Collaboration in Difficult Times

Categories: Instruction, Online Learning, Research Skills, Tools and Resources

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Online teaching prompt

Given the changes we are all experiencing given the Covid 19 pandemic, MethodSpace is also offering guidance and resources about online instruction and research. Find more help here.


Collaboration is essential to the work of academic researchers and writers.

We collaborate with each other, and with editors, students, archivists, librarians, people who allow us access to their organizations, with research participants. Our work can’t be carried out solo. Some of us are accustomed to collaborating electronically– but the Covid 19 pandemic has compelled many to acquire new skills necessary for working together from a distance, with little time for thought or preparation.

Some collaborative efforts proceed organically, with partners who share goals and agree on how to achieve them. But the more complex and boundary-crossing the project, with larger groups of partners who may or may not know (or trust) each other, the more attention is needed to clear agreements and protocols.

Our focus this month is on a related topic: interdisciplinary research. Not all collaborative work is interdisciplinary, but interdisciplinary efforts are inherently collaborative. We must be able to understand other world views and ways of knowing that might be very different from those common to our own home disciplines. These recorded presentations might help.


Learn to be a better collaborative partner.

Logo for Textbook and Academic Authors Association

The Textbook and Academic Authors Association has generously offered access to their typically members-only archive of presentations. These presentations by TAA members are in-depth and practical. We will be highlighting presentations that might be useful during the current at-home work circumstances. This selection offers a variety of perspectives on the topic of collaboration. (And yes, I gave some of them! See my book on the topic, Learning to Collaborate, Collaborating to Learn.) As a non-member, you will need to complete this short form to gain access to these resources. If you find them to be valuable, consider joining this community of active writers! 

Clear Academic Writing Across the Disciplines
Presenter: Caroline Eisner, Certified Professional Coach, Eisner Consulting LLC

We know that for academics and researchers, writing well means being able to write academically in the discursive styles of a specific discipline. Furthermore, when Writing in the Discipline programs are firmly in place, faculty across the disciplines work with students in their courses through assignments and assessments, in-class instruction, and course readings to understand and articulate the disciplinary discourse conventions of that discipline. In this one-hour webinar, we will discuss the components of clear academic writing and how these components apply to the discourse conventions across the disciplines. We will also review what clear academic writing is across disciplines and how to think about, practice, and teach the discourse conventions of specific disciplines.

Make “Collaboration” More Than A Buzzword
Presenter: Dr. Janet Salmons

The term collaboration is sometimes used casually to describe almost any situation that involves more than one individual. If we define the term as “an interactive process that engages two or more participants who work together to achieve outcomes they could not accomplish independently” (Salmons, in press), then it is clear that more is involved than simply joining forces. How do we decide what kind of interactive process will allow us to achieve outcomes more significant than what we could do on our own? What steps will improve collaborations when some or all of our interaction occurs online? These are questions Dr. Salmons will explore in the context of co-research, co-editor or co-author collaboration.

Practical Strategies for Collaborating With Peers
Presenter: Dr. Janet Salmons

Sometimes collaboration comes naturally. We can communicate honestly to determine shared goals and complete a project. It can be exhilarating to see what can be accomplished when we pool ideas and expertise. Other times, collaboration seems time-consuming and frankly aggravating. Perhaps we thought we were on the same page with our partner(s), only to discover that their sense of time, criteria for quality, or willingness to address problems are not as we expected.

Mentor, Coach, Supervisor: Collaborative Ways to Work with Writers
Presenters: Dr. Janet Salmons and her former doctoral student, Dr. Jim McCleskey, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, North American University and a Course Instructor in the Graduate Management Program, Western Governors University

Writing is deeply personal. But unless we are writing research memos or journal entries, we will have to cooperate with reviewers, editors, and others to get our work published. As faculty supervising students, writing program staff, trainers or consultants, we have the opportunity to help aspiring writers to work more collaboratively. Using the term collaboration to describe “an interactive process that engages two or more participants who work together to achieve outcomes they could not accomplish independently” (Salmons, in press), Dr. Janet Salmons and her dissertation supervisee Jim McClesky explore ways to develop skills valuable to writers. They look at ways to use review exchanges, writing circles, support teams and other approaches to improve writing while learning to work collaboratively. Practical strategies are offered for classroom, committee, or informal learning settings. Watch

Writing and Publishing Together: Strategies for Successful Professor-Student Collaborations
Presenters: Laura Jacobi and Justin Rudnick, Assistant Professors, Minnesota State University, Mankato; Cristy Dougherty, PhD candidate, University of Denver; and Alyssa Harter, Communication Studies Instructor, Winona State University.

Professor-student writing and publishing projects can be a challenging process to navigate with authors at different stages in their careers. What roles should each play in the writing process? What strategies are effective in writing collaboratively? How should authorship order be determined? Such concerns may make professors and students avoid writing collaborations. However, if navigated well, writing together presents mentoring opportunities and likely results in publications. Both professors and students discuss their experiences in writing collaboratively and share tips on how they navigated the process.


Relevant MethodSpace Posts

MethodSpace offered a month-long focus on collaboration last year, and those posts can be found through this link.

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