Muriel Harris discusses collaboration in “Collaboration Is Not Collaboration Is Not Collaboration: Writing Center Tutorials vs. Peer-Response Groups” and points out that the type of collaboration in writing centers is very different to the collaboration of peer groups. At the writing center, students experience collaborative learning, discovery, and are challenged to consider their own work and writing process analytically. In peer groups, students hear what their peers think– what the author should change, what the work is about, and what is the work’s best qualities. These are two different environments with different purposes, an I imagine that the babble of voices can become overwhelming. Even more overwhelming when added to that mix is the teacher’s voice.
In high school, the assignments our students were set were normally quite rigid. In the 1101 class they are much more open to interpretation, and that in itself can feel a bit scary because we still expect polish work from them. But we also expect their own thoughts and in-put.It’s like rewriting the lyrics within a song’s structure, which at first, sounds like a stiff and controlled task, but really it can be quite fun and liberating.
Amidst all these spaces where students are advised, corrected, poked, and prodded into writing well, the goal is always for the student to write authentically well. Developing voice within a babble of voices can be confusing and intimidating, but when the different for learning collaboration, writing collaboration, and instruction are used mindfully and carefully, the babble would die down to something else. Not directives so much as a number of routes. Those bad guys with the pipe wrench suddenly become just people chatting about what a poem means. While I trust the writing center to be what it needs to be, it’s our job as instructors to make sure that peer-response groups are what they need to be. We need to write that song and let them change the words in the best way for them.