Blog Post

Collaborative Pedagogy: Baby Steps

I should make a more formal and "thinky" post soon, but as I worked on drafting an assignment this morning, I realized that this community would be a great place to think through my pedagogical questions. Part of what inspires me about this community is the mixture of practical and theoretical.

At the Early Modern Digital Agendas seminar this summer, I was amazed by the flood of back-channel communications and collaborations. Twitter, collaborative Notes documents, and the occasional email made for an intense, sometimes overwhelming, but brilliantly informative pedagogical environment.  

Over the past couple months, I’ve been thinking about how to bring elements of that collaborative energy to the discussion sections I will be running for “Words V. Music,” a cross-listed course in the English and Music departments focusing on lyrics in (largely American) song.

One of the experiments that I plan on trying this semester: I am building a framework for each of my classes to create a glossary of key (analytical and descriptive) terms.  I plan on inviting each of them to a shared Google document. Are there best practices I should think of as I draft this assignment? How might I invite more student control?  How should I think about questions of assessment? Should I consider using a different technology? (A course wiki seemed promising, but perhaps more trouble than it is worth.)

I’ve been trying to read up on what makes collaborative projects successful.  Two things that have stood out so far: (1) clear communications as to expectations and (2) the opportunity to address a problem or question that feels significant.  I worry a little about (2). Though I plan to emphasize the utility of this document, it’s not demanding much work beyond finding definitions and entering them in. How could I strengthen this component of the project?

Does anyone have experience with similar projects? What other collaborative resources might we build together? A bibliography? A list of recommended songs?

What collaborative class resources have you asked your students to prepare?


Many thanks,

Matthew Harrison



Kudos for attempting a collaborative assignment.

I had my Latin students contribute to a collaborative commentary generated in google docs last year.  I agree that clarity is very important.  I gave them clear assignments as to what part of the commentary they were to complete and clear standards as to the type of information to include.  There was still a variation in quality.  The other challenge I wanted to address was  making sure that the students actually used the commentary.  To do this, I assigned them to peer review someone else's entry, as well as covering that material on tests.  The promise was the opportunity to share the labor, but I worried about whether they would get the Latin as well if they didn't work through it themselves.

When you are having them do an assignment like this outside of class, I think it is also important to clarify how it relates to what else you are doing in class.  Will you refer back to it? How might students use this resource? What incentive do they have to contribute?  How will you assess it?

Here's another example of a collaborative resource: I like this example because it took several iterations for the students to work through the best way to do it and see the value in it.


 Thanks, Dr. Davis! This is really helpful. Did you find that they were using the commentary? 

And I love your Dilgo post: I had been thinking about doing a collaborative annotated bibliography. Seeing Prof. Torres's strategies is quite helpful. 

It's becoming clear that part of the difficulty will be picking and choosing which strategies to try to implement in a given course. 


Thanks again!