Collaboration by Difference
Cathy introduced me to the idea of collaboration by difference; with a diverse group, the sum is always great than its parts, to be cliche, and the outcome is always going to be more than expected. Acknowledging difference, and purposefully giving it a place is never a comfortable experience. Neither is collaboration.
Mary Caton was the most candid about her discomfort with collaboration. She was also good at placing where her discomfort came from.
One of the reasons academic culture is so slow to change is that the people who decide to become academes tend to perform well within the established system. I am no exception! As an instructor, I’ve embraced pedagogical methods that are student-centered and collaborative. But, as a student, I find it really hard to perform in group settings. I tend to like working in pairs with like-minded peers, but I find it hard to know if I’m contributing in meaningful ways when working in a diverse group such as ours.
Mary Caton, Future Class Website on Collbaoration
Navigating our differences, from cultural to methodological, is something we had to learn to overcome as a group. I think it will always be a work in progress. Despite the process of progress, I hope that the work we have produced shows that idea of Collaboration by difference has merit.
And really, the six of us, there are only 6 of us, and we all very different in so many ways.
I think one of the most difficult things about our class collaborations so far has been how diverse our group is! In our class, though, every single person is at a different year as a student (or non-student!) and has radically different research interests and career goals. This makes for very rich discussion when we have time to feel out our differences — smoothing over everyone’s confused looks, learning from each other — but when it comes down to the wire, what is one of our greatest strengths becomes a burden and a frustration. How do other groups bridge these divides?
Whitney in reply to Mary Caton, Future Class Website on Collbaoration
At one point during a disagreement between classmates that I am pretty sure if we were to dig in to it came down to different cultural approaches, Cathy said:
To quote Tim Gunn on Project Runway, “Make it Work!”
At a certain point that is the only option you are left with. The pressure to finish and not let down the group pulls it all together.
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