Printer Friendly

Consulting with collaborative writing teams.


This article focuses on an important area for writing centers to consider: consulting with collaborative writing teams. The authors first situate team consultations within their center's programming and consultant preparation. Then, drawing from survey data conducted with consultants and writers, the authors analyze the dynamics of team consulting, including the changing role of consultant as facilitator. They close by offering suggestions for how writing centers might prepare for and approach consultations with collaborative writing teams, and they reflect on avenues for further research and development of team consulting practices.

As understandings of writing and writing processes change and evolve, so too have the theories, practices, and pedagogies shaping writing center work. An important area our field still needs to consider is in providing support for teams working on collaborative writing projects. Team projects have always been part of K-20 learning, but are becoming even more prevalent as the benefits of collaborative learning are broadly recognized and as institutions increasingly focus on career placement for graduates. According to a national survey conducted annually in the U.S. by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (2014, 2015), the number one or two skill employers seek in employees is the ability to work in a team. Given the increased emphasis on teamwork, many, if not most, students at U.S. institutions are engaging in team research and writing projects at some point in their studies.

Despite how common team projects are, writing center scholarship and consultant preparation materials have focused extensively on one-to-one consultations. In our review of The Writing Center Journal, we found no articles focused exclusively or primarily on consulting with teams or on consultant preparation for working with teams. Some articles discuss collaboration in general and its benefits for pedagogy and writing centers (e.g., Gitterman, 2008; Lunsford, 1991; Young, 1992), as well as how writing centers collaborate across the university (e.g., Kjesrud & Wislocki, 2011; Nall, 2014). And there is, of course, much discussion of the collaborative nature of consulting sessions: the conversations that form the very heart of what we do (e.g., Bruffee, 2008; Severino, 1992) that draw from seminal work in the field (Bruffee, 1984; Harris, 1995). However, articles discussing strategies and approaches for consulting with teams are uncommon.

Additionally, many of the guides for preparing consultants, including widely used ones such as The Longman Guide to Peer Tutoring (Gillespie & Lerner, 2008), The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors (Ryan & Zimmerelli, 2015), A Tutor's Guide (Rafoth, 2005), The St. Martin's Sourcebook for Writing Tutors (Murphy & Sherwood, 2011), and Tutoring Second Language Writers (Bruce & Rafoth, 2016), only focus on the dynamics of one-to-one consulting. An exception is the most recent edition of The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors (Fitzgerald & Ianetta, 2016), in which the authors draw from scholarship on team writing to recommend that consultants involve all team members in a group writing center session. However, this discussion of a team session is brief, at less than one page. The focus in most guides is on sessions with an individual writer, but our focus needs to expand to include teams of writers. As team writing projects become more common, our writing centers will--if they have not already--see an influx of teams working on collaborative writing projects. In short, writing center resources do not currently focus enough on the dynamics of team consulting.

Although many of the techniques and practices of one-to-one consulting apply to team consulting (e.g., setting an agenda, ensuring writer agency, asking questions), we have found in our research that team consultations involve unique team dynamics, calling for the consultant to develop and fulfill the role of facilitator, helping writers negotiate team communications. In this article we share our writing center's experiences consulting with writing teams. We first situate team consulting within our local context and discuss our ever-evolving preparation of consultants for team consulting, including a brief discussion of some of the scholarship from writing, business, and intercultural communication that we are integrating into our consultant preparation. Then we examine undergraduates' perceptions of team consultations, drawing from surveys we conducted with: 1. undergraduate consultants who worked with teams; and 2. undergraduate writers who came to the writing center with their team. We close by offering suggestions for how writing centers might prepare for and approach team writing consultations while reflecting on avenues for further research and development of team consulting practices. Team consulting is an important area of writing center work, and it is our hope that this article will both provide a case example and serve as a resource for other writing centers.

Local Context: Howe Writing Initiative in the Farmer School of Business

Our center, the Howe Writing Initiative (HWI) at Miami University, was founded in 1996 and is the writing center and WAC program for the Farmer School of Business (FSB) and the administrative nexus for the new five-credit business communication program in FSB. The undergraduate enrollment at Miami is just over 16,000, and FSB enrolls approximately 4,200 majors or co-majors in Accountancy, Business Legal Studies, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Information Systems & Analytics, Management, and Marketing. The HWI is directed by the Roger and Joyce Howe Professor of Written Communication (Heidi, since 2012) and by three assistant directors who are doctoral students in Miami's Composition and Rhetoric program and who serve two-year terms. Bridget and Kathleen were assistant directors from 2014-2016, while Cynthia was in the role from 2015-2017. In the writing center work of consulting, we are joined by an undergraduate consulting staff of 10 to 15 that in some years also includes a few graduate students from Composition and Rhetoric who consult for up to four hours per week. In 2015-2016, we held just over 2,000 sessions with FSB students from all years and all majors.

We realized the need for studying and better facilitating collaborative writing teams from the results of an earlier study the HW1 conducted. In Fall 2012, when Heidi began directing the HWI, she and the assistant directors at the time (Amir Hassan, Kevin Rutherford, and Jonathan Rylander) administered a survey to 453 international students (n=60) and to 850 domestic students (n=83) enrolled in FSB to gather their perspectives and experiences around business communications. Because the international students did not write extensive responses to the open-ended questions, we also decided to interview international students with the research assistance of Han Han, a graduate student in Educational Leadership. She conducted interviews with 19 international students, 12 of whom were from China. She interviewed the Chinese students in Mandarin and then translated and transcribed the interviews. (1)

From the survey and interview results, we learned a great deal about students' writing experiences in the business school, especially around team writing. One of the questions we asked students in the surveys was "In a typical FSB class, how often in a semester are you asked to write or present with a team or a partner?" Not a single student answered "0/Never." Instead, as shown in Table 1, students reported that they were involved in a great deal of team projects.

We suspected that students would report at least one or two team projects a semester, but we were surprised at how many reported four or more. Students also reported that team writing projects were an area with which they struggled and wished for more support. In open-ended survey responses and in interviews, students discussed their difficulties with teamwork, including the miscommunication and misunderstandings they faced when working on intercultural teams where team members may have different understandings of how teamwork should or could be conducted. These findings revealed to us that more team projects were happening in the school than we realized and that students needed more support for team writing. In reviewing our center's programming and session data, we found that we were not preparing enough for team writing, and since that 2012-2013 academic year, the HWI director and assistant directors have worked to increase that support.

Because of the many interrelated programs the HWI coordinates, we took a multi-pronged approach to building support for team writing by: 1. learning more about team writing and research, especially intercultural communication; 2. providing workshops for faculty on teamwork pedagogy; 3. coordinating with faculty to provide in-class workshops to students on researching and writing in teams; 4. preparing the center's consultants for working with teams; 5. marketing the center as one that provides team consultations; and 6. collaborating with faculty and administrators to change the curriculum of the Farmer School of Business from one credit of business writing in the core to five credits of business communication. (2) Before we discuss how we prepare our consultants to work with teams, as well as the results of our surveys on consultant and writer experiences in team consultations, we briefly discuss one other aspect of our local context--the class partnership the HWI developed with Marketing 291: Principles of Marketing--as the structure of this partnership shaped many of the dynamics of team consulting that we researched for this article.

Marketing 291: Partnership course for team writing. In Spring 2013, at the same time we were first seeking to build support for team writing, the director of Marketing 291 (MKT 291) approached the HWI about working with his three sections to help students with their team projects. From that initial partnership, the HWI now works with 18-20 sections of MKT 291 per semester, reaching approximately 1,100 students per year with workshops specifically focused on researching, writing, and presenting in teams. (3) In MKT 291, students work in teams of four to six on a scenario-based project where they are members of the marketing division of a large corporation (e.g., Kraft, Mondelez) and are asked to research a particular brand and product. Spanning an entire semester, this project requires teams to write an industry analysis report and give an oral presentation on a brand extension and go-to-market strategy for their product.

In the HWI team writing workshop, which occurs early in the semester when students have just been assigned to teams, an HWI director presents on the characteristics of effective teams (4) and strategies for developing effective team communication. (5) Students then work in their teams to discuss a self- and team-assessment inventory that asks them to consider things like their individual strengths as writers, researchers, and team members and how they understand and approach teamwork. Teams also complete a communication plan and a conflict resolution plan and begin constructing a task timeline to outline their plan for the semester-long project.

In our first semester of working with MKT 291, the team consultations were recommended but not required, and only 10% of the teams showed up. We surmised that low turnout could be attributed to a number of reasons: 1. FSB students in their first years of study have--or did have under the curriculum prior to Fall 2016--little opportunity for direct instruction in teamwork, so they didn't realize the benefit of discussing a draft together as a team with peer input; and 2. business students at Miami, like most students everywhere, are incredibly busy with other classes, campus and community activities, and employment, so it is difficult for teams to meet outside of class.

Given the complexity of team projects and the benefit of consultations, MKT 291 faculty decided, with H WI approval, to try requiring team consultations for drafts of their industry analysis report. We felt, as did Irene Clark (1985) in her discussion of required consultations, that sometimes the benefits of required consultations are in exposing students to strategies for composing that they might not otherwise consider. More recently, Jaclyn Wells (2016) has researched consultants' and writers' perceptions of required consultations and found that, despite deep-seated reservations writing center personnel may hold, required consultations can be beneficial. As we will show in survey results discussed below, most students in the MKT 291 teams who were required to come to the center viewed their session(s) favorably and felt it had a positive impact on their team writing and on themselves as team writers. So, while we're not eager for required consultations in many situations, in the context of team projects in MKT 291 in FSB at Miami, we are relatively comfortable with our decision to have them. (6)

Of the 350 team consultations we held in the 2015-2016 academic year, approximately 110 were with MKT 291 teams. As to be expected, some teams come into the center functioning tremendously well as a team: They're all literally and figuratively on the same page and are enthusiastic and supportive of the project and of each other. These teams come to the HWI with robust, well-researched drafts, and the team sparks with energy as members share and engage with each other and their writing. But some teams come to the HWI, and it's clear they are struggling to connect as a team, often because of poor planning and communication. These teams usually come to the HWI with incomplete drafts or no draft at all. No matter where a team is in the process or how they're functioning as a team, the role of the consultant is, as we will show in the data we present below, often that of a facilitator to help the team, as a team, look closely at and discuss their draft (or their ideas for a draft). In the HWI, we use Google Docs for team consultations in part because all Miami students have the Google Apps for Education accounts and in part because the interface of Google Docs enables multiple writers to revise and comment on a file at once. Nearly 100% of students on Miami's Oxford campus own laptops or tablets, so students bring their own laptops to the team consultations, but we also have loaner laptops in the center that writers may borrow. We recognize that not all campuses or writing centers have this level of access to laptops or internet-based composing programs. In such cases, students should be encouraged to bring multiple copies of the draft to their appointment, so everyone can engage in the consultation most fully. During the session, the questions and conversation occur throughout the reading aloud of the draft. Consultants do not write in the document, but instead encourage writers to make their own notes and revisions on the draft as a team.

Preparing consultants for these kinds of sessions is the first step to successfully integrating multi-writer sessions into the structure of a writing center, and a good place to start is a consideration of all the ways in which team power dynamics and communication patterns can differ. Think of all the diversity in terms of writers' backgrounds and communication styles that consultants face when working with individual writers. Then imagine sitting down to consult with a team of four to six writers. Suddenly the consultant has to come to understand each member as an individual but also the team as a single entity within the session. Teams develop their own communication or miscommunication patterns and practices, so consultants need to be prepared not just for working with individuals but also for working with the dynamics of the team itself. At the HWI, our consultant preparation continues to develop, and each year we integrate more scholarship, experiential learning, and direct instruction around teams and team consulting. We turn now to how our approaches to consultant preparation have evolved to meet the new demands of collaborative writing teams.

An Overview of the HWI Consultant Preparation: Our Initial Approach

Preparing undergraduates who have applied and been accepted to consult at the HWI is an ongoing process that begins with Business 203 (BUS 203), a one-credit class that meets for 2 hours a week for the first 10 weeks of the fall semester. Each person in the course also spends two hours a week in the center observing, co-consulting, and then consulting as the semester progresses. The course, team-taught by Kathleen and Bridget in 2015 and solo-taught by Cynthia in 2016, introduces aspiring consultants to writing center theory and practice and the conventions of some of the written and oral genres we see most often in the center, including team reports and presentations. Each class meeting is generally divided into two parts: The first half is reserved for discussions about assigned readings and in-center observations, while the second part consists of student-led activities about business communication genres and mock consultations.

In the second week of the course, pre-service consultants begin observing sessions in the center, writing reflections of their observations and discussing these reflections in class. In the fourth week, pre-service consultants move from observing to co-consulting in the center, where they participate in sessions led by an experienced consultant. In the last two weeks of the course, they move to leading sessions with an experienced consultant sitting in on the session to answer questions and provide support only when and if needed. When these new consultants feel they are ready, and when we as HWI directors feel they are each ready (and it varies by individual), they will move from co-consulting to solo consulting. Upon completion of the course, pre-service consultants become paid consultants.

Prior to 2012 and Heidi's tenure as director, the HWI did not employ undergraduate consultants. In the first two years of offering BUS 203, we were so focused on getting new undergraduate consultants prepared for traditional one-to-one consulting that we just followed the lead of the guides we were using and didn't integrate any preparation specific to team writing. But in Fall 2015, the year Bridget and Kathleen taught the course, we were able to expand our preparatory course to include some focus on team consulting.

In our first efforts to integrate team consulting preparation, we included some brief discussion of best practices for team writing. We asked pre-service consultants to review the HWI resources on teamwork (HWI, 2014) and to read some short web-accessible resources, such as articles in business media and blogs by professionals and professional consultants. We focused our teamwork discussion in BUS 203 during the time of the semester that the HWI typically sees an influx in teams. This timing allowed us to draw from pre-service consultants' observation reflections to address their thoughts, concerns, and questions about the teams they saw in the center and the ways in which experienced consultants worked with them. As we note in the survey results discussed later in the article, it was this kind of experiential learning that the pre-service consultants felt was most valuable to their preparation as new writing consultants. However, we recognized, in part from this research, that there was much more we should try to do in BUS 203 to prepare consultants for team consultations. For example, experiential learning was not consistent because not all consultants received as much hands-on experience with teams as others, depending on what sessions they observed and co-consulted in. In addition, we realized consultants need more exposure to scholarship on team dynamics and team facilitation, especially as the number of teams we saw in the HWI from MKT 291 and other classes increased.

Therefore, in Fall 2016, Cynthia added more robust discussion of teams and team consulting. She summarized strategies from Joanna Wolfe's (2010) research on teams, which Wolfe has distilled into an undergraduate-accessible format in her book Team Writing: A Guide to Working in Groups, and in the future we plan to assign this book as part of the required reading for the consultant preparation course. Cynthia also integrated discussion of even more concepts on team organization and leadership into the course, including consideration of team attributes (Keyton & Beck, 2008), team structure and conflict (Chan & Chen, 2010), and student strategies in teams (Fredrick, 2008). We believe providing different descriptions and classification schema for team characteristics and interactions will help consultants to identify, discuss, and better facilitate what they see occurring in teams.

In the newest iteration of the course, we also emphasized that teams may not spend enough time in the planning stages of a project, what Gretchen N. Vik (2001) call the "forming" stage, and because of this, they don't develop enough trust in one another, which is essential to successful teamwork (see also Staggers, Garcia, & Nagelhout, 2008; Zemliansky, 2012). Often in the center, consultants will work with teams who have no draft or one that is just a slapped-together collection of individual sections with no cohesion or unity. Understanding the important role of team building helps consultants work with teams to revisit those early planning stages and develop cohesive next steps as they work on their draft. Some of the early stages include, as with all school writing projects, understanding the assignment. In BUS 203 pre-service consultants reviewed and analyzed a variety of team writing prompts, discussing ways in which team writing projects are framed and strategies for helping teams think through various approaches.

It's important that we provide consultants with scholarship on teams because teams will regularly come to the HWI with questions about their team dynamic ("Person X, who isn't here, isn't doing her share. What should we do?") or about team processes ("How should we split up the workload fairly when revising?"), and consultants benefit from having more resources and ideas to draw on when talking with teams. When consultants encounter such questions, we advise them to first turn the question back to the team and encourage team discussion and reflection on how to proceed and then provide some options if the team appears stuck or hasn't considered a possible strategy. For example, we often find that teams will not revise and edit the document in whole and each person will only revise the particular section of the report they wrote. So a useful strategy consultants frequently offer is to explain to a team that each member can and should revise and write in other team member's sections so that it becomes a team report instead of stitched together individual sections. Suggesting to a team that they all can be involved in revising the whole report is a simple point, but it's a powerful one, and it's just one example of the way pre-service consultants are provided strategies for how they might more effectively engage teams in the writing center. We turn now to the results of a survey HWI consultants took about their perspectives on team sessions and about how BUS 203 prepared them to work with teams in the center.

Team Consultations: Undergraduate Consultants' Perspectives

In our research, we surveyed both undergraduate writers and consultants. First, we sent a link to an anonymous, IRB-approved survey, consisting of mostly open-ended questions (see Appendix A), to the 12 undergraduate consultants working at the HWI during Fall 2015. In the seven responses we received, consultants provided feedback on their preparation to work with teams, and they discussed how the complex nature of team dynamics influences their consulting process, along with their role as a consultant in team sessions. (7)

Feedback on preparation. In the survey, we asked consultants, "Do you think you received enough training to prepare you for team consultations? What helped you the most? What suggestions do you have for ways you could have been better prepared?" Their anonymous responses were positive. One consultant, for example, responded, "Despite the team consultations being a lot to juggle, I think I was well prepared to handle them. I feel like I am able to translate the skills that allow me to handle a variety of different writer personas to a team of different writers." Five of seven responses to this question noted the benefits of experiential learning through observation and co-consulting in the center before they consulted solo with a team. For instance, one consultant wrote, "I definitely think I was trained well. The thing that helps the most is just experience. I think having some experience co-consulting in group sessions is the best preparation." Another consultant noted that in some ways preparation just doesn't equate to the real-experience and that "you really can't tell what they [team consultations] are going to be like until you actually have a team session." Experience was clearly key to the consultants' sense of preparedness to work with teams.

Assessment and management of team dynamics. Another question asked, "When consulting with teams what issues arise for you?" In their responses, consultants reflected on two intersecting themes: the challenge of working with multiple writers and of navigating team dynamics. One consultant summed up the issue well when writing, "With one writer it is easy to pick up on their personality but with four different writers it is hard to juggle all the differences." In team sessions, consultants draw from the foundational approaches of one-to-one sessions in that they're asking questions to help the writers figure out their own purpose and goals within the writing situation. That's a consulting strategy they're very familiar with. But whereas in a one-to-one consultation they ask a question and get one writer's answer, asking a question in a team setting might result in five radically different answers. As such, consultants need to develop different strategies that help them negotiate the needs of multiple writers at the same time. Furthermore, these teams have been working together for a while before they come to the center and typically have a pre-established dynamic when it comes to their communication and approach to one another, meaning amidst having to balance all of the individual writers within a single session, consultants also have to assess and manage the dynamic of the whole team.

In their survey responses, consultants frequently discussed the prominent role the team dynamic plays in shaping the writing center session. Several consultants mentioned a particular dynamic in which the team discussion is led by a single writer in such a way that this writer speaks for or over their teammates, rendering the other team members silent or non-participatory. One consultant noted how challenging this type of session can be, given the goal of involving all members of the team:
Sometimes I get a bit frustrated when there is a clear leader in the
group that makes decisions and the session starts to turn towards a
two-sided conversation between myself and the leader. I try to steer
away and ask other group members for input but sometimes the other
group members seem intimidated to say something wrong. This could just
be from a specific session I had but I think that a lot of times the
power dynamic when consulting with a group is a bit difficult to

Perhaps this type of two-sided dialogue occurs not just because a team has a strong leader but also because of how our consultants are prepared. As we discuss above, so much of our field's consulting literature and consultant training materials are geared toward preparing consultants for dialogue between writer and consultant. Obviously, it's the goal in a one-to-one session to foster a two-sided conversation, but team consultations call for fostering a multi-vocal dialogue, which is hard at times. If the dialogue devolves in a two-sided conversation, the majority of the people present for the session are shut out, causing them to disengage. As another consultant explained, "Sometimes it is easy but other times I feel that some writers just duck out and take the back seat because they realize it's hard for the consultant to engage and discuss with each writer." Interacting with multiple writers is indeed tricky and points to the importance of providing consultants with as many opportunities as possible to observe and co-consult in team sessions.

Consultants also noted that some teams try to use the consultation to change their team's organizational and communicative patterns. One consultant described the experience of working with teams who may be overshadowed by one dominant member in writing: "I've been in sessions where one writer is the 'alpha' and tensions can arise. In one of my sessions, the team kind of used the session as a chance to show the alpha he was wrong." It can be the case that the presence of a writing consultant and the act of gathering together in a space where all are invited to share liberates a team to speak more freely as they receive affirmation from the consultant. As this particular consultant noted, the consultant can play an important role in creating opportunities for all members of a team to talk about their project and, if needed, push back against an unproductive member.

Consultants also mentioned struggling with how to give feedback to each member of the team without, potentially, making a team member feel badly about their contribution. One responded: "I've also found it is difficult to critique a writer who is part of a team, because you do not want to embarrass him/her in front of the group. This is especially difficult when you have praised the other members of the group for their writing." When we as directors read this quote, we winced slightly at the idea of "critiquing" a writer, and we see areas we need to work on in our mentoring of consultants. But the point of this consultant's comment is a good one. What happens if an individual writer's work is markedly different and less developed from the rest of the team's? How can a consultant remain sensitive to individual needs without singling any one writer out in front of the team? At the heart of this concern are questions of how a consultant can provide feedback to a single writer in a group setting where the consultant is also striving to help the team give feedback to one another. As we explain below, we have expanded our consultant preparation to include more discussion of team dynamics and strategies for helping consultants balance responses to and dialogues with teams and with individuals within teams.

We frequently see teams who were unable to schedule an appointment at a time that all members could meet, which makes for another interesting dynamic. This usually results in absent team members posting their writing to a Google Doc before the session, which is then read during the session without them present to answer questions or verbalize the thought process behind their ideas. Most consultant preparation materials for one-to-one consultations assume a present writer (or for asynchronous commenting, a writer who will directly receive comments and questions). But with team consultations, sometimes writers are absent. Team members will say, "This is X's section, and she's not here." What we encourage consultants to do is to help the team see that in a team report, ultimately, there are no individual sections. Thus all are responsible for every section, and the feedback for the report needs to be shared and taken up by each writer, not just the writers of particular sections. Helping teams navigate the "divide-and-conquer" approach to writing team papers so that they instead "divide-and-unite" is a key role for consultants to play.

The benefits of multi-vocal collaborations. Despite the challenges of multi-vocal sessions, consultants recognized the benefits of them as well. In their survey responses, consultants discussed how team sessions often felt even more collaborative than one-to-one sessions because "multiple writers means there will be a lot more opinions and things to talk about." Another consultant explained feeling like it's "easier to develop discussion amongst a team than it is in one on one situations," and another explained, "I like that there are multiple people to generate ideas and make corrections. Differing perspectives yield differing results but in a positive way." While one of our primary goals at the HWI is to have collaborative sessions no matter the kind of consultation, we realize that based on consultant responses and our own experiences, team sessions can have a distinct ebb and flow depending on the voices present. For example, it is quite common during team sessions for members to spontaneously turn towards their teammates and start working closely with them, without talking with the consultant. It is in these moments--valuable collaborative moments for a team--that we encourage a consultant to ease back and understand the importance of the team working through a part of their document themselves. In fact, it is these very moments that several consultants noted as some of the things they liked best about team consulting. One responded, "I like how it gives the team a chance to meet in an environment where they HAVE to collaborate. It works well because often they [work among] themselves without my involvement." Additionally, these highly collaborative moments for the team can provide insight into how a consultant might best provide feedback, not just about the writing but also the team's approach to team writing.

However, as we previously noted, not all teams are actively collaborative. One consultant highlighted how non-participatory some teams can be when it comes to collaborating: "Sometimes group members just depend on other group members and don't participate. It's difficult to get everyone to look at group papers as a group effort. In addition they really only want to focus on their parts and don't always actively participate while looking at the whole paper." For a variety of reasons, some teams just aren't communicating well or some members aren't actively contributing, and it's important to prepare consultants to help teams who are struggling to collaborate effectively. What we directors and the consultants typically discuss is that even if a team arrives hardly wanting to talk to each other, the opportunity to help bring them together is still there. This leads to another key theme consultants discussed in their survey responses and something we've alluded to throughout our discussion: understanding the consultant's role as a facilitator in team sessions.

The consultant as peer facilitator. In their survey responses, consultants often described themselves as a "facilitator" in a team setting. Further, many described their role as one that's meant to help team members come together and better understand one another's ideas and writing so as to encourage better collaboration. One consultant responded, "I try to interpret the thoughts of the group and make it clearer for them to communicate." Another said, "My role is to facilitate conversation and to make sure that all of the team members communicate with each other and have their voices heard." Until we conducted this survey, we had not thought of the consultant role in team consultations directly in terms of being a facilitator, a role that's somewhat different from the one that consultants occupy in one-to-one sessions.

Facilitation requires understanding team dynamics and implementing strategies for effective teamwork while engaging multiple individuals in conversation at once. But consultants can draw from foundational strategies of working with just one writer to enable facilitation of a team session. For example, in order to facilitate communication, the consultant asks questions of individual writers within the team to help prioritize their unique voices while helping the entire team move forward in the process. One consultant stressed that they enjoy occupying this role:
I like being a facilitator. A lot of times teams come in and they just
need someone to ask them questions and get the ball rolling.
Communication is the biggest factor in group projects and I feel like I
make a major difference in a group's work just by allowing them [to]
communicate or guide them into discussion by asking them questions.

This process gives the team an opportunity to vocalize their ideas, which they may not have had in other team meetings, and some teams don't meet at all apart from the in-class workshop and their consultation with the HWI. So for those teams who have struggled to come together to communicate, the consulting session is even more beneficial, even if they don't have an extensive draft written.

It is also important to note that our consultants are peer facilitators. In other words, they are fellow students working with other students on their writing. However, because the HWI directors lead the MKT 291 in-class workshops and because the team appointments for the MKT 291 students are required by the professor, some MKT 291 students erroneously think the HWI is an extension of their classroom. Further, as one consultant described, some think of the consultants as "an extension of their professor [who should] know exactly what the professor means/wants when it comes to the project and it leaves both the writers and consultant frustrated when the questions cannot be answered." In these scenarios, suddenly the consultant moves further away from peer and facilitator into a role more aligned with an expert, authority figure, or even a teaching assistant. Although we try to articulate to writers, faculty, and consultants that the writing center is a different space from the classroom--a collaborative space where peers have conversations about writing--we realize from our conversations with the undergraduate consultants and from these survey responses that we need to do much more to ensure consultants are understood as peers and not instructors. This confusion was evident among some of the team writers who visited the HWI, as suggested by their survey responses, which we discuss below.

Team Consultations: Undergraduate Writers' Perspectives In addition to an anonymous survey that we invite all writers to take after sessions, we sought more in-depth feedback from the MKT 291 teams. In the weeks after their team consultations and team reports were completed, we asked them individually to complete an anonymous and voluntary survey about their experiences working with the HWI (see Appendix B). Of the approximately 480 students we worked with in Fall 2015 and to whom we sent the survey, 248 participated for a 51% completion rate. (8)

We asked students to rate their sessions at the HWI on a Likert scale of very helpful/somewhat helpful/neutral/somewhat unhelpful/very unhelpful. Seventy-six percent of students found their HWI consultations to be very or somewhat helpful, with only 5% reporting it as somewhat or very unhelpful. Considering these sessions had been mandatory for the students, we were happy with these numbers overall. Then, in an open-ended question that yielded a great deal of results, we asked what writers thought worked or didn't work during their team consultations and asked what suggestions they had for us to improve on these kinds of sessions. We found students most frequently perceived three areas as important for a successful team consultation: 1. the timing of the consultation in the team's research and writing process (e.g., when they came to the center); 2. consultants' familiarity with the focus and genre of the project; and 3. the role of the consultant in fostering team communication and team revisions. These perceptions are important as they show how we can better build support for team writers. Specifically, we've realized that these areas will help us adapt consulting preparation and practices in order to meet team writing needs. Also, these insights have caused us to think more deeply about what we should do to help make clear to writers what the consultant's role is in these sessions.

Timing of the consultation. Many respondents reported that the point in the writing process at which they and their team visited the HWI influenced the effectiveness of their consultation. While some found that holding HWI sessions early in the writing process forced them to be organized and complete their drafts in a timely manner, many others found the sessions less helpful when their teams attended sessions before they started their drafts. When asked how the writing center appointment functioned for their team, students responded as follows:

* A first deadline to have all sections drafted and put together: 45%

* A deadline for sections to be revised and more integrated into one draft: 25%

* A general team meeting: 24%

* Other: 5%

Additionally, 45% of respondents reported that their team had a full draft by the time of their appointment, while 34% had only partial drafts, and 21% came after only outlining or brainstorming their drafts. Table 2 shows some representative comments from those who came without a draft and those who came with a draft.

The representative responses in Table 2 point to areas we can change in our practices and also in student perspectives of what a center session can be and do. On the one hand, we can use these results to report to teams that their peers found sessions much more productive when they came with a partial or full draft, but on the other hand, we also need to manage expectations about what the consultant's and team's roles are in a writing center session and better prepare consultants to work with teams on brainstorming and early-order work of team writing. When six people arrive and there's no draft to discuss, what should and could a consultant do? We didn't spend enough time preparing consultants for team invention and planning sessions, hence the aforementioned changes we made to the 2016 iteration of BUS 203. In addition, we need to make clearer to writers that the center is a space to work on writing in all its stages. Perhaps the dissatisfaction expressed by some teams about attending sessions early in the process with no draft might result from misconceptions that early-order concerns are not as important and that consultants should be focused on later-order concerns. Team members might (erroneously) perceive a focus on invention or facilitating team communication and planning as less helpful than a session spent on later-order concerns.

In response to the question "In what areas did the HW1 consultation help with? (check all that apply)," responses showed a wide distribution among early-order and later-order concerns as shown in Table 3. Organizing writing and developing content came in highest (22% and 21%), with locating avenues for further research, putting the document into one team "voice," and facilitating team communications each falling between 10% and 12%. Copyediting received 8%. Responses contributed under the "Other" category consisted of formatting, incorporating tables and figures, and helping individual students understand or contribute to the assignment.

We also asked if a team visited the HWI more than once, and of the 241 respondents to that question, 29% reported that they did. A few students whose teams did not have two sessions or who came to the HWI very late in their process also recognized the benefit of two sessions:

* "The HWI consultation was very helpful. I wish my group would've have been able to go more than once."

* "I wish that we would have had a deadline for the first time we had to meet with the HWI. We kind of went late in the game, and it was really helpful, but if we would have been working all along it could have been better."

Helping teams think more about when to come in for a consultation in the process and encouraging them to come more than once at different stages, as we do for individual writers, would be helpful.

Misconceptions about consultants. Another pattern that emerged from writer responses on the survey pointed to misconceptions about consultants' roles. It is a common misperception for writers to attribute an authoritative role to consultants, yet rather than expecting consultants to be authorities in writing per se, many of the MKT 291 team members expected the consultants to be authorities in marketing and in their specific assignments and individual instructor's expectations. In short, they expected the consultants to be extensions of their professors. These comments came out in both positive and negative comments about the sessions:

* "They [consultants] know the professor's style and preferences and really help encourage what you're doing already and build upon what you could do better that would appeal to your professor."

* "It helped us understand what exactly the teacher was looking for in the assignment. Since the individual during the HOWE meeting had seen successful papers in the past she was able to give us advice and knowledge on how to get our paper to that point."

* "I wish the consultant would have been more familiar with [the professor's] specific guidelines for the paper."

* Several responses even suggested the need for more communication between the professors and the consultants, so the consultants could better relay their assignment instructions. Revealingly, one student (below) mistakenly referred to the consultants as "instructors":

* "More communication between professor and HWI instructors would have made the process go easier. This would allow the instructors to get a better idea of what the professor wants done in each section of the paper."

A few factors might have contributed to these responses. First, the nature of the partnership with MKT 291 instructors and the ways in which HWI directors facilitated workshops in the classroom space might have misled MKT 291 students about HWI consultants' roles. Second, the HWI undergraduate consultants are all business majors who have taken the 200-level core classes, such as MKT 291, so most of them have seen or worked with these particular projects before. All of the consultants also had access to the assignment prompts and rubrics that the instructors share with us. Perhaps their level of familiarity with the assignment caused consultants to skip some of the crucial questions setting the agenda at the start of a session that get the writers talking about their understanding of the assignment. HWI consultants approaching a team session with "yes, I know the assignment" could have led writers to misunderstand the consultant's role. In addition, the initial set up of the MKT 291 partnerships may have also contributed to this misunderstanding. Reading the survey results, Heidi realized she needs to make the writing center's role clearer to faculty, explaining that consultants are not and should not be expected to be teaching assistants.

Another possible reason for these misperceptions about the consultant's role is that the nature of team writing itself might lead team members to seek more authoritative, directive feedback from consultants. Often individual writers visit a writing center to discuss their work and get another set of eyes. In a team, however, members may have already discussed and shared their writing with peers and thus might expect a more direct and authoritative interaction with the consultants. It could be too that given some teams' dynamics, especially if they are not communicating well, members may look for a more authoritative role from consultants because they are seeking some way to resolve questions about how to proceed as a team. These factors suggest an increased need for explanation and transparency about consultants' roles to both writers and faculty.

Cohesion and open communication. As mentioned, 76% of team members reported their team's visit(s) to the writing center "very helpful" or "somewhat helpful," especially in relation to developing cohesion and fostering more collaborative communication. Just as the consultants reported the importance and centrality of their role as facilitators fostering team communication, so too did a number of writers recognize the valuable role the writing center session can have for helping them to foster team communication and write in a more cohesive team "voice":

* "The HWI consultation with our team was very beneficial. It helped us make our individual sections come together more as a whole."

* "By simply having a meeting with the HWI and group members, it made us more organized and focused on the writing sections we all needed to complete and how to make it all look like a cohesive project."

* "It could have been more helpful in depth about the cohesiveness of our industry analysis paper. With group papers like this where we split up the sections and work on them separately, sometimes the one 'voice' of the paper can get lost."

* Students also reported that these consultations encouraged participation in all members:

* "The consultation helped the team get organized and on the same page. It also influenced each member of the team to participate more."

* "Almost wish there was more time, very helpful in attempting to get lazy members to work, gave lots of helpful ideas to further develop paper."

In these responses we also see some of the team dynamics at work and how writers recognized the usefulness of the sessions for providing spaces and opportunities for all team members to discuss the project together. Team sessions provide tremendous opportunity for the conversations that ground what we do in writing center sessions, but they also present unique challenges that we need to work hard to meet. We close by reflecting not just on how we in the HWI might better work with teams and prepare consultants to work with teams, but also on what our field can do further to build our collective knowledge and understanding of an important and understudied area of writing center work.

Support for Team Consultations: Reflections and Recommendations

It's our aim to contribute to and build conversations in our field about how writing centers might integrate team sessions into their work with both writers and consultants. As one of the first research-based articles on consulting with writing teams in the writing center, we do not claim to have definitive answers, but we do have some suggestions on a few places to start.

Engage in research about teams. First, we encourage writing center administrators to explore research opportunities that allow them to better understand the prevalence of team writing projects within their local contexts. It was the 2013 survey that we briefly discussed at the start of this article that prompted the HWI to make a pivot towards considering how we could build support for writers working on team projects. Research into the local institution need not be extensive or hugely time-consuming. Breaking a larger research question into many sub-questions can enable bits of data to be collected over time and, when pulled together, provide a more comprehensive picture, one that may resonate especially well with institutional administrators. For us at the HWI, having empirical data (including assessment data) has helped us successfully advocate for support of various program changes, and then enact them. The importance of research for writing center development and sustainability cannot be understated, and many excellent resources are available to help guide our work (e.g., Babcock & Thonus, 2012; McKinney, 2016; Schendel & Macauley, 2012).

Should the local context show a need for support for writers working on team projects, then writing center administrators and staff should aim to prepare themselves and consultants for working with teams. This includes integrating scholarship on collaborative writing and team dynamics from writing studies and also from other fields such as intercultural communication and business. As we noted above, preparation courses and on-going education efforts should aim to prepare consultants so they understand team dynamics, strategies for effective teamwork, intercultural aspects of teamwork, the importance of reflection in teamwork, and the myriad leadership styles they may encounter in the teams they work with. Because team consultations call on consultants to negotiate team dynamics, facilitate team communication, and help teams address questions about both product and process, it is especially beneficial for consultants to have familiarity with strategies and approaches for teamwork.

Integrate intercultural communication and team dynamics into consultant preparation. Consulting with teams is not the same as consulting with a writer one-to-one, and consultant preparation courses and (as we noted throughout this article) programming need to include team consulting preparation. In addition to the readings on team writing processes, such as Wolfe's (2010) book, we realized from this research that we needed to provide pre-service consultants more opportunities to understand and reflect on team dynamics, particularly intercultural team dynamics as there are cultural norms to how a team organizes itself. For instance, Jolanta Aritz & Robyn C. Walker (2014) find in their study of leadership style that many U.S. students tended towards a more hierarchical, directive model, but this model does not work well for many students from East Asia. As they explain:
A more cooperative leadership style leads to more balanced contribution
and participation of all members in the intercultural groups consisting
of East Asian and U.S. participants. The most commonly observed
directive style representative of mixed groups showed a less balanced
contribution and participation rate among all participants. (p. 87)

This consideration of directive versus non-directive (cooperative) leadership style definitely relates to our understanding of directive and non-directive consulting styles in writing center work, and consultants will be called on to help teams negotiate intercultural communication because all teams are comprised of members shaped by differences of gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, country of origin, native language, current and prior educational experiences, etc. In order to be effective, teams must develop what James W. Neuliep (2012) calls "cultural mindfulness," where individuals recognize that others will "use different perspectives to understand or explain interaction," and we cannot "assume that strangers interpret our messages the same way as we do" (p. 4). Related to this is the need to reduce what Xiaohong Wei (2009) identifies as "negative cultural transfer" that "occurs in all processes of intercultural communication and... refers to the cultural interference caused by cultural differences, which shows that people subconsciously use their cultural norms and values not only to guide their behaviors and thoughts but also to judge others' behaviors and thoughts" (n.p.). Prior to 2016, we discussed these ideas with the Marketing 291 teams in class workshops about teamwork, but we had not thought to also ensure that consultants have the opportunity to learn more about how culture shapes team communications. In BUS 203, we would discuss how culture shapes one-to-one communication in a session between a consultant and individual writer, but now we've added concepts to help consultants understand more the dynamics they may see at work in team consultations.

Reflection has, of course, always been an essential part of writing consulting, asking consultants to reflect on themselves as writers and as consultants. Our guidebooks are full of strategies for consultants to help writers reflect on their writing and their writing processes. Many of the strategies consultants deploy to encourage writer reflection can be applied to a team consultation as well. Reflection is essential for teams to function successfully (Cox & Friedman, 2009; Fredrick, 2008; Keyton & Beck, 2008; Wolfe, 2010). But it's not just reflection on the writing and writing processes that teams may need help with. Some teams may need help reflecting on what it means to be a team, especially if they are from different cultures, as the research of Cristina B. Gibson & Mary E. Zellmer-Bruhn (2001) has shown. From interviews with team members in six multinational corporations in four geographic locations, Gibson & Zellmer-Bruhn (2001) identify five metaphors for teamwork shaping people's understandings of how to work in a team: military, sports, community, family, and associates. How someone sees and understands teamwork and what metaphors they bring to the process are important. Sometimes consultants may realize that teams are working with different metaphors for teamwork, leading to many different expectations. Discussing approaches for reflection with consultants can help them to identify why a particular team's dynamic might be problematic and how they can facilitate a new approach or understanding.

We must also consider how a consultant's role shifts at the fore of both consultant preparation practices and in how we advertise and frame the center's services to writers and faculty. Again, in these team sessions, consultants become a facilitator and their preparation and on-going education related to writing center work should address this shift in role so they know what to expect. A large part of this, we feel, involves preparing consultants for inevitable moments of dissensus among the team. The dynamics of team sessions are complicated, calling for consultants to draw on established strategies for consulting with individual writers and on new strategies for working with teams. Working along the non-directive/directive continuum, consultants need to engage in the many discursive strategies of consultants, while also reading the needs of individuals and the team as a group. In particular, consultants need strategies for ensuring all voices and perspectives are shared in a session so that team members will have the opportunity to contribute and to have their contributions valued and recognized. This is especially important for teams where members are from different cultures and may have different communication styles. As one consultant so aptly put it in a survey response:
I think the most useful strategy is to ask questions, and let the
teammates discuss amongst themselves. Sometimes, I'll purposefully ask
a non-alpha member a question, to make sure everyone is really on board
with the direction of the paper. If I sense serious issues, or that
someone is not really on board but doesn't want to say anything, I'll
make suggestions that are different from the current direction, and see
what the group decides to do. Very rarely do I make directive
suggestions, but I do have to every once in awhile.

Questions, with perhaps a sprinkling of directive suggestions, are central to the conversation. But what questions and what suggestions? This is where we need much more research.

Market center support for teams. Marketing and outreach are also important areas to consider. Writing centers may work with teams, but if we don't advertise those services explicitly, or if those services are buried in a list of things writers can come to the center for, teams may not come. Individual students often have difficulty finding time in their schedules to visit the center. Multiply that by four, five, or six, and that's what teams face. When first launching team consultations, writing centers may need to consider, as we did, whether to collaborate with any courses and programs in the institution so as to provide students greater opportunity and support for teamwork. Having required or strongly incentivized writing center sessions may help teams organize and come together. The drawback of that approach can be a conflation of center and instructor. Thus, in marketing and outreach for team consultations, it helps to articulate as clearly as possible the role of the consultant in team sessions. Just as many centers will say, for example, "We don't copyedit your paper for you, but we will work with you to help you develop strategies for copyediting," we need also to make clear that consultants for team projects aren't going to become team leaders but rather are facilitators to help the team discuss and reach consensus on how they wish to proceed as a team.

Consider writing center space. Another factor to consider--one that didn't come up in the surveys but which we have extensive experience with--is the impact team consultations have on the physical space and space utilization of a center. Our center consists of three small rooms: a main room with two small tables, a conference room with a wall-mounted plasma screen for connecting laptops and a table that seats six, and an office with three desks (where we also hold consultations). What we soon found out was that team consultations are usually more noisy and loud and seating all the team members takes up a lot of space--and chairs. In our first year of seeing teams, we did not have enough chairs regularly. (We have since secured more that we keep stacked in the corner for when we need them.) Sometimes at the HWI we can have three teams in at once--20+ people in three small rooms. It works, but it is, well, cozy to say the least. So there are certainly physical resources to consider.

Space also impacts the dynamics of a session. In a recent Computers and Composition article, Landon Berry & Brandy Dieterle (2016) research how consultants and writers share and use material resources and spaces. Applying an activity theory methodology, they video-recorded team and one-to-one consultations in a multiliteracy center, identifying two types of space: interstitial and surrounding. They found that elements such as a table having rounded edges significantly influenced the interactions among writers and consultants. For anyone considering redesigning their center to be more conducive to team consultations, their article is an important resource. However, it's also important to note that team consultations can be made to work in almost any space. even if it's not the ideal space. We started at the HWI with less than ideal space, and as our team consultation numbers have risen, we are able to make the argument for spending on space redesign to make our center even more conducive to consulting with collaborative writing teams.

Engage in research and produce scholarship on team consulting. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is also, of course, scholarship resources to consider as well. As a field, we have incredible scholarship showcasing the dialogues that occur between writer and consultant. We need to also develop the same caliber of research and resources for team consultations. We need those audio recorders and video recorders running and those sessions transcribed so we can see, hear, and analyze team consultations. We need them for the knowledge-building of the broader field and for the development and preparation of consultants. We also need much more research into how team consulting sessions work in virtual environments. At the HWI we have piloted synchronous consultations using video (Google Hangouts) and cloud-based file sharing (Google Drive), and in those pilots we have held just two sessions with collaborative writing teams. In both of these sessions, all of the team members were in the same room, videoconferencing with the consultant who was located elsewhere, but we have not yet experienced a virtual team session where all five or six people are in different locations. Professional, technical, and business communication research provides a lot of data about how workplace teams function in virtual spaces, and that research will certainly be helpful for writing centers, but the dynamics of writing consulting sessions are unique, and the field needs much more research in this area.

More and more writing today is composed in teams. Students are called on to engage in team projects in courses across the curriculum, and unfortunately, too often teamwork is assigned but not taught. Writing centers have an important and essential role to play in providing support for writers in all their endeavors and for writing in all its forms. We need to continue to explore and develop our practice and research in these areas so as to provide a full range of collaborative opportunities for all writers.


We thank the consultants and writers who make the Howe Writing Initiative (HWI) what it is and who shared their time and perspectives with us; the HWI assistant directors and research fellows who served in earlier years and participated in this research--Dominic Ashby, Dustin Edwards, Renea Frey, Amir Hassan, Han Han, Kevin Rutherford, and Jonathan Rylander; and the editors and reviewers of The Writing Center Journal for their feedback and excellent suggestions for revision. We also thank Roger and Joyce Howe, whose vision and passion for writing created and continue to support the HWI.


Aritz, J., & Walker, R. C. (2014). Leadership styles in multicultural groups: Americans and East Asians working together. International Journal of Business Communication, 51(1), 75-92.

Babcock, R. D., & Thonus, T. (2012). Researching the writing center: Towards an evidence-based practice. Peter Lang.

Berry, L., & Dieterle, B. (2016). Group consultations: Developing dedicated technological spaces for collaborative writing and learning. Computers and Composition, 41, 18-31.

Bruce, S., & Rafoth, B. (Eds.). (2016). Tutoring second language writers. University Press of Colorado.

Bruffee, K. A. (1984). Peer tutoring and the "conversation of mankind." In G. A. Olson (Ed.), Writing centers: Theory and administration (pp. 3-15). National Council of Teachers of English.

Bruffee, K. A. (2008). What being a writing peer tutor can do for you. Writing Center Journal, 28(2), 5-10.

Chan, L. H., & Chen, C. (2010). Conflict from teamwork in project-based collaborative learning. Performance Improvement, 49(2), 23-28.

Clark, I. L. (1985). Leading the horse: The writing center and required visits. Writing Center Journal, 5/6(2/1), 31-34.

Cox, P. L., & Friedman, B. A. (2009). The team boat exercise: Enhancing team communication midsemester. Business Communication Quarterly, 72(2), 230-236.

Fitzgerald, L., & Ianetta, M. (2016). The Oxford guide for writing tutors: Practice and research. Oxford University Press.

Fredrick, T A. (2008). Facilitating better teamwork: Analyzing the challenges and strategies of classroom-based collaboration. Business Communication Quarterly, 71(4), 439-455.

Gibson, C. B., & Zellmer-Bruhn, M. E. (2001). Metaphors and meaning: An intercultural analysis of the concept of teamwork. Administrative Science Quarterly, 46(2), 274-303.

Gillespie, P., & Lerner, N. (2008). The Longman guide to peer tutoring (2nd ed.). Pearson.

Gitterman, A. (2008). Collaborative learning and teaching. Writing Center Journal, 28(2), 60-71.Harris, M. (1995). Talking in the middle: Why writers need writing tutors. College English, 57(1), 27-42.

Howe Writing Initiative (HWI). (2014). Building team work: Strategies for success. Retrieved from

Keyton, J., & Beck, S.J. (2008). Team attributes, processes, and values: A pedagogical framework. Business Communication Quarterly, 7/(4), 488-504.

Kjesrud, R. D., & Wislocki, M. A. (2011). Learning and leading through conflicted collaborations. Writing Center Journal, 31(2), 89-116.

Lunsford, A. (1991). Collaboration, control, and the idea of a writing center. Writing Center Journal, 72(1), 3-10.

McKinney, J. G. (2016). Strategies for writing center research. Parlor Press. Murphy, C., & Sherwood, S. (2011). The St. Martin's sourcebook for writing tutors (4th ed.). Bedford/St. Martin's.

Nall, S. (2014). Remembering writing center partnerships: Recommendations for archival strategies. Writing Center Journal, 33(2), 101-121.

National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2014). Job outlook: The candidate skills/qualities employers want, the influence of attributes. Retrieved from

National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2015). Job outlook 2016: Attributes employers want to see on new college graduates' resumes. Retrieved from

Neuliep, J. W. (2012). The relationship among intercultural communication apprehension, ethnocentrism, uncertainty reduction, and communication satisfaction during initial intercultural interaction: An extension of anxiety and uncertainty management (AUM) theory. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 41(1), 1-16.

Rafoth, B. (Ed.). (2005). A tutor's guide: Helping writers one to one (2nd ed.). Boynton/Cook.

Ryan, L., & Zimmerelli, L. (2015). The Bedford guide for writing tutors (6th ed.). Bedford/St. Martin's.

Schendel, E., & Macauley, W.J. (2012). Building writing center assessments that matter. Utah State University Press.

Severino, C. (1992). Rhetorically analyzing collaborations(s). Writing Center Journal, 13(1), 53-64.

Staggers, J., Garcia, S., & Nagelhout, E. (2008). Teamwork through team building: Face-to-face to online. Business Communication Quarterly, 77(4), 472-487.

Vik, G. N. (2001). Doing more to teach teamwork than telling students to sink or swim. Business Communication Quarterly, 64(4), 112-119.

Wei, X. (2009). On negative cultural transfer in communication between Chinese and Americans. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 21. Retrieved from

Wells, J. (2016). Why we resist "leading the horse": Required tutoring, RAD research, and our writing center ideals. The Writing Center Journal, 35(2), 87-115.

Wolfe, J. (2010). Team writing: A guide to working in groups. Bedford/St. Martin's.

Young, A. (1992). College culture and the challenge of collaboration. Writing Center Journal, 73(1), 3-15.

Zemliansky, P. (2012). Achieving experiential cross-cultural training through a virtual teams project. IEEE Transactions in Professional Communication, 55(3), 275-286.

Appendix A: Survey Questions for Consultants

1. [open] What do you like about team consulting? What do you think works well?

2. [open] What don't you like about team consulting? What doesn't work so well?

3. In the MKT 291 sessions you facilitated, what areas did the session most focus on? (check all that apply)

* Developing content

* Locating avenues tor further research

* Organizing writing

* Putting document into one team "voice"

* Following report genre conventions

* Copy-editing

* Understanding key terms

* Facilitating team communications

* Other [open]

4. [open] When consulting with teams what issues arise for you?

5. [open] What strategies do you find helpful to address particular issues?

6. [open] Please discuss what you see as the similarities and differences between consulting with just one writer and consulting with a team.

7. [open] When working with teams that include both international and domestic students, have you noticed any issues around intercultural communication?

8. [open] How would you describe your role as a consultant in relation to team and intercultural communication?

9. [open] From your perspective, do you think the 291 teams benefit from a required consultation or should this be optional?

10. [open] Do you think you received enough training to prepare you for team consultations? What helped you the most? What suggestions do you have for ways you could have been better prepared?

11. [open] Please share any further ideas, comments, suggestions you have about team consulting in the HWI. Thanks!

Appendix B: Survey Questions for Team Writers (from MKT 291)

1. Before you started MKT 291, please rate your opinion of teamwork.

* Highly favorable

* Somewhat favorable

* Neutral

* Somewhat unfavorable

* Highly unfavorable

2. Thinking about your MKT 291 team, how well do you think your team is functioning on your Market Analysis and Go-to Market Project?

* Very successful

* Somewhat successful

* Neutral

* Somewhat unsuccessful

* Very unsuccessful

3. How helpful did you find the HWI class workshop on team writing and team planning?

* Very helpful

* Somewhat helpful

* Neutral

* Somewhat unhelpful

* Very unhelpful

4. What stage was your team report when you and your teammates brought it to the HWI?

* Brainstorming the draft (no draft written yet)

* Outline of a draft

* Partial rough draft with some sections completed but not all

* Full rough draft with all sections completed (but still in draft stage)

* Finalized draft ready for just copyediting

5. How did the HWI required appointment function for your team? The HWI appointment functioned as: (check all that apply)

* A first deadline to have all sections drafted and put together

* A deadline for sections to be revised and more integrated into one document

* A general team meeting

* Other [open]

6. In what areas did the HWI consultation help with? (check all that apply)

* Developing content

* Locating avenues for further research

* Organizing writing

* Putting document into one team "voice"

* Following report genre conventions

* Copyediting

* Understanding key terms

* Facilitating team communications

* Other [open]

7. How helpful did you find the HWI consultations?

* Very helpful

* Somewhat helpful

* Neutral

* Somewhat unhelpful

* Very unhelpful

8. Did your team visit the HWI more than once?

* Yes

* No

9. In this second session, in what areas did the HWI consultation help with? (check all that apply)

* Developing content

* Locating avenues for further research

* Organizing writing

* Putting document into one team "voice"

* Following report genre conventions

* Copyediting

* Understanding key terms

* Facilitating team communications

* Other [open]

10. [open] Please take a moment to discuss ways in which the HWI presentation, in-class workshop, or consultation helped you and your team. What do you wish had been included in the presentation and/or consultation? What could the HWI do differently to better support you and your team?

11. Is English your primary/native/first language?

* Yes

* No

About the Authors

Kathleen Coffey is a PhD candidate at Miami University where she teaches in the Professional Writing program and in the Armstrong Interactive Media Studies program. Her dissertation assesses mobile communication practice and design.

Bridget Gelms is a PhD candidate at Miami University where she teaches in the professional writing program. She is currently finishing her dissertation about exclusionary practices on social media. Cynthia Johnson is a PhD candidate at Miami University, where she served as an Assistant Director in the Howe Writing Initiative. Her dissertation develops a rhetorical framework for understanding learning transfer.

Heidi McKee is the Roger and Joyce Howe Professor of Written Communication, associate professor of English, and director of the Howe Writing Initiative in the Farmer School of Business at Miami University. Her most recent book is Professional Communication and Network Interaction (Routledge, 2017).

(1) This survey and interview research from 2013 was reviewed and found exempt by Miami's IRIi: Exempt Research Certificate Number 00724c.

(2) The new five-credit program, launched in Fall 2016, includes two courses: BUS 102 Foundations of Business Communication (required of all FSB first-years) and BUS 308: Advanced Business Communication (required of all FSB sophomores). In part because of the HWI's research, both courses now include extensive focus on teamwork and team researching, writing, and presenting.

(3) Once the new five-credit curriculum is well underway, we will scale back workshops in MKT 291 because the majority of students will have had extensive direct instruction in teamwork in the FSB first- and second-year core courses.

(4) Some of the information we share includes that effective team members communicate well with others; offer and share ideas; listen carefully to others' ideas; seek to ensure that all views are heard; recognize the impact that culture has on communications; are flexible; are comfortable with dissensus but seek consensus; commit to a work schedule; and care about the project and the success of the team.

(5) Some useful strategies for teams to follow that we share include: discuss team dynamics, the qualities that each member brings to the team, and the ways each member conceives of team organization; before writing, plan together the goals and format for the product(s), the platforms for communication and writing, the processes for researching, drafting, revising, and editing, the processes for conflict resolution and troubleshooting, and possible organizational structures for the team (e.g., does the team want to assign team roles such as project manager); leverage the affordances of digital technologies; develop and use a task timeline or schedule; hold frequent team meetings; and engage in individual and team reflection.

(6) For these consultations, members of the team come to the HWI together for an hour appointment to discuss their report draft with each other and with a consultant. We do notify MKT 291 faculty if a team comes to the HWI (so the faculty member can track attendance), but we do not report where the team is in the process or whether they have a draft. When we work with writers, we emphasize that the HWI will not report any content of the team's discussion or the progress of the team to the faculty member. This assurance has, as we'll discuss below, enabled teams to come as they are, so to speak, wherever they are in the process.

(7) It's important to note that most of the consultants who took the survey were from earlier cohorts who had not received direct instruction in team consulting. In the future, with the more robust preparation for team consultations that we have developed and recently implemented, we look forward to surveying again and comparing the results.

(8) In our analysis, we disaggregated the data in various ways, including by identified native language. Forty-six respondents identified a language other than English as their primary language. When we looked at these non-native English speakers' (NNES) responses, they did not differ from native English speakers' (NES) responses, so the results presented below are for both NNES and NES writers.
Table 1: Student Reporting of Frequency of Team Projects in
a Typical Class

Frequency (per   Domestic Students  International
semester)                           Students

0/Never           0%                 0%
1 time           20%                21%
2 times          36%                42%
3 times          24%                24%
4 or more times  20%                13%

Table 2: Perceptions Differ Depending on Timing & Draft
Completion: Representative Comments

Those Whose Team Came Without           Those Whose Team Came with Full
a Draft (21%)                           or Partial Draft (79%)

* "We were not prepared for the         * "It really helped develop our
  meeting due to a variety of factors.    team writing skills and gave
  As a result of this the meeting was     us great input on the content
  not relevant to the work we did."       we already had."
* "I wish that we would have come       * "It just really let us know
  into the HWI with more written."        that the direction we were
* "It helped us to get a better           going in was the right one,
  direction to head in with               and let us know about the
  our paper. I wish our group             adjustments that we needed
  would've had more done at that          to make."
  time so it would've been even         * "I think [the] Howe Writing
  more helpful."                          Initiative was extremely
                                          beneficial to our paper
                                          project. They helped us put
                                          everything together and focus
                                          on the sections that needed
                                          the most help."

Table 3. Team Writers Report Areas That the HWI Consultation
Helped With (Respondents could select more than one

Area                    Percentage  # Selecting the

Organizing writing      22%         161
Developing content      21%         151
Locating avenues for    12%          88
further research
Putting document into   12%          87
one team "voice"
Facilitating team       10%          74
Copyediting              8%          59
Understanding key        6%          42
Following report genre   6%          44
Other                    2%          15
COPYRIGHT 2017 University of Oklahoma
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Coffey, Kathleen M.; Gelms, Bridget; Johnson, Cynthia C.; McKee, Heidi A.
Publication:Writing Center Journal
Article Type:Report
Date:Mar 22, 2017
Previous Article:Tell me what you really think: Lessons from negative student feedback.
Next Article:Context matters: Centering Writing center administrators' institutional status and scholarly identity.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |