Theses Doctoral

The Effects of Collaboration on Student Writing Development

Boyd, Natalie

Dialogic argument activities have been shown to facilitate the development of argumentative writing in young adolescents. The present study investigates the extent to which collaborative writing has a further facilitative effect, serving as a bridge between the dialogic and individual writing contexts. Over the course of one school year, a total of 54 students in two low-performing 7th grade classes participated in a twice-weekly dialogic argument curriculum of known effectiveness that included various kinds of dialogic activities addressing a sequence of four topics an individual essay as the culminating activity for each of the topics. In a quasi-experimental design, one class was randomly chosen as an experimental group and the other as a comparison group. The participation of the two classes in the curriculum was identical except that in one class students had an additional activity toward the end of each 15-session topic unit, during which they were asked to collaborate with a classmate who held the opposing view on the topic and produce a jointly written essay. The comparison group also wrote an interim essay but did so individually rather than collaboratively.
Compared to students who only wrote individually, collaborative writers performed better on their subsequent final individual essays on the topic. They anticipated the arguments of the other side better, and countered them using an integrative argumentation structure more often. Further, they repeated ideas less often and had more unique idea units in their essays.
To explore the collaborative processes possibly underlying the differences between the groups, analyses of digital voice recordings from the collaborative writing activity were examined. In addition, the transfer of ideas from the collaborative to subsequent individual essays was examined. The recordings of verbal dialogue between the pair engaged in collaborative essay writing show an increase over the year in metacognitive dialogue pertaining to their task. Furthermore, in their subsequent individually-written essays, students utilized and built on ideas presented by their partner. Most notable was inclusion in the individual essay of arguments and evidence supporting the opposing partner’s position, particularly when the ideas presented supported the opposite side of the argument. Both of these developments support the view that collaborative writing aids in the development of an argumentative mindset that transforms inter-individual dialogue into intra-individual reflection.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cognitive Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Kuhn, Deanna
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 16, 2018