Collaborative Writing, Shared Learning

Brief Description: This example is a face to face learning circle organized to increase individual ownership and group support for writing papers on evaluation topics that were shared by an evaluation research team.

Organized by: Cynthia Tananis

Introduction: Learning Circles offer an opportunity for collaborative learning coupled with tangible outputs --- work we collectively decide to produce. The notion is based on the social context for learning --- we learn with and in interaction with others.

Background: I participated in an AEA sponsored exploration of the use of Learning Circles for professional development of evaluators. As part of that activity, I needed to try to plan and implement a Learning Circle as an extension of the Circle that I was part of. Our work together will create that applied Learning Circle.

Participants:Membership was opened to a number of graduate students who had all been hired to work as part of an evaluation team. The members included:

• 2 masters level graduate students in education

• 1 undergraduate student - mathematics major

• 3 doctoral level graduate students in education (one of whom also serves as a full-time staff member as Project Manager)

• An Associate Professor of Administrative and Policy Studies, the Director of CEAC

Methods and Instruments: The learning circle met weekly at first, and then bi-weekly, in a face-to-face context. There was no need to use distance learning technology as the participants are working in the same context on a shared project. We typically shared texts through hard copy, though we did store them on a common server for access.

Roles and Responsibilities: The facilitator selected the major theme (collaborative writing related to selected work projects), the participants each selected a topic (specific papers/themes for writing) for the group to work on.

Time Line: This learning circle ran from January - April, 2009 in a more formal collective space, though the collaborative writing and refining of texts continues among small teams through the current date (November, 2009)

Budget: The time to participate was a work commitment. Each staff and student member was paid to attend the meetings and participate, at their regualr salary rates.

Deliverable and Dissemination: The goal is to create a set of papers written collectively by the team with each graduate student taking the lead on one of the paper topics.

Sustainability: This was a test with a given timeline that successfully used a "Learning Circle" to both introduce the topic of collaborative writing to the group, and to begin actual selection of themes/topics and early draft writing and critiquing. Over time, the work of the group was integrated more fully in the day-to-day work of CEAC and continues, though less formally, today.