Collaboration – Group work – Cooperative Learning

After looking at and reflecting on the list of different skills that are predicted to be important in the 21st century I have  decided to focus on just one; collaboration.  Well, at least have one as a focus while I continue  ruminating on the others, as I think in practice it will be hard to separate many of them as there is a level of interconnectivity.  One example is that  student thinking has been shown to  improve with  student  involvement in group work where they are required to verbalise their understanding or challenge others. Which leads to a deeper understanding and improved learning outcomes.

What is the best way to use group work?I have chosen collaboration as a focus because as a teacher I have at times avoided group work. Group work  often represents hard work having to negotiate the myriad of potential conflicts and relational difficulties that arise when students are allowed or are forced to work together.  When I have assigned group tasks often I have not thought them through as thoroughly as I should have.  Thus by choosing collaboration as a focus I plan  to reflect on the  research  of others that suggests that student outcomes are improved as students engage at a deeper level.

I have started to be more conscious about the use of group work in my lessons and I have started reflecting on how best to plan for and incorporate it. Here is a sample of the questions I’m reflecting on and looking for evidence to answer.

  • Do students performed better if they collaborate?
  • What  different forms of collaboration are used and which are most effective?
  • Is the size of a group significant?
  • Is how group formation occurs important?  (student choice, teacher choice, based on ability, friendship groups, age, ses, gender?)

There is lots to think about.

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