5 Strategies to Deepen Student Collaboration
We teachers, for the most part, believe in the power of cooperation and routinely involve our students in collaborative activities. Nevertheless, how many times have we placed kids in groups only to observe them interacting with their laptops rather than with one another? Alternatively, they could follow their separate objectives rather than consulting with one another. Alternatively, you may gripe about a slacker colleague.
Effectively cultivating real collaboration is challenging to execute well—and it doesn’t happen by accident. It is essential that we consciously design collaboration into our learning activities to get genuine results. These are five tactics that can be used to promote effective collaboration.
CREATE LEARNING ACTIVITIES THAT ARE COMPLEX
Students require a compelling incentive to work together. If the job is too basic, they will be able to complete it more quickly on their own. They may check in with each other or connect in a cursory manner at most. Because the task is complex—it is too difficult and has too many moving parts to be completed on one’s own—collaboration is the only viable option.
Multifaceted activities that present a challenge are also entertaining, stimulating, and multilayered. To be successful, a team must work together and share knowledge to achieve the objective and complete the task. Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec (2008) define “positive interdependence” as a condition in which the team must work together and share knowledge to be successful.
For example, rigorous projects that require students to identify a problem (for example, balancing population growth in their city with the protection of existing green spaces) and agree—through research, discussion, debate, and time to develop their ideas—on a solution that they must then propose together are one method of accomplishing this.
PREPARE STUDENTS TO BE PART OF A TEAM
Collaborative groups cannot be assigned; rather, they must be formed and maintained over time. Students frequently have to learn how to collaborate well with others and as a member of a group. We must assist kids in comprehending the what, why, and how of collaborative endeavors. We can accomplish this in a variety of ways:
Assist students in understanding the benefits of collaboration as well as the characteristics of successful collaboration.
Students should be guided through the stages of team development (forming, storming, norming, and performing).
Provide students with time and opportunities to develop leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication, and conflict-management skills while participating in the activity.
Establishing expectations and working practices for a collaborative effort is essential.
Create, or have students create, protocols for dealing with conflict and disagreement so that they can work together to address challenges within their teams.
Active listening abilities should be taught to students.
Reduce the number of opportunities for freeriding.
When students express dissatisfaction with collaborative groups, it is frequently due to the free-riding of one member who allows others to perform all of the work while reaping the benefits of the group grade. Freeriding can be eliminated in a variety of methods, including:
Make small groups of no more than four or five persons to discuss the topic. Nonparticipation becomes more difficult when there is less space to conceal oneself.
By assessing students both individually and as a group, you can ensure that they have a high level of individual accountability (Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec, 2008). For example, after the day, offer each student an individual quiz based on the desired outcome of their collaborative project that they completed during the day.
Create meaningful team responsibilities that are related to both the content and the task being performed. Roles such as timekeeper are episodic and do not engage students cognitively in the topic, which might lead to students abusing the system. More significant roles, such as manager, monitor, and leaders for each subtask of the activity, on the other hand, provide students a sense of ownership in the process and allow the instructor to assess students based on their effective accomplishment of these roles in the activity.
Create opportunities for students to evaluate their participation and effort, as well as the participation and effort of each team member, and triangulate those evaluations with your own.
MINIMIZE OPPORTUNITIES FOR FREE RIDING
Numerous group projects are built on efficiency, with members splitting labor to produce a product most efficiently feasible. Because of our preoccupation with the finished product, we frequently overlook the collaborative process. Collaboration necessitates rich dialogues that link students with the experiences of others, that involve them profoundly in a shared intellectual experience, and that encourage students to reach a consensus.
Student groups can, for example, reach an agreement on a solution or conclusion in which they must defend or propose a common vision, as well as build a set of views or values. Students learn to defend their ideas with evidence and analytical reasoning, negotiate to mean and argue constructively as a result of this emphasis on discussion and consensus-building on both an academic and social level.
BUILD-IN MANY OPPORTUNITIES FOR DISCUSSION AND CONSENSUS
The challenge of planning effective collaborative activities is ensuring that all students, even those who struggle, have an opportunity to participate and contribute meaningfully. Students need to collaborate not just to improve their presentation skills, but also to ensure that their interactions stretch existing knowledge and enhance one another’s expertise. Students can teach others if they are significantly better at one skill than the rest of their peers in their group. A student’s grade may be dependent on how much her peers learn.
When students participate in collaborative activities, we want to guarantee that they don’t simply share a physical space, but that they also share an intellectual space, which means that they learn more, do more, and experience more together than they would if they were working alone. When we alter our role from instructor to coach, we may encourage actual cooperation among students by supporting team autonomy, checking in on them and providing immediate feedback, and assisting them in learning to work more efficiently together toward a common goal.