In reading Tony Karrer's presentation handout I came across the phrase "writing forces learning". While I think the context of this was about blogging, the presentation was about group learning. I currently am trying to figure out how collaborative writing affects the individual and how that then affects the organization as the individual takes back what they have learned from the writing process.
So how does writing (especially collaborative writing) help create learning (especially in non-academic environments)? According to Kolb, much of what we experience leads to a type of knowledge he identified as "apprehensive". Atherton further defines it as knowledge by doing. I, however, interpret Kolb's apprehensive knowledge as an unconscious, intangible process that many consider "instinct" or "gut feeling". Most gut feelings are based on experience, an understanding of the environment, and our own analysis of what is going on: tacit knowledge.
Most of the knowledge that is valued in our culture is explicit knowledge (what Kolb calls comprehensive knowledge). This is knowledge that has been codified and can be
recorded, taught, and tested. There are various ways that this knowledge can be codified: as models, written documentation, curricula, plans, processes, formulas, podcasts and other audio presentations and visual representations (e.g. photos, videos, graphs, maps, etc...). The question that most organizations have is how to capture the tacit knowledge and convert it to explicit knowledge.
A Third type of Knowledge?
In looking at collaborative writing, I wonder if there is a third type of knowledge, or even many different levels of knowledge as tacit knowledge is codified to become explicit knowledge. My own observations in watching my students doing collaborative writing is that there seems to be stages in the collaborative writing process that correlate to what both writing researchers and group communication researchers have identified as the "collaborative writing process". I wonder if the collaborative writing process allows individuals to become more conscious of their tacit knowledge, forcing them to look at the knowledge, craft it, creating individual hypotheses, and creating new understanding and meaning as the knowledge becomes explicit.
This process was the basis for Kolb's experiential learning model (which seems to have been lost over the years as researchers have dissected only selected parts of the book as a whole to critique). While he did not look at collaboration per se, much of what he wrote about experiential learning can apply to the collaborative writing process and what impact it has on individual, group, and organizational learning.
However, I believe more is going on as individuals and groups go through the experiential learning process. Collaborative writing includes concepts on cognitive dissonance, social identity theory, the choices the individual makes for the group but takes away as an individual (dual levels of "knowledge"--what the group "knows" and what the individual really believes is "true"), epistemologies and comparative rhetoric, cognitive awareness, metacognition, and perspective taking. Clearly there is more going on than a written record of activity and explicit knowledge.
- V Yonkers
- Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.