Decision-Making During the Collaborative Planning of Coauthors
REBECCA E. BURNETT
As both a teacher and researcher, I want to understand the nature of the collaborative decision-making process that coauthors use. My interest comes in part from recognizing the benefits of classroom collaboration, which can give students experience and insight into their own thinking and problem solving. Students also gain emotional support, dialectical opportunities, and mutual commitment ( Gebhardt, 1980) as well as preparation for academic and workplace collaboration as they work with the conventions and language of a discourse community and receive feedback ( Higgins, 1988). My interest is also understandable given the prevalence of collaborative writing activities in classrooms. For example, nearly half of the respondents (46.5%) in a national survey of university and college business communication teachers indicated that they use collaborative writing in their classes ( Bosley, 1989). The use of collaboration is increasingly widespread in many other writing courses as well (see detailed review in DiPardo & Freedman, 1988).
The following excerpts show that stripping collaboration of conflict and urging consensus is not necessarily productive. In fact, deferring consensus and engaging in certain kinds of conflict can often have advantages. Let's start by listening to an excerpt from a collaborative planning session between two coauthors, Dean and Sujit, as they consider what recommendations to make for revising a product information sheet for a solar heating/cooling system. In this episode, Dean and Sujit explore one point: revising a paragraph