Event Recap: Co-Teaching and Co-Writing

On September 19, 2019, participants gathered together for a workshop on “Co-Teaching and Co-Writing: Strategies for Collegial Collaboration.” The first half of the workshop included lightning talks by Kaysi Holman, the Director of Programs and Administration of the CUNY Humanities Alliance, Sujung Kim, the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for the CUNY Humanities Alliance (2018-2020), Jessica Murray, a former Futures Initiative Fellow and a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and Christina Katopodis, a Futures Initiative Fellow and doctoral candidate in English at the Graduate Center, CUNY. 

Holman began by mentioning that most of her work is collaborative. Her tips for collaborative writing include: (1) get to know each other before starting to work; (2) approach everything with a “fill in the gaps” mentality and use a “yes, and…” philosophy to add new ideas before striking out old ones; (3) pass the ball (trust your partners’ skill sets, make the gaps visible); (4) consider the tension of credit and authorship, the necessity of it (whether you need it as badly as the other author); and (5) know each person’s goals before co-writing on a project, use tools that you both work well in. 

Kim talked about co-editing strategies, emphasizing the importance of sharing your intentions and asking, “Why are we in this project together?” up front. Communication with other authors is important, as is sharing a commitment to work together. In addition, being flexible is important for co-editing; for example, when working with multiple authors, you may need to revise the timeline while pushing the authors at the same time.

Murray focused on the adviser-student relationship regarding co-authorship. The question of co-authorship came up after a study was completed independently and a draft of the paper was written, which was unexpected (and not an advisable order of operations). Murray said that it is important to know what is expected of a co-author, and to have a framework before the start to make sure roles are clearly defined. This helps relieve potential tension and reduce the emotional attachment to individual work. Current student handbooks vary greatly on this matter (and in different fields). Nothing should be written in stone, workflows can change, but having an outline is useful. Murray and other audience members present shared numerous resources for further reading on the topic:

Katopodis discussed her experiences co-teaching, which, she noted, always begin with some level of co-writing, especially when it comes to writing a syllabus. Her first tip was to never delete a collaborator’s writing. Have a conversation about it and hold the pen on your own writing and contributions but leave room for your collaborator to discuss why something is important to them and make the choice whether to delete or remove something of theirs. She also suggested color-coding fonts in co-writing to help all contributors see the division of the labor. Whether co-teaching or co-writing, it’s important to check-in regularly about the process, how it’s going, and talk about what could be done better in the next class (or draft).

After Q&A with the audience, participants broke out into groups to collaboratively write three blog posts on HASTAC.org to share strategies for co-teaching and co-writing online. You can read their posts below.

Strategies for Co-Writing

Strategies for Co-Teaching

10 Questions to Ask Your Professor About Co-Authorship in Your First Meeting

Special thanks to the speakers, Kaysi Holman, Sujung Kim, and Jessica Murray, for sharing their experiences, tips, and strategies, and to Katina Rogers, Lauren Melendez, and the Futures Initiative Fellows for helping to organize this event.

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