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Social Interaction and Collaboration Offer Students Valued Freedom
- March 14, 2017
- Posted by: yorktown
- Category: Innovation in the Classroom
What students want most in a learning environment is the freedom to socially interact with other students of various age groups, ethnicities and cultures. And providing this real collaboration is not an easy task – if you want to do it well.
While it may seem that real collaboration should happen intuitively, that’s far from how it works. There are proven strategies that we believe help to encourage effective collaboration.
Projects That Are Challenging
Students are more likely to be drawn together if there is a reason to collaborate. A lesson or project that is too simple can usually be accomplished solo. There may be a lightweight interaction, but less reason to collaborate. If, on the other hand, the task is complex and has too many parts to complete alone then the need for collaboration is more compelling.
The stimulation of complex activities requires more interaction and the goal of completing the task successfully and getting a good grade means the team must work together and share knowledge.
Students Must Be Team-Focused
Collaborative teams are nurtured and guided to help students learn how to work effectively together and understand the what, why, and how of collaboration. We approach this in several ways by:
- Helping students understand the benefits of collaboration and what successful collaboration looks like
- Guiding them through the steps of team building
- Allowing time and opportunities within the activity to develop leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication, and conflict-management skills
- Establishing expectations and norms for working together
- Understanding how to resolve team conflicts
- Teaching students active listening skills.
A recurring complaint within collaborative groups is when one or more members let others do all the work and then benefit from the group grade. We manage these situations with some of the following techniques:
- Smaller groups perform better because everyone has equal visibility
- Keep a check on individual accountability with end of day quizzes or chats
- Meaningful team roles give students a sense of responsibility and pride in their work
- Self-evaluations give students an opportunity to speak to their own strengths/weaknesses
Discussions, Chats and a Voice
We strive to fully engage in the process of collaboration, being careful not to focus only on the end result of the project or assignment. Chats and discussions connect students with the experiences of others while also giving each collaborator a voice in the intellectual experience.
Strengthening Students’ Expertise through Collaboration
Effective collaborative activities ensure that all students, even those who struggle, play an important role. Our goal is to strengthen students’ existing skills as well as ensure that their interactions expand existing knowledge and one another’s expertise.