Encouraging Collaborative Learning for Improving Student Performance

Encouraging Collaborative Learning for Improving Student PerformanceRobin Newton’s Edutopia blog – Working with Students Who Have a Hard Time Collaborating – is one that resonated with me. Collaboration as part of teacher professional development is something we’ve discussed on our blog in the past, but it is certainly an important part of improving student performance as well. As Robin says:

Okay. You get it. Collaboration’s important. But how do you motivate productive collaboration within your classroom? First, figure out what’s going on with the uncollaborative student.

There are any number of reasons a student may not like to collaborate:

– Collaboration may clash with her culture.
– He simply may not understand the project or assignment.
– She may be shy or introverted.

There are two responses to the original blog that seemed like important “adds” to the idea of using collaboration as a tool for improving student performance.  The first one was around the idea of having students understand the whole concept of collaboration – what it truly means; what are the skills one needs; why someone might like to collaborate more than others, etc.  It seems like there are tons of ways to have that discussion with students—role playing, scenarios, brainstorming—and also indirectly support metacognitive skills (another 21st century skill that needs reinforcing!).

The other idea that really resonated with me is this notion that for us as teachers, taking the time to reflect on why we believe collaboration is the best approach to the task at hand gives us an opportunity to also reflect on our own teaching practice. The questions Jay Fogelman provides are really helpful:

+ Can the task be done by students working individually in the given time at the necessary level of quality?
+ Is there a need for different talents or different points of view in the task’s workflow?
+ Is there a need for students to “divide and conquer” and then work together on a shared product?

Given the importance of collaboration to effective classroom learning, this is certainly a topic that we’ll be addressing in future blog posts. What are your thoughts on getting students to collaborate in the classroom?