Spontaneous collaborative writing among students as researchers

Submitted by: Dr. Tuva Bjørkvold
Abstract: This case study of a 7th grade class acting as researchers examines the writing practices of the whole class. The students participate in a national research contest, initiated by the Norwegian Research Council demanding a written report as contest contribution. As the whole class research one self chosen question together, they also write the report jointly, and have a shared interest in investigating and writing as well as possible. Collaboration, without the teacher initiating it, dominates the writing. The research question is: What characterize the collaborative literacy events when students act as researchers?
This study is situated within the New Literacy Studies, which sees literacy as something you do, not as a set of skills (Barton, 2007). Therefore, the way the students use literacy to handle their research is of interest. To participate in the research competition requires to understand the discourse of research (Gee, 2015), a major challenge in primary school. The students seem to solve this demanding literacy task primarily by choosing collaborating spontaneously, a rather rare solution in the primary school (Nykopp, Marttunen, & Laurinen, 2014). All situations were the students write or talk about their writing, the literacy events, are analyzed to later derive the literacy practices of these students (Street, 2009). A triangulation of methods were used, focusing on collaboration in the literacy events, through student texts (344), video observation (104 hours) and video stimulated interviews (22). The material is analyzed through three main data driven categories: who initiated the collaboration, why and how did the students collaborate.
Findings show that 343 of the 344 texts were collaborated on, in groups of two to eight and once by the whole class. However, the most noteworthy finding is that the majority of the collaborative writing events were initiated by the students themselves, not by the teacher. Further preliminary findings suggest that the students initiated collaboration in situations that demanded something challenging in the writing event, as explanations of words or concepts, technical issues or combining different data sources. Personal relationships were not observed as a reason to collaborate in this study.

Key words: collaborative writing, literacy, students as researchers

Barton, D. (2007). Literacy: An introduction to the ecology of written language. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publisher.
Gee, J. P. (2015). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses (5 ed.). London: Routledge.
Nykopp, M., Marttunen, M., & Laurinen, L. (2014). University students' knowledge construction during face to face collaborative writing. Studies in Writing, 28, 277-299. doi:10.1163/9789004265011_013
Street, B. (2009). The future of "Social literacies". In M. Baynham & M. Prinsloo (Eds.), The future of literacy studies Palgrave Advances in Language and Linguistics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9780230245693. doi:10.1057/9780230245693