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Top 5 Ways to Teach Collaboration
posted by: Melissa | May 15, 2013, 07:19 PM   

The ability to work in groups and collaborate is one of those 21st century skills that teachers try to instill alongside all the other curriculum necessities.  It is also a skill that teachers constantly struggle to pass on to their students.  It is not an impossible task, however.  Consider these methods for building collaboration in your classroom:

1.    Teach your students how to ask questions.  The art of questioning is not just knowing how to word questions so that they get clear answers, but also knowing what to ask.  By helping our students learn this invaluable communication skill, we greatly ease their ability to work together.

2.    Teach through the conflict. Instead of seeing conflict as something that you must immediately step in the middle of and put a stop to, see conflict as an opportunity.  When students work in groups plan for conflicts to arise and plan enough time in order to help students mediate them, providing guidance where necessary and stopping short of mandating a resolution.

3.    Plan activities that require deep thinking and complex problem solving. By definition, these types of group work activities will not be possible with just one person involved.  Many people will need to work together in order to accomplish their goal and authentic collaboration will emerge because of it.

4.    Model collaboration for your students. Teachers should never expect students to do that which they are unable to do themselves.  Set a good example for collaboration by working with other teachers and faculty members often.  Talk about your planning sessions and your experiences working with other teachers together, and allow them to experience the rich interdisciplinary results of such collaboration.  This way they will both see the how and the why of collaboration.

5.    Reflect with your class after sessions where they had a chance to collaborate. One of the ways we learn is through reflection.  As you complete a learning task involving collaboration, spend some time in closing the task by guiding your students through not just the day’s work, but how they worked together.  As often as possible call on both good and bad examples of collaboration you saw, always being sensitive not to embarrass your students.

For more information on how to build collaboration in class, try reading Edutopia’s article on collaboration leading to deeper learning or Mind/Shift’s article on teamwork.

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