Mary Sykes

Collaboration in a group of graduate writing teachers

Mary Lynn Bender Sykes

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2001 pp: 167
  • Advisor: Sullivan, Patricia
  • Source: DAI-A 63/01, p. 173, Jul 2002
  • Subjects: Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681); Education, Higher (0745); Education, Sociology Of (0340)
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN: 0-493-51254-3
  • UMI Number: AAT 3037649


    • Although teachers utilize collaborative groups in the hope of minimizing authoritative influences upon students, the literature suggests that groups often operate hierarchically. For collaboration to fulfill its promise as an equalizing pedagogy compatible with feminist ideals, the way that authority operates in groups needs to be more fully explored. This case study examined the authority influences upon a group of graduate student-writing teachers as they undertook a teacher research project. I taped group meetings, interviewed members and collected artifacts to determine the sources of authority for the group. Using Miner’s organizational taxonomy, I classified the authority claims as belonging to the group domain, the professional domain, or the hierarchical domains. The findings showed that the group referenced the professional domain the most frequently, followed closely by references to group authority. Less frequent, but quite important, were references to the hierarchical authority of the university. Each of these three perspectives presented a different interpretation of group functioning. From the perspective of small group theory, the group chose, somewhat atypically, a woman leader. However, the group did not successfully negotiate all the stages of group formation and thus did not enjoy the open communication necessary for optimum project success. Considered in the context of the profession, none of the members individually had enough expertise to complete the project successfully, and differences among their disciplines complicated collaboration. From the hierarchical standpoint, to meet the university’s requirements an outside principal investigator was chosen from among the tenured faculty, and he gave his own input on the project. The findings suggest that considering groups in terms of contextual influences gives a fuller picture of authoritative influences operating there, and that the various contexts in which groups operate can conflict.
    • An analysis based in social epistemic rhetorics and cultural studies approaches to language and culture is used to examine assumptions about computers, learning and writing which circulate unacknowledged in the Computers and Composition discourse. Through this analysis, it is argued that technocentric thinking is unavoidable for Computers and Composition, given the basic nature of the area of inquiry. Technocentrism should not be embraced blindly; rather, technocentric thinking in writing instruction theory should be acknowledged and problematized in order to better understand its workings. As this is a position that must be engaged in by both theorists and composition students, the project concludes with a discussion of pedagogical strategies for addressing technocentric thinking in both curriculum and students’ thinking. This discussion relies on feminist theories of technology and feminist theories of pedagogy which have been developed both within and outside Composition Studies.