I recently visited a manufacturing and design plant where I talked to the owner. The owner shared with me the importance of teaching students to collaborate as they will be doing this in the workplace. He went onto share how many students he comes in contact with are lacking collaboration skills and the ability to work on a team.
We need to be teaching students how to collaborate in learning. We can't expect students to simply know how to collaborate and be part of a team, we must be intentional in our work of ensuring students are prepared for the workplace in regards to collaboration.
The Four T's to Leading Collaboration
Teamwork - Teach teamwork, explain to students the importance of working on a team and show them real life examples. It's often good to begin with a sports team as students can easily understand this but we must expand that to demonstrating other areas where people need to work on a team. For example, share how doctors work on a team during surgery or teachers work as a team to lead students. Teach students the importance of working together and require them to collaborate around learning. Assign projects which require collaboration and make sure you are getting students collaborating daily. This could be simply talking about what they are learning, discussing other ways to solve a problem, or planning a presentation for class.
Teacher Less - Less of the teacher and more of the students. Way too often the teacher dominates the conversation and this limits collaboration. Encourage teachers to be willing to give over the learning and leading to students. Ask students to work out the problem at their desk and teach them how to talk it out and collaborate. Be willing to give over the learning time for students to collaborate and talk it out. Teachers must be intentional with this and they must plan out collaboration. Collaboration can be extemporaneous but it can be much stronger when it's planned and thought out. Remind teachers in your observations and walkthroughs the value you place on collaboration and how you expect from the entire Faculty.
Here are three great articles on nurturing collaboration in the classroom:
Time - So many educators worry about the time it takes to collaborate. They are afraid they won't cover what they need to cover. We need to stop the "cover" mentality and move into a deeper focus on learning. Student collaboration takes time, it's worth the time invested in building in collaboration into the lesson. By planning time for collaboration, you demonstrate the value and worth of this important skillset for students. Plus, you begin to create a pattern of collaboration the students come to expect. Some teachers prep the students by sharing, "Today we will be taking Conversational Learning Time to dig more into yesterday's topic." This preps the students and helps them prepare their minds to participate in a time of collaboration.
Trust - Wow, this is a big one for educators in regards to kids. We need to teach them collaboration and them trust they will do what you expect. Trusting them means that you are giving them the freedom to collaborate and to explore their own learning and thinking. I don't mean trust which goes totally hands off; just the opposite, the teacher should be walking around checking on student groups and collaborating along with the students. When we trust kids to do what we ask and expect them to do, we build independence and empowerment which prepares students for college, career, and beyond. Let's trust that kids/students will do what we ask and empower them to collaborate with one another to strengthen learning.