Make “working together” work better.Pair work, group work or teamwork are frequent features of classroom practice across all age ranges. The essential purpose of collaborative learning is the co-construction of learning; to make meaning together. Many of you will have recognised the importance of collaboration through the recent BBC 2 series The Family Brain Games where families undertake cognitive games designed to test not just how smart they are but ‘how collective intelligence emerges from a group dynamic’. The series has shown, amongst other things, that success comes from people listening carefully to each other, sharing and adapting their ideas and working harmoniously together.
1 Explore a range of learning relationships
- Help your students to feel safe in the classroom and come to know and understand each other better
- Have them talk with each other about their interests, their likes and hopes, their families and so forth
- Enable students to explore the different groups/teams/choirs they learn with; look at their similarities and differences in how they work
- Ensure students feel the classroom is a helpful and safe place to learn with others
- Make sure students know who and how people in the school can help them
- Explore the behaviours that help them work effectively alone or in groups
- Help students to understand other people’s points of view
- What might you do to help students feel they belong in a classroom?
2. Show yourself as a good collaborator
- Students learn much by imitating others and so will learn much from absorbing your own collaboration skills
- Try setting up a challenge that you don’t know the answer to and join in the group as a learner without taking over or leading the activity
- During the challenge try to act out some of these positive learning behaviours:
- Think aloud to explore possibilities…’what about, what if, could it be?’
- Show willingness to change your mind…’ I used to think… but now I think…Oh! that’s a better idea’
- Disagree politely…’I don’t/can’t agree with that because…’
- See things from other people’s point of view…’I see where you are coming from. I get why you think that. I don’t agree with xxx but can understand why you think that’
- Listen attentively…’I understood most of what you said but could you just say the xxx bit again? Can I just clarify what I think you said.’
- Which of these behaviours will your students struggle with most?
- Where do you want to start?
3. Explore and rights and responsibilities to support good relationships
- Build awareness and understanding of collaboration as an important learning behaviour
- Explore why it might be difficult sometimes
- Offer reminders around the classroom about behaviours for learning together
- Develop a charter of matching rights and responsibilities or ground rules for collaboration (the suggestions above will give you a start on this)
- Capture the outcome of these discussions as a prominent wall display
- Ensure everyone has a right to have their voice heard
- Suggest groups nominate someone each day to monitor whether everyone is keeping to the ground rules, and drawing attention to when and how they are being broken
- What else might be important and why?
- Start by building students’ confidence by letting them form a team with familiar peers
- Later make groupings more challenging.
- Assign roles to group members before starting a task.
- Ensure that over time students experience a range of roles.
- Familiarise students with the tasks necessary for successful team work and coach your groups into becoming teams by asking questions to nudge the process along:
- What have you got to do?
- What do you know already?
- Have you agreed your goals?
- What will it look like when it’s finished?
- What will tell you it’s good/standout?
- Can you do that in the time?
- What resources do we have in the classroom that might help?
- Who is going to do what?
- What makes you think you are on the right lines?
- How might you improve that bit?
- How well have you worked as a team?
Have we whetted your appetite? You can find out much more about collaboration in our online learning unit: Putting Collaboration into Learning.
If you fancy trying some family brain games or even adapting some for classroom go to https://www.cognitron.co.uk/