In my teaching experience, students have mixed feelings about collaboration. Many of my students initially say they don’t want to work with their classmates on their writing. When it comes to in-class peer review sessions or more involved collaborative project such as small group work, they believe there is nothing they can learn about their writing from their classmates; “After all, “they tell me, “the teacher gives the grade.”
However, most of my students tell me after the course ends that the times in which they collaborated with their classmates were occasions where they felt they learned a lot about writing. While they might enter into collaborative exercises and writing projects reluctantly, it’s been my experience that most students end up finding them worthwhile.
Collaborating in different ways on writing projects is a good idea for several reasons. First, composition and rhetoric teachers and scholars have known for a long time now that one of the best ways for students to improve their writing skills is to have them share their writing with other students. If you think about it for a moment, this is common sense. If you never show your writing to other readers, or if you limit your audience to simply the teacher, how will you as a writer learn about the effectiveness of your writing beyond a grade in a class?
Second, almost all “real writing” is the product of collaboration. Of course, you probably don’t collaborate on your diary or journal entries, letters to relatives, or emails to your friends. But almost all of the writing you read in academic or popular publications has involved different levels of collaboration, sometimes in surprising and hidden ways. For example, while I am indeed the author of The Process of Research Writing, this book has been a collaborative project in the sense that I received a lot of advice and ideas from my wife, friends, students, colleagues, and editors.