Improving Collaboration in Your Classroom
Collaborative learning is likely a strategy that you're already using but it's gaining in momentum recently for its high levels of engagement and retention.
21st century learners have to know how to work with others efficiently and productively, and collaborative learning is the key to that. There are lots of free and readily accessible tools out there online for students to use when they aren't in the same location and need to collaborate. Google Docs, Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts are all great ways for students to hang out online.
Some bits of advice for the use of collaborative learning,
- Always front load expectations. Students need to be able to be comfortable in the roles that they have and to be able to contribute successfully to the collaborative learning experience.
- Sometimes role playing with collaborative learning time is especially helpful to students who are anxious about group work.
- Assign roles if need be. Most students prefer to work within a particular structure and can perform a task well if they are asked to immerse themselves in it.
- Be very intentional about grouping. Both you and your students know who should and should not be working together.
- Work through conflict issues as they come up. You may need to be a mediator but conflict resolution is another essential life skill that students can use.
- Start small. Think pair share and fish bowls are both very good at beginner collaborative learning experiences.
- Allow students to have fun and blow off steam once in a while. It's certainly part of the group process that is missed by some of the strictest of task masters, but it does help build relationships within the group.
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