Collaboration Research Essay Sample

In the rapidly evolving educational arena, collaborative learning has become a valuable tool for students and instructors alike. Interestingly, group work is not new for most students; indeed, many students have been working in groups since their pre-school days. Whether in or out of the classroom, most individuals have benefited from team collaboration at some point in their lives. While challenging at times, collaborative learning can provide insightful and rewarding experiences for learners. At its core, collaborative learning is an exercise in which team members organize and leverage individual skills and intelligences to reach common goals.

Collaboration consists of both advantages and disadvantages. Tim Roberts and Joanne McInnerney (2007) indentified seven key problems inherent to collaborative learning in their research. These problems include student antipathy, poor group selection, lack of essential group work skills, free-riders, inequalities of student abilities, withdrawal of group members, and group member assessment (Roberts & McInnerney, 2007). Collaboration presents challenges in workload division, in the research process itself, and in the final compilation, editing, and voice of a piece.

Most of these challenges are, however, surmountable and the advantages of collaborative learning are equally many. Collaborative learning allows students to educate themselves on a particular subject, while improving their interpersonal communication skills. Admittedly, collaboration offers unique perspectives to projects. It can assist in research and source evaluation. And, most importantly, it can aid in the development of ethos, pathos, and logos in an argument.

Perspective is, perhaps, the first thing that comes to mind in the collaborative learning process. Working with other students can be an enlightening process, offering individual students insight into concepts they may not have considered on their own. This is particularly important where argument is concerned as an author’s ability to present varying viewpoints (or opposition arguments) can strengthen a piece.

Collaboration provides a number of advantages in the research process. Collaborative research allows researchers the opportunity to see their research from multiple perspectives rather than only from their own perspective. Riel (2010) states that collaborative researchers generally “seek evidence from multiple sources.” Further, Riel explains, “They recognize their own view as subjective, and seek to develop their understanding of the events from multiple perspectives.” Strong researchers appreciate the collaborative process and recognize its value as a result of the new perspective it brings.

The use of appropriate sources is imperative in the success of collaborative projects. Collaborative writing projects often require that individuals contribute unique sections of writing (or contributions) to be later compiled into a final paper or presentation. In these projects, any number of individuals may participate in the ongoing editing of a piece of work. As such, it is crucial that members continually post the most current stages of a document. Even when one person is responsible for a majority of editing and revising, the original contributors (team members) should ensure their sources are still correct within the document.

This is also true where plagiarism is concerned. Although most people consider plagiarism a deliberate act, plagiarism can also occur unintentionally. While collaborative work makes plagiarism less likely, students must put specific safeguards in place to ensure it does not occur, whether intentionally or accidentally. Thus, students should revisit their work in the final stages of a project to ensure it remains original.

An author’s use of ethos (authority), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic) are crucial to the success of an argument. According to writers Lamm and Everett, “Reasonable people can be persuaded in several ways – appealing to their trust in authority, their emotions, and their logic” (Lamm & Everett, 2007, p. 12). These tenants of argument are imperative whether an argument is crafted individually or collaboratively. While perhaps more challenging when writing collaboratively, it is still possible to utilize these tenants to the advantage of an argument.

Ethos, for example, can be easily developed in the team environment if the team has strong collaboration and communication skills. A team paper should have a uniform ethos that is agreed upon by all team members. Lamm and Everett explain that an author “should carry confidence and a sense of authority without seeming arrogant or closed-minded” (Lamm & Everett, 2007, p. 12). In a collaborative writing environment, team members naturally lend multiple perspectives and opinions to a piece. While team members can and should agree on the direction of an argument, they are often better equipped to develop opposition arguments. By offering varying viewpoints and opposition arguments, they lend a tone of authority to their work.

According to “Developing an Ethos” (2010), an open forum must be created in which members of a team feel comfortable sharing their ideas and thoughts. At the University of Phoenix, the online learning team forum provides this opportunity. In collaborative environments, there must be a starting point where students feel safe enough to share their ideas, and usually an unspoken or spoken leader must facilitate this discussion. The “Developing an Ethos” website (2010) also discusses the importance of bringing issues into the open to be dealt with collectively. Concerns regarding the formation of ethos in a paper can be solved when discussed proactively. Thus, it is communication that lies at the crux of collaborative success.

There is much debate over whether papers written collaboratively use different forms of argumentation than papers written individually. According to a study by Dillon (1993), there is less collaboration than people might think on collaborative papers. Dillon explains, “If we accept a definition of collaborative writing as the activities involved in the production of a document by more than one author then pre-draft discussions and arguments as well as post-draft analyses and debate are the collaborative components” (Dillon, 1993). According to his study, once the initial workload division has been completed, there is little collaboration. If this is true, argumentation is developed in much the same way as it would be for an individually written paper.

Interestingly, according to Dillon, collaborative tools such as shared writing platforms and technology can help in the collaborative process, but the search “for a dedicated collaborative writing environment is too narrow because in itself, collaborative writing is a misleading term” (Dillon, 1993).

Much the same argument can be made for the warrants of papers written collaboratively. Technology is far more advanced today than it was in the early 1990s, but the level of collaboration is still the same. According to Dillon (1993), there is a “meaningful distinction between the act of writing which is intrinsically an individual activity and the writing task which may involve all types of collaborative acts.”

Thus, more of the group work goes to dividing up tasks as opposed to formulating opinions and discussions on the actual content of the paper. It is possible that participants in team papers will agree to use a warrant in a paper that is decidedly different than a warrant they would use in their own paper simply because it is deemed easier to agree on a point than to argue. On the same token, once the initial workload division process has been completed, team members may not analyze the other parts (and thus warrants) of the team paper.

According to Saskatchewan Education (1998), “Writing in groups presents a unique challenge. Individuals have different interests, different backgrounds, and different attitudes toward writing.” There are many processes that are essential to writing and editing successfully as a team. These include proper analysis of the work, team building, management of the writing itself, time, document stages, style and format, and conflict management (Saskatchewan Education, 1998).

Clearly, the process of developing and writing an argument can be challenging for any student. The individual writer is often attached to his or her opinions. Collaborative writing can pose difficulties where this is concerned as team members often vary sharply in their points of view and in their desires for the finished piece of work. This can, however, be overcome. It requires – among other things – patience, open-mindedness, and respect.