Collaborative learning has many benefits in an educational setting such as developing social skills, a deeper understanding of knowledge and soft skills (Chai & Tan, 2010). However, like with any learning approach, there are challenges for both teachers and students. For teachers to effectively facilitate collaborative learning, they must be willing to loosen the structure of the classroom. The teacher cannot be in control of groupings, specific group roles and learning expectations, rather, it is important that the students in the group feel like they have ownership in the learning process as a group and agency (Sing, Wei-Ying, Hyo-Jeong, & Mun, 2011, p.8). One way for both teachers and students to deal with this issue is for teachers to begin with cooperative learning and gradually work towards collaborative learning through scaffolding.
For students, a number of issues often present themselves during collaborative learning. Often students feel there is an unequal workload in the group with some people taking leadership roles and other students slacking. During the cooperative learning, teachers should model how to divide group tasks, model ideal group roles and how to reflect as a group throughout the process for the next steps. Teachers can also support students in how to give critical feedback in a positive way. If these strategies are developed during cooperative learning, they will carry over into collaborative learning as strategies to be used by the students.
Often students get off task during collaborative learning tasks (Sing, Wei-Ying, Hyo-Jeong, & Mun, 2011, p. 7). As the teacher, I will go around monitoring the different group and have conversations about what they have done, where they are at, and where they are going. I don't provide too much feedback, rather, ask questions that make them think to guide them moving forward. Often groups will have a timekeeper and someone to monitor task behaviour which also helps the group move forward productively.
With collaborative learning, conflict is enviable to arise at some point. Perhaps there are different perspectives of where to go next, someone isn't pulling their weight or things have been forgotten at home and therefore productivity is at a standstill. These are excellent opportunities for students to develop their problem-solving skills. For me, I always try to get the students to talk through their problems first. We spend a lot of time near the beginning of the year stressing how to express how you are feeling with ' I statements' instead of pointing blame. If students still struggle after a period of time, I support them by mediating the situation but mostly letting them talk. It is important that the students work through the situation together so that they feel they have autonomy in the resolution process.
It is important for the teacher to facilitate a positive collaborative community from the beginning of the year and cultivate this type of culture. From there, teachers can facilitate cooperative learning and through a gradual release of responsibility and scaffolding, shift the ownership of learning to the students in collaborative learning.
Chai, C. S., and Tan S. C. (2009). Professional Development of Teachers for Computer‐Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) through Knowledge Building. Teacher College Records, 111(5), 1296‐1327.
Sing, C.C., Wei-Ying, L., Hyo-Jeong, S. & Mun C. H. (2011). Advancing collaborative learning with ICT: conception, cases and design. Ministry of Education, Singapore. Retrieved from http://ictconnection.moe.edu.sg/ictconnection/slot/u200/mp3/monographs/advancing%20collaborative%20learning%20with%20ict.pdf
There are various types of interactions within the classrooms between students and between the teacher and student. Interactions can also include the interaction with technology and ICT. Each type is used in different scenarios but could be used in a number of different situations in an everyday classroom or assignment.
For this type of interaction between students, the teacher has little input other than the learning outcome and initial instructions(Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 762). Students could together determine their own group roles and responsibilities to show the necessary learning outcomes by creating a product. Through this, the group would need to choose an appropriate ICT tool such as Google Slides and work together to build their final product.
Authoritative interactivity is directed instruction that is planned by the teacher with specific questions and feedback (Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 763). It allows the student to get immediate responses to their answers. An example of this is students watching a BrainPop video individually or as a class on the interactive whiteboard and then completing the quiz following. This type of interaction is very structured.
The teacher provides variation to help students develop their knowledge in a constructive mode (Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 763). An example of this would be a teacher using a Google form with a series of questions for students to answer. In conjunction, the teacher would use Fluberoo to grade answers and email results. Based on their responses, they would receive an email directing them with addional links and questions to further their understanding or support them in developing their understanding to meet their needs.
There is less structure given by the teacher and more ownership by the student(Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 764). The ICT tool is a way to interact and builds students' metacognitive skills. This could be a student using a class resource site with a generated list of resources to search for specific information or searching through Google chrome browser.
This interactivity requires the most technology skills to be successful. It is when students are reflecting individually but as a whole class (Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 764). An example is when each individual student in the class contributes to a Paddlet board online.
Beauchamp, G., & Kennewell, S. (2010). Interactivity in the classroom and its impact on learning. Computers & Education, 54(3), 759-766.
Lesson Planning Lessons Learnt
1. Start with the end in mind. Know what you want your students to know. Use backwards by design.
2. Think about a strong hook to capture your students' interest. What provocation can you use?
3. Be prepared to change your plan on the fly - be flexible.
4. Choose assessment tools that make sense with your lessons.
5. Have opportunities to extend and support the lesson.
6. Prepare all your materials in advance.
7. Only integrate technology if it makes sense and enhances the learning.
8. Think about your questioning strategies.
9. Be aware of timing, including transitions.
10. Think about the set up of the classroom, groups, physical layout.
11. Don't plan too far ahead - let your students' inquiries guide you.