups are busily working together. Therefore, it will be necessary for you to budget your time carefully. [note] At the beginning of each session, your group should decide what you need to accomplish and how you will spend the time allotted. If, for example, the task is to discuss rough drafts of essays written by the three people in your group and you have an hour in which to work, you should devote about twenty minutes to the discussion of each essay. You might decide to appoint a time keeper, who will keep an eye on the clock and make sure everyone's work receives an equal amount of attention.
4 Undoubtedly, there will be times when you will disagree with what a group member is saying. When disagreement occurs, it is important not to interrupt, but to listen patiently until it is your turn to speak. At that time you should explain your own point of view, but in doing so, you should never "put down" a fellow group member for her or his ideas. Remember always to recognize there are differences among people and those differences should be tolerated within all due reasoning. 9 Shortly before the close of each session, your group should discuss what will happen in the following session and decide what each group member's responsibilities will be in preparing for the session. It would be wise for the group members to take some notes for themselves at this point, in order to help them remember exactly what the group has decided upon.
5 Many times your group will meet for the purpose of discussing one another's writing. During these sessions, you should note particular strengths in the writing and offer praise where praise is due. When you note weaknesses, you should be honest yet tactful as you offer your explanation. Make sure all criticisms you make are constructive in nature and are directed toward the text being discussed rather than toward the writer of the text. To be a helpful group member, you should offer suggestions to your partners; to be even more helpful, you should ask specific questions to help partners clarify thinking, generate ideas, and focus their texts. 10 Finally, each member of your group should make a commitment to making the group function effectively. When everyone shares in this commitment and accepts a personal responsibility for the group, the collaborative sessions will be more worthwhile and more fun, the ideas will be dealt with in a more complete way, and the ideas - as well as the writing - definitely will improve.

Note: Please don't budget two hours to do an assignment and spend them this way:

7 minutes
looking for the assignment.
10 minutes
on Facebook.
9 minutes
calling groupmembers for the assignment.
3 minutes
explaining why the instructor is mean and a taskmaster and a big, fat doody-head.
20 minutes
on Facebook.
8 minutes
in the bathroom.
10 minutes
getting a snack.
7 minutes
checking the online TV Guide.
30 minutes
more on Facebook.
6 minutes
telling groupmembers the big, fat doody-head instructor never explained the assignment.
10 minutes
doing the assignment.

http://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/135/work_write.html
last updated 2/18/08