Earlier in July we published Collaborative Writing in L2 Classrooms by Neomy Storch. Here, Neomy tells us what inspired her to write the book.
My interest in collaborative writing; that is, the co-production of a text by two or more writers, arose unintentionally. As an ESL teacher I frequently used small group and pair work in my classes in order to encourage my students to speak in the target language (English). I also used short editing tasks to encourage my students to focus on grammatical accuracy in writing. When I began research towards my PhD dissertation, I experimented with different grammar exercises and short writing tasks that the students were asked to complete in pairs. As I listened and observed my students working in pairs on these tasks, I became aware that the act of producing a text jointly elicited greater engagement than oral tasks, and certainly more focus on language choice and accuracy. Collaborative writing tasks also elicited some heated debates about ideas and about how to express such ideas, much more than grammar tasks. Clearly, there was a notion of text ownership at play, not present, for example, when the students completed editing tasks based on texts that they did not compose themselves.
My own subsequent research, research conducted by my graduate students, as well as by eminent scholars such as Professor Swain has shown that collaborative writing tasks, if carefully designed and implemented, can provide language learners with ample opportunities for interaction, for peer feedback and ultimately for language learning. Indeed I now strongly believe that collaborative writing tasks can provide more opportunities for language learning than oral tasks or solitary writing tasks.
In this book I argue for the use of collaborative writing tasks in L2 classes. Drawing on a range of theories of second language learning as well as empirical research findings I attempt to illustrate the merits of collaborative writing for language learning. I also discuss factors that need to be taken into consideration when designing and implementing collaborative writing activities.
Given the rapid developments in the field of computer-mediated communication, and particularly recent developments in collaborative writing platforms such as wikis and Google Docs, I believe that the book is very timely. Now, perhaps more than ever before, we need to be to be aware of how best to implement collaborative writing activities, whether in the face-to-face physical classroom environment or in the virtual computer mediated environment. I hope that the book can serve as an important resource for language teachers. I also hope that it encourages second language researchers to further investigate the merits of collaborative writing in different L2 contexts.