Peer Mentoring & Creating Writing Groups that Work


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This workshop will consider how researchers can support one another to improve their academic writing. Writing groups have clear benefits – when run effectively, their model of peer mentoring can improve your confidence and motivation as a writer, helping you to develop your ideas and original research, and make more effective use of the time spent with your supervisor. They can be a great way of dealing with the pitfalls familiar to many researchers, including writer’s block and procrastination. As an intellectual community, a writing group can also open the way to future research collaborations. After sharing some of the common problems involved in writing research, this workshop will suggest strategies for overcoming them through peer mentoring, and offer practical advice on establishing and maintaining a writing group.

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  • Promoting Outstanding Writing For Excellence in Research – Texas A&M grad schoolFor Elbow, the phrase 'writing with power' has two meanings. The first meaning is probably what most of us think of, when we think about writing with power : powerful writing, of course! Written words that make a difference in readers' individual lives, or in the lives of entire communities. Writing with power makes us think of writing contained in such places as The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, religious texts, classical literature, and poetry.Yet Peter Elbow emphasizes a second meaning for this phrase, and it is this second meaning:"… writing with power also means getting power over yourself and over the writing process: knowing what you are doing as you write; being in charge; having control; not feeling stuck or helpless or intimidated. I am particularly interested in this second kind of power in writing and I have found that without it you seldom achieve the first kind.” (Elbow, 1998, p. viii)
  • p.3 of Helping Doctoral Students WriteKAMLER & THOMSONIdentity – scholarly and social categories narrative we tell about ourselves plural not singular – interlocking, simultaneous always in formation – not fixed continually being made and remade in and as action – multiple performances along with performances, are discursively formed – embedded in available discoursesWriting as social practice – text – the thing / performance / subject (being communicated) itself discourse practice – production, interpretation, conventions and conversations of discourse community / locaitonsociocultural practice – particular public receiving text, ways of doing &selecting & receiving scholarship in that community, values, & valuing of group Text and Identity play differently across / because of these dimensions of discourse
  • None of us is a native speaker of “dissertation” – but we are storytellers, meaning makers, living within multiple social discourses, positioned to – and interested in – provoking knowledge production, for ourselves, for and with our framlies, for and with and because of our communities
  • What brings you here?The scholar The investigatorThe IntellectualNetworkingDemystifying
  • From Positive Affect and Human Flourishing article
  • WHINE TO WINEinternal conflict & ambiguitysituational conflictI’d like to be able to grant your request for a day off, but we will be short-staffed that day already.This section is fine, but the rest needs to be re-workedI have had terrible experiences with that committee in the past, but it sounds like a great opportunity for you. from CK Harvard Negotiation Projectimprov comedy with ‘yes, but’ the second part differs: 'yes I hear you, but I don't care’The Powerful Difference Between Saying "Yes And" and "Yes But” - by AvishParashar
  • How do you use – now and in the past – writing as part of learning? What have you learned – skill and attitude wise – about writing?
  • What fears do you have about writing – in general and even more specifically those related to writing a dissertation? Honestly note what you don’t know about – or can only assume to be true about – writing a dissertation.  How do you approach writing? Scholarly, academic writing requires daily chunks of writing time, commitment to drafting and substantially revising work, and writing-supportive peers. Take 20-30 minutes to inventory how you now approach/complete major writing projects or assignments – does your approach incorporate “writing as a process”? does some (or much) of the process of writing seem a mystery to you? are there components that you regularly skip? From Matrix
  • Some ideas/phrasing adapted from presentation by Dr Íde O’Sullivan, Lawrence Cleary at the Shannon Consortium Regional Writing Centre – “Dissertation Writing: Bringing it All Together”Leah C
  • What’s one attitude about writing that you’ve developed/taken on that you need to reshape – turn from a “yes, but” into a “yes, and” Seeing / naming these – key to being able to engage writing, the process of writing – which includes setting up venues for sharing feedback
  • Cross-cultural AND Cross-disciplinarydimensions of research writingRespect for others’ methods they will be your future collaborators, your future resources for mixed methods work
  • This is what we tend to think of first, primarily, onlyCan you do this sort of feedback while reading? While researching? While generating? While drafting? While revising? While editing?Global comments – what research says about these two types of feedbackFrom beginning to end, the point of order is the initial question, claim or hypothesis.Chapter and section headings announce the organisation with a logical, linear, progressive arrangement of ideas.
  • IntermediateLocalAnd impact on making meaning – on shifting from self as audience to self and local others to self and discipline to self as member of wider conversation and community of thinkers
  • What would you want in a peer mentoring and feedback group? Would you need and want more than one venue for feedback?
  • Frequent: Give feedback daily, weekly, or as frequently as possible.Immediate: Get the feedback to students as soon as possible.Discriminating: Make clear what the difference is between poor, acceptable, and exceptional work.Loving: Be empathetic in the way you deliver your feedback.Writing groups of colleagues, either from within the same field or from other areas of curriculum, can support and coach each other, providing a context for improving each person’s practice of writing. Once clear guidelines have been established according to the differing needs of each group, the process should move very smoothly. The expectations for deadlines must be spelled out, appropriate feedback techniques established, and agreement reached on whether coaching or editing is preferable. For some, the goal might be to produce raw writing; for others, finished articles or books might be the outcome. Setting up a realistic structure in terms of time spent, pages written, etc. is an important component of success. Writing is a multi‐staged process, and an effective writing group can become a collaborative learning experience, providing encouragement for the improvement of each person’s practice of writing. If writing becomes a pleasure instead of an odious task, colleagues will find they can keep it going all year round.The Pleasure of Maintaining Productive throughout the Year Academic WritingDr. Rhoda L. Flaxman; Director, WriteConsultingThe Teaching Exchange 12.2 (Sep. 2008) • Brown University CTL
  • They work with Umich HO
  • In pairs, work with the piece of writing you’ve brought – If you haven’t brought a piece of writing become a “designated listener” by joining one of the pairs to make a trio
  • Matrix
  • In a word, exigence is a problem, a defect, a challenge out there in the real world that compels people to communicate. Sometimes these problems are economic: the shortage of financial aid for students, the lack of money for necessities of life, the unwise manner in which tax dollars are spent by our government. Other times the defects are political: bickering over a recycling program among factions on the city council, a quarrel between members of a union over whether or not to strike. Sometimes the challenges are social: the deportation to immigrants, the treatment of people with racial, ethnic, or physical differences. Sometimes the flaws are personal: the need to vent anger about a casual remark that was taken as an insult, the desire to establish or maintain friendly ties with acquaintances or co-workers or family (please note that not all exigencies are negative; in reality, many are positive), the need to relieve feelings of pain caused by the breakdown of a long-term relationship. In all these cases (and many more in our everyday lives), circumstances exist that call out for us to communicate with others. Understanding exigence is essential because without it we cannot effectively determine purpose. -from
  • Write two good questions to guide your reader’s real responding– reader will evaluate the question
  • HO pgs 2-3Practicing the habits described above, with their emphasis on patience, moderation, and mindfulness, will lead to this habit.  In addition, try these actions:Monitor yourself for inefficiency, such as allowing too many external distractions (noise, visitors, etc.); overreacting to distraction; working to fatigue; procrastinating; bingeing.Redirect efforts to more efficient ways of working, such as taking intentional pauses, creating outlines in brief sessions, and creating opportunities for interaction.Take care of yourself in practical ways such as sleeping adequately, exercising, and eating nutritionally.
  • Attributes of Quick Starters Start before they’re readyIntegrate active participation into communication practices, overall philosophies and daily practicesProactive in seeking advice from colleagues/multiple mentors, collaborators, and significant othersWork with others to establish strategies for balance among / integration across the commitments in life, work, cultural/affinity groups, and local/global communityVerbalize general optimism – about students, peers, research, teachingSpend less time in the whine and procrastination and imposter modesThe New Faculty Member, 1992BoiceAdvice for New Faculty Members – “when you write daily, you start writing immediately because you remember what you were writing about the day before. This leads to impressive production. In one study participants who wrote daily wrote only twice as many hours as those who wrote occasionally in big blocks of time but wrote or revised tem times as many pages.” Be accountable to someone weekly: Boice 1989 article:Participants were divided into three groups: (a) The first group ("controls") did not change their writing habits, and continued to write occasionally in big blocks of time; in 1 year they wrote an average of 17 pages; (b) the second group wrote daily and kept a daily record; they averaged 64 pages; (c) the third group wrote daily, kept a daily record, and held themselves accountable to someone weekly; this group's average was 157 pages (Boice 1989:609).
  • You as a writer across research across your careerWhat can you set up for your individual work – this is where peer support really starts for peer mentoring – feedback to suit the situation, relationship, stage
  • Peer Mentoring & Creating Writing Groups that Work

    1. 1. writing with power also means getting power over yourself & over the writing process<br />- Peter Elbow, U Massachusetts-Amherst<br />Peer-Supported Academic Writing<br />
    2. 2. We write<br />To work<br />Out what<br />We think.<br /><ul><li>Barbara Kamler
    3. 3. Pat Thomson</li></ul>Peer-Supported Academic Writing<br />
    4. 4. And [Barbara Kamler] is right.  Writing isn’t an activity that you do to whip up a study or report after understanding ideas and thinking up insights.  Writing is the very route scholars take in order to think things through.  As such, it isn’t such an extrinsic instrument, but an essential process in scholarly work.   What is even more interesting, … is that writing is not only thinking, but it’s also forming your identity as a scholar.<br />So today, I’m not just writing up my research proposal.  I’ll be gathering the ideas accumulated from research, processing them and thinking them through.  <br />strugglingSCHOLAR blog:<br />
    5. 5. Read and respond like a real Reader<br />- Cleo Martin, university of Iowa<br />Peer-Supported Academic Writing<br />
    6. 6. Write what you really think.<br />What if you accept that you can do it?<br />- Ilene d. Alexander, U Minnesota-Twin Cities<br />Peer-Supported Academic Writing<br />
    7. 7. Let’s Talk a Bit<br />
    8. 8. What Is (the use of) Human Flourishing?<br />“[B]roadened mindsets carry indirect and long-term adaptive value because broadening builds enduring personal resources, like social connections, coping strategies, and environmental knowledge.”<br />“Positivity, by promoting approach and exploration, creates experiential learning opportunities that confirm or correct initial expectations….[and] over time builds more accurate cognitive maps of what is good and bad in the environment. This greater knowledge becomes a lasting personal resource. <br /><ul><li>“Positive Affect and Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing” American Psychologist</li></li></ul><li>What Is (the use of) Human Flourishing?<br />To flourish means to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth and resilience.<br />positive affect<br />widens scope of attention<br />broadens behavioral repertoires / flexibility<br />increases intuition and creativity<br />positive impact on physical and mental health<br />“Positive Affect and Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing” American Psychologist<br />
    9. 9. How Is this Adult Learning?<br />think dialectically <br />decision-making moves between objective/subjective, universal/specific <br />employ practical logic <br />attend to internal features of a given situation to reason contextually “in a deep and critical way”; inferential reasoning)<br />“know how we know what we know”<br />conscious of own/others’ learning, ability to adjust styles situationally; know grounds for decision-making<br />engage in critical reflection<br />assessing match between earlier rules/practices/practical theories and emerging understandings in “interpersonal, work and political lives”<br />Stephen Brookfield, 2000<br />
    10. 10. Why Not Say, “Yes, and…”?<br />I am going to say 'yes' to you, accepting whatever you have said<br />I will add what I want to say via 'and,' build on what you have said <br /> <br />'Yes and' is a conversation; 'yes but' is a conversation stopper<br />‘I hate the beach!' <br />'Yes but I really want to go the beach today!' <br />'Yes, but I hate the beach!'- and on to infinity. <br />  <br />'I hate the beach!' <br />'Yes, and I think the park would be a better choice!' <br />'Yes, and at the park we could play baseball!' <br />‘Yes, and the big umbrella in the trunk will keep you out of the full sun.’<br />'Yes and' … opens up your mind, helps you listen, and moves you mindfully forward in creating a supportive environment<br />
    11. 11. Let’s Talk Again<br />
    12. 12. What is your writing history? <br />For those who like creating narratives, write for 5 minutes about one or two pivotal writing experiences – perhaps one you would call successful or challenging and one you would call unsuccessful or frustrating. <br />For those who prefer lists, focus on listing (1) your strengths as a writer, (2) improvements you could make as a writer based on feedback from readers you trust, (3) attitudes and situations that lead you to spark or shut down as a writer. <br />NOTE WELL: <br />This isn’t a time or place to dwell on or generate put downs –assess skills and analyze problems openly and honestly. <br />Only you will read this writing. And, we’ll all discuss ideas.<br />
    13. 13. Where Am I as Someone Who Is “Writing Steady”?<br />Where and when do you write?<br />Why and when and where do you not write?<br />What prompts you to write? to revise?<br />What do you see as the relationship between writing and thinking, between writing and reading in your research process? Why is writing early important?<br />Where and when in your writing or research process does writing seem an unmanageable process?<br />What do you try to not do when writing – because someone told you to not do that thing?<br />
    14. 14. Let’s Talk Some More<br />
    15. 15. What Ideas Do I Have about Mentored Writing and Peer Support?<br />Dialogue on/about/for writing<br />Feedback on/about/for writing<br />Generate exercises on/about/for writing<br />Create, Share, Assess goals and action plans on/about/for writing<br />Less of the formalities of crafting a “writing sandwich” (Rowena Murray) writing, talking, writing<br />More about the process of “writing like a real writer” – push, extend, engage in meaning making<br />
    16. 16. What Are Options for Setting Up Mentored Writing and Peer Support?<br /> Writing Partners<br /> Writing Dialogues - Panels, Forums, Conversations<br /> Writing Groups - Multidisciplinary, Multigenerational<br /> Writing Lessons – Practice, Mimic, Rhetorical Forms across Disciplines/Cultures, Processes of Writing<br /> Writing for Conferences Rehearsals <br /> Writing Retreats<br /> Writing Coaches <br /> Writing Supervision<br />
    17. 17. What Might We Do? What Might We Talk about as Writing Peers?<br />Revision – Content and Organization<br />Where and why it’s needed<br />Strategies for content development, overall organization and development of cohesive analysis / argument / knowledge construction<br />Transitions Coherence Unity<br />Surface Features<br />Key sections, paragraphs, sentences<br />Section, paragraph, sentence structures<br />Conventions – of language, of citation style, of formatting<br />Notice that this is dead last on my list – and Peter Elbows’ list!<br />
    18. 18. What Might We Do? What Might We Talk about as Writing Peers?<br />Audience – real readers<br />Purpose – writerly and readerly concerns<br />Research question – methods, organization<br />Thesis statement – initially and carrying it forward<br />Focus – idea(s) and argument(s)<br />Flow – sign posts and transitions<br />Readability – real readers, real audience<br />Academic context – conversation around/launching<br />So What? – implications, interest, integrity, impact<br />
    19. 19. Let’s Talk About What YouWant from Peers<br />
    20. 20. So, How Might Peer Mentoring and Feedback Groups Be Structured?<br />Vision Driven – cannot be “another meeting”<br />Optimal number of participants for type of group<br />Same stage, range of stages<br />Invited participants, open call; fixed group, revolving<br />Shifting Facilitator, Fixed-term Convener<br />Purpose Structured – fixed focus; participant focus<br />Forward Looking Feedback – FIDeLity<br />Ground rules – participation, conflict, competition<br />Between sessions – check in routes, jealousy <br />
    21. 21. So, How Might Peer Mentoring and Feedback Group Sessions Operate?<br />
    22. 22. Let’s Try This Out <br />
    23. 23. What Do We Need to Learn?<br />Less about “how a dissertation works” and more about how “argument works.” <br />Do study good dissertations. <br />Do think about chunks, transitions, signposts, threads.<br />Do compare across disciplines, cultures, methods. <br />Do talk with supervisors and with peers. <br />Do share discoveries – aloud and in writing.<br />
    24. 24. What Do We Need to Learn?<br />Writing with Purpose / Power / Intention<br /> “The writing process actually starts before you pick up a pen or place your fingers on a keyboard. It begins with defining what you are writing, for whom you are writing, why you are writing, and which writing approach to use. "Writing with Intention" addresses these defining matters, which you need to consider every time you sit down to write.” (<br />your full audience – characteristics beyond your committee (content)<br />your real readers’ roles – cultural considerations beyond peers (org)<br />your own scholarly tone – move beyond setting out ideas to asserting ideas by looking at word choices, attribution patterns, shaping ideas through evidence, strong verbs, crafted phrases (surface features)<br />
    25. 25. What Do We Need to Learn?<br />Ways of responding<br />Summarizing – Narratives, Dialogues, Comparisons<br />Telling – Stories, Scenes, Portraits <br />Showing – Ideas, Options, Missed Moments<br />Pointing – 1st Thoughts, Asking<br />
    26. 26. What Do We Need to Learn?<br />
    27. 27. What Do We Need to Learn?<br />Good Questions – Good Questioning<br />Open Ended Questions <br />Asking for Information <br />Diagnostic Questions <br />Challenge Questions <br />Extension Questions <br />Combination Questions <br />Priority Questions <br />Action Questions <br />Prediction Questions <br />Generalizing and Summarizing Questions<br /> Bloom’s Taxonomy<br />Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation<br />
    28. 28. Let’s Try that Peer Feedback Again – and with a Question or Two<br />
    29. 29. Resilience<br /> The healthiest, most creative, most productive work comes with moderation – not, as tradition would have us believe, with pressure for high rates of work and ever more output.  Efficiency practiced efficiently requires patience and tolerance, not greed and intensity. - Robert Boice<br />from Brandon Shuler’s Yahoo blog<br />
    30. 30. Resilience<br />a positive capacity to cope with stress & catastrophe<br />an ability to bounce back after a disruption<br />a capacity to use exposure to stress to provoke strategy to address future negative events / challenges<br />a positive behavioral / cognitive / kinesthetic adaptation in encountering significant adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or sources of stress<br />involves two judgments<br />one about "positive adaptation" <br />one about significance of risk or adversity<br />
    31. 31. Resilience<br />selection from Robert Boice’sHow Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency (1994 <br />
    32. 32. Time for Action Planning<br />