Author: Pam Denicolo
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The survival of the human race depends on co-operation and its alter ego collaboration. We see it as nations combine their resources to cope with natural disasters, when professionals work together to solve a complex challenge and more mundanely at the personal level when partners combine their skills and compensate for each other’s disabilities. We even form partnerships with animals, say with dogs and horses for mutual companionship, enjoyment and protection. Yet a stranger or newcomer to academe might be forgiven for perceiving academic work as contradicting that trend.

For students, especially postgraduates, there are pressures to be autonomous learners, while doctoral candidates must demonstrate their abilities as independent researchers making a unique contribution to knowledge. The more public aspects of the day to day work of academics involves their presenting, alone, at the front of a large audience in lecture theatres, while the criteria for promotion, recruitment, research funding and for national reviews of research emphasise lists of personal efforts of publication and research activities, often requiring percentage indicators of personal contributions. What images of a lonely existence are conjured by these descriptions, images that both mask the stimulation of working closely with colleagues and belie the sheer necessity of collaborative engagement to produce truly innovative ideas.

The myth of ivory towers filled with lone scholars beavering away on individual scripts will be totally shattered for readers of this book who will find examples, elaborations, and guidance about writing partnerships to stimulate their curiosity and provide ideas for their practice. They can then anticipate, rather than reflecting on past experience as I do here, to contributing and learning, being energised and reassured, feeling challenged and joyous.

Nearly forty years in Higher Education has taught me that opportunities to gain those experiences should be pro-actively sought rather than occurring by happenstance as they did in my early career. Initially I was honoured when my doctoral supervisor/advisor, Maureen Pope, suggested we wrote a conference paper then a journal article together on my research, not realising at the time that for some doctoral researchers such co-authorship was an obligation rather than an opportunity as I saw it. Nor did I know then that our initial literary forays would herald a life-long writing partnership and the beginning of an enduring friendship. Though passionate about the same topics, we each brought to the team different qualities and realms of experience and expertise. Our early good manners in negotiating changes to text gradually evolved into well-accepted constructive criticism, friendly banter, and even productive debate/argument, each secure in knowing that the final product would be infinitely better than anything we could produce alone.

That pattern of working was one I endeavoured to mimic in some form with my multitude of doctoral researchers with each partnership being unique but with goodwill, inspiration and motivation remaining as common factors. That has remained true when working with other colleagues. Through the good auspices of Maureen, I was introduced to several networks and fellow researchers passionate to develop student learning and academic staff development. One of those was Michael Kompf, many of whose colleagues contributed to this book, who shared the same values so that we enjoyed many years of long-distance writing collaboration, even before the advent of email and Skype. We honed each other’s understanding of cultural differences in Higher Education, the English language, and humour, to my unending appreciation. One of our literary adventures was the establishment of the series in which this book is embedded, and I know he would be delighted that we are continuing the adventure despite his passing.

My own academic ventures are now diminishing, but collaborative writing remains a constant in my life with colleagues and students providing both impetus and joy in new article and book writing. I cherish their willingness to tolerate my pedantry and treasure the brilliant ideas they provide and the new ones they stimulate in me. I suggest that you will find such positive experience in reading this book and using the ideas conveyed in your own practice.

Pam Denicolo

Critical Collaborative Communities

Academic Writing Partnerships, Groups, and Retreats

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