Telling teachers to collaborate is a bit like preaching to the choir. Collaboration is the norm for teachers working together in social networks. Every time a guest author shares a post on Teaching Village and then interacts with readers in comments, we are collaborating in our own learning. However, bringing collaboration into our classes is often a different story. How do we include collaboration in classes where we have a syllabus to follow, or in a school environment that doesn’t encourage different ways of teaching?
That’s the topic on the iTDi blog this week–collaboration. Why we should encourage it, how we can achieve it, and what benefits our students will receive when we do.
Collaboration allows students to shine at what they do best while being supported in their weaker areas. That’s one of the benefits that Steven Herder offers in his post on the topic. He models this with a description of a collaborative book project he used with his high school students. If you teach teens, you’re going to want to try this out. I don’t teach teens, and I’m already thinking about modifying the project for my own students.
Nour Alkhalidy points out that collaboration is one of the four Cs essential for a 21st century education (the others are communication, creativity, and critical thinking). Nour offers specific ways that teachers can ensure that students will embrace a collaborative classroom environment, and (of course!) offers some of her favorite technology tools for the task.
In her post, Vicky Loras points out some of the ways that teachers frequently include collaboration in lessons–when we have students work in pairs and groups. We know that they’ve embraced the idea when they automatically turn to work with another student when we assign a task. I appreciate Vicky’s honesty in also pointing out that collaboration doesn’t always work with all students, despite our best efforts. However, when collaboration becomes the default, great things happen.
Naomi Epstein has the gift of noticing. She notices the students who might be overlooked, or who are at risk of falling behind in class. I love that in her post, Naomi offers ideas to make these struggling students valued members in any group activity. If you’ve ever had a student who couldn’t sit still, or became discouraged in games or competitions, or felt unwanted in groups, you’re going to love Naomi’s suggestions, too. Even if you don’t have struggling learners, you’re going to find yourself thinking of group roles in a fresh way.
Marco Brazil shows us that students don’t have to be fluent language learners in order to collaborate. He takes us step by step through the process his young learners used in creating their own game — identifying the problem, brainstorming and evaluating possibilities, implementing a solution, and gaining a feeling of ownership. Of course, because it’s a children’s class, the process is much more fun than the steps I just outlined! It’s a great example of what collaboration can look like with young learners, and a model you’ll want to try in your own classes.
In her post, Yitzha Sarwono reminds us that collaboration is not just about completing a task; it’s about building a community. She shares a useful checklist for teachers who want to include collaborative activities in their lessons, and tips from her own classroom experience. I like her approach of developing trust among students before asking them to work together on bigger projects, and the idea of selecting appropriate projects so that we challenge students without overwhelming them, especially if collaboration is a new way of learning.
This summary is my contribution to our collaborative learning. Now it’s your turn! Choose one or more posts that appeal to you and visit the iTDi Blog to read more. Leave a comment for the author in order to add your own contribution to this week’s discussion about collaboration. That way we all get to learn from your experience, too! I look forward to seeing your ideas about encouraging collaboration in language class.
Note: This article originally appeared as a post on Teaching Village, and is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 License. If you wish to share it you must re-publish it “as is”, and retain any credits, acknowledgements, and hyperlinks within it.
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