This paper was presented to CCCC in 1990.
Step One: Formal proposal
Once the small group studies were chosen, the students submitted a formal proposal requesting approval to conduct the study and preliminary projections of methodology, cost, and scheduling. The first version of the formal proposals ranged from the overly cautious writers who felt little could be discovered in the allotted ten weeks to the incredibly idealistic who felt that everyone they knew would work with them full-time on this project. The two ends of the spectrum were mediated towards the middle through the process of reading and commenting on each other’s proposals.
Step Two: Two shorter progress reports
Instead of one long progress report per small group, I requested two shorter reports. It was in these progress memos that problems the writers had been working against were expressed and revised into something with which they could cope.
The progress reports also provided a forum through which the group could receive feedback since first versions were read by two people outside the group. There was no sustained written dialogue, but students did point each other in new directions by short comments and questions which generally were requests for clarification of points the writers had not thought through.
Students’ problems and their solutions
The students also used the progress reports to discuss unworkable plans and problems they were encountering. One example of this came from the group working on pricing. They were unable to reach by phone the only videographer operating in the area. They documented two weeks’ worth of phone calls to his business number at various times of the day. I could not suggest a way to get in touch with this elusive competitor.
But by the time I received the second version of their progress report, they had made alternative arrangements. This version of the progress report included the phone numbers of videographers in two other cities demographically similar and noted that the group members were beginning to contact these people for price lists.
Another problem these students were faced with was a question of ethics. The students wondered how they could get the information they wanted from other videographers without lying about why they wanted them. One group took care of the problem by having a friend of one member who was being married in the city where one set of videographers were located call and ask for the price lists. The number of innovative responses to problems the students met with were encouraging.
Copies of the final reports from the students were presented to the people considering starting the wedding video service. They felt that the information was more than adequate to allow them to make a responsible decision in the matter.
Two other classes worked on the feasibility of setting up a typing/editing service. These classes also brainstormed to determine possible project divisions. They identified several areas of concern which our “clients” had not thought to consider. This was an encouraging beginning.
To be continued…