Carnegie Mellon University

Collaborative Writing Across English Proficiencies: Using Professionals' Experiences In The Workplace To Scaffold Students' Teamwork Practices

Author: Maria Feuer

Degree: Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Carnegie Mellon University, 2021

When co-writing on linguistically diverse teams, team members have the potential to engage in perspective sharing and perspective taking, which can produce more innovative and creative texts. At the same time, linguistically diverse teams can often reproduce some of the worst inequities in our society, such as domineering teammates, discrimination and undervaluation, distrust and degradation of status, exclusion from group participation, stereotyping, and increased anxieties during interactions. It is, therefore, no surprise that students often feel anxiety when collaborating on linguistically diverse teams. The objective of this dissertation is to explore a team pedagogy that encourages students to overcome their anxieties about language differences and more productively collaborate with their diverse peers.

Using interviews and survey data, I created and piloted pedagogical material that aims to help students better collaborate on their diverse teams. Specifically, in Chapter 1, I reevaluated the ways that the field of professional and technical writing teaches teamwork in the classroom. In Chapter 2, I interviewed professionals who frequently collaborate on linguistically diverse teams to explore best practices commonly used by experts in the field. In Chapter 3, I revised the former GCC's Team Communication workshop from a traditional approach into a flipped model, where students were given a chance to reflect on and individually interact with the teamwork strategies on their own terms. In order to address students’ challenges with having difficult conversations about language and feedback, in Chapter 4, I created a flipped approach that scaffolds the team charter document and helps students overcome anxieties around discussing different values, goals, and needs. Students who participated in the study self-reported an increased use of team planning strategies, and their team documents show an increased use of empathetic discourse towards their peers. This dissertation contributes to the fields of rhetoric and professional and technical communication by offering teachers concrete tools that they can use to support the exchange of diverse perspectives in the classroom.