Collaboration is becoming increasingly important – not just as teambuilding exercises in the classroom, but as a scholarly practice in preparing students for the world of work. In fact, according to the Development Economics Group (DEG), collaboration falls into one of the top three skills that employers are looking for. It also forms part of the ‘soft skills’ that are estimated to be worth £88bn to the UK economy – with the DEG predicting that it will grow strongly over the next five years.
One of the major responsibilities of schools therefore, is to ensure that students leave education with the right skills and experience for the world of work. This means that schools need to be providing a structured and collaborative setting in order for students to develop these essential skills.
A strategic approach to embedding collaborative learning starts with drawing up a model and framework, which can be used by both school leaders and teaching staff. A solid starting point is to consider what stage of collaboration, if any, the teachers and students are at. Identify if teachers, students and tasks are experiencing, exploring or owning collaboration right now. A good starting initial point is to refer to Elizabeth Murphy’s ‘Recognising Collaboration in an Online Asynchronous Environment (2004)’, which is extended by our own ideas into a snapshot of the staged idea and includes task, teacher and student perspectives (please see matrix image).
‘A strategic approach to embedding collaborative learning starts with drawing up a model and framework, which can be used by both school leaders and teaching staff’
Once you have agreed a model that will meet the current and future needs of your school it’s time to build a framework. Frameworks are valuable tools that provide teachers with the time, professional development, tools, technologies and content required to help them implement collaborative learning in practice. A typical collaboration framework will use a five-stage process, such as: Provide a Collaboration Environment, Integrate Feedback for Collaboration, Identify Appropriate Assessments. Enable Physical and Virtual Spaces and Design Learning Collaboratively. Each stage is designed to simplify implementing collaboration by walking school leaders and teaching staff through what the starting objectives are through to the final learning outcomes.
In order for collaboration in practice to be wholly successful, a complete change in approach is required. The whole school needs to shift to a collaborative learning setting, meaning as students progress through their school years they are continually benefitting from development in this type of learning.
It’s important to recognise that collaboration also has an impact on teaching styles. Collaborative teaching styles see teachers more as ‘Activators’, whereas traditional teaching tends to see the teacher as a ‘Facilitator’. Additionally it’s important to allow students to first understand what is being asked of them, and then be able to progress with the task autonomously.
Without a doubt the move to a truly collaborative strategy in school will be a huge undertaking and will require a fundamental shift for both teachers and students. However, the adoption of this approach will ultimately help to improve student progression in the short term and support the creation of a stronger UK economy in the longer term.
Read another blog from Promethean here.