This is the last of the series of four articles about teaching the 4Cs to students. The previous article was about teaching effective Communication skills to students. This part will discuss about the significance and ways of teaching collaborative skills to students.
Collaboration is the act of working together to achieve a common goal by solving problems, inventing, creating and producing results. Collaboration is important because through it we can learn more and better by supporting each other emotionally and committing to cumulative efforts and effects. For collaboration to produce results, group members should see each other as having different resources in the form of information, cognitive styles, cultures, decisions, etc., and should also understand that they have come together as equals to do a job. The problems we face today can be better approached through community effort because for complex problems or for a better understanding of any problem, multiple perspectives are required to analyze situations, imagine solutions and develop strategies to achieve them. What’s most needed is the commitment that comes from collaborative work in order to follow through on our plans.
Studies and research are evident of the fact that better learning outcomes are achieved when students work in collaboration with each other. Working together keeps them motivated and gives them the encouragement to contribute towards the achievement of a common goal and is a positive influence on student engagement.
- A study on the effects of cooperative learning and need for affiliation was carried out to investigate the effects and need for collaboration. Students were made to use either an individual learning strategy or a cooperative strategy to work on a task. Results showed that students who worked collaboratively reported greater satisfaction than those who worked individually.
- In the book Powerful Learning by Linda-Darling Hammond, it is pointed out that according to studies, groups are known to outperform individuals on learning tasks and also that individuals who work in groups perform better on assignments as well.
Working effectively with others is a challenging task in itself. Collaboration skills are a bit complex to learn since they are actually people skills. Guided practice and quality feedback is required to learn these skills. If teachers want their students to work together effectively they should explicitly teach and model collaboration skills. These skills include Active listening, Respect, Manners, Positive Attitude, being Focused and Social Awareness. Simply telling students to work together wouldn’t result in productive collaboration. Teachers should make students part of activities and projects where they find reasons to collaborate in order to accomplish a common goal. Students should be taught how they can be good and responsible group members through modeling, role playing, discussion, and facilitating. Here are some ways in which Collaboration can be taught and learned:
- Assigning clear responsibilities to every member of the team and making clear what they need to accomplish as a team.
- Providing illustrations of activities portraying collaborative work and efforts.
- Assigning a leader who can responsibly take control of the activities of a group.
- Encouraging self-direction and motivation.
- Keeping track of the progress of the team and identifying areas of conflicts or their shortcomings as a team.
- Conducting group and self-evaluations based on the progress.
- Designing a rubric to measure the process and product.
To be part of the working world in the future, students need to learn to collaborate as a member of a team as collaboration is one of the most significant elements required in a work environment and every student needs to be prepared for that environment, partly for employment opportunity, but mainly because learning and creating as an individual process is no longer effective. Effective communication is one of the main factors that drives collaboration and leads to best expressions of innovation, creativity and critical inquiry.
Collaboration is not something that necessarily comes naturally to students. Effectual collaboration requires training and the development of key personal skills. To foster the process of collaboration, teachers should adopt the terminology of teams rather than groups, since teams focus on accountability and commitment, are formed for a purpose and operate through norms and shared expectations. They should incorporate and adapt the high-performance principles common in a working environment to teams in the classroom. This requires time, good coaching skills, a focus on the quality of interaction between students, and a set of team tools, including contracts, rubrics, and exercise. It leads to remarkable results. Once students get a little used to with working in teams, take responsibility and begin to collaborate well, they get to learn more, can assist and teach each other, develop powerful solutions and altogether enjoy the entire process if working in a team.
Mind/Shift’s article on teamwork, written by Thom Markham , a psychologist, school redesign consultant, and the author of the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for inquiry and innovation for K-12 educators, focuses on ways of fostering collaboration team spirit. Thom lists 10 principles that can help you design high performance teams for effective collaboration. He stresses on the fact that teaching focused communication is essential for teaching collaboration and critical friends protocols, visible thinking routines or other tools of inquiry can be used for the purpose. Since collaboration has moved online, teachers should use online collaborative tools and be part of collaborative teams by being online as much as students. Do read his complete article to find out more on ways of promoting collaboration.
This concludes the four-part article series about teaching the 4Cs to students which are among the most essential skills required in the 21st century. 4Cs form an essential component of modern day learning and if properly inculcated into learning can reform it for the better. Please share you views on the importance of teaching the 4Cs to students. The Comment Box awaits you.