Research Partnership with Ashoka University

Valerie Ross

The Critical Writing Program, led by Valerie Ross, Director of the Marks Family Center for Excellence, has begun a new research collaboration with Ashoka University in India.

The research project is the latest in a tradition of partnerships between Penn and Ashoka, dating from Ashoka’s founding in 2011. Ashoka’s writing program is modeled after Penn’s and was founded by Durba Chattaraj, a former Senior Fellow in the Critical Writing Program.

The current research project focuses on attitudes toward collaboration in writing classrooms. Researchers at Penn and Ashoka designed surveys for and conducted interviews of students enrolled in writing courses to gauge their perspectives on collaboration. They are also collecting data on students’ previous educational experience and identification as first-generation students.

At both universities, writing courses emphasize collaboration in the forms of peer review, in-class group work, the presence of peer tutors in the physical or virtual classroom, and creating space for groups of students to share findings, challenges, and strategies with their classmates.

“American education tends to be more democratic, while education in India traditionally takes a more top-down approach,” explains Ross. “We hypothesize that American students might view collaboration as a standard curricular exercise, whereas Indian students may view it as an exciting cultural and political act. Understanding attitudes toward collaboration in different settings is important, because previous research suggests that a collaborative approach to writing can improve outcomes for students”

Data collection for this pilot study will end this spring. Ross says that the research is part of a larger trend in critical writing studies toward international studies and may be scaled up in the future.

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