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Bringing Collaboration to the Learning Process

Posted on 1/17/2020

Students working together around a desk.Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Collaboration is a skill that many people feel is important for students to learn as we continue school and work life in the third decade of the 21st century. OTAN presents on a variety of edtech tools that teachers and administrators can use to collaborate with colleagues. Have we adjusted our instruction, however, to allow students the opportunity to learn and practice collaboration skills while they spend time in our classrooms?

In his article Considering Collaboration? Answer These 4 Questions First, Jared Wigden asks us to consider four points as we think about how to change our instruction to include more collaboration between the students and less teacher direction of their work. It’s not a change that will happen overnight, but will take planning, trial and error, and making adjustments on the road to student-centered learning.

  • Engaging students in collaboration – Wigden says that task planning is the key. Oftentimes, we ask students to do things in class that don’t really require collaboration (even when we group students together). We need to think bigger and plan tasks with different components, especially those that require skills that no one person possesses by themselves, that are difficult for students to finish on their own.

  • Planning for collaboration – Wigden suggests that identifying student strengths and designing activities that help students showcase those strengths, and simultaneously teaching students how to communicate, listen, manage their time, and organize their work (which have also been touted as 21st century skills), will help students manage collaborative learning and address the growing pains of this new learning model.

  • The teacher’s role during collaboration – We are asking many teachers to teach in a different way than what they have been used to. Teachers need to embrace collaboration, and one way to advocate for it is to develop a set of best practices that guide all students as the teacher notices learners displaying the skills and practices that we want all to mimic. The teacher should also manage conflict (another 21st century skill) and teach students to manage conflict that will inevitably arise in the course of students working together.

  • Engaging the community in collaboration – We are working towards more and better partnerships in adult education, and there are ways to integrate community partners in our schools to add real-world components to the projects students are working on.

Wigden also follows a Framework for Collaborative Learning, developed by Education Elements, that lays out a four-stage process for collaborative learning and also includes a rubric for the teacher to identify where her group of learners is in each stage – emerging, developing, advancing, and sustaining. (You can download your own copy of the Framework from this Education Elements webpage.)

Article: Considering Collaboration? Answer These 4 Questions First by Jared Wigden at Education Elements

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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN180031 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.