Negotiating and sustaining academic writing groups


Academic writing often provokes anxiety, yet it is at the heart of academic practice. Ten post-graduate students and academic staff formed a writing group with the goal of improving our writing. Joseph Williams and Gregory Colomb's Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace provided a shared language with which to analyse each other's writing and give constructive feedback. The group dynamic evolved organically from facilitated workshops to a negotiated model of co-mentors, which is still in process. How does this negotiated model work? We present a case study of reflexive practice showing how we as academics and practitioners draw on the different theoretical resources our members contribute (including social constructionism, post-structuralism and interpretivism) to understand our process and our data. Our intention is to develop a collaborative mode of working that acknowledges and recognises people's differences as resources. These differences include our theoretical stances, levels of confidence and expertise, ease and familiarity with collaborative projects and our expectations of ourselves and others. Drawing on our collected reflections of the group process, our presentation focuses on how the negotiated model has worked so far. We highlight a critical incident which helped to consolidate what people wanted from the writing group and to chart a way forward. This incident illustrates how a shared language and forthright discussion continues to sustain our academic writing group.