A reflective look at Miriam Clifford’s 20 Collaborative Learning Tips And Strategies For Teachers
Do we meet or consider each of these criteria in the way we operate our space and engage our students?
1. Establish group goals
The goal of our class is clearly defined, work through the design process to design and develop a product that meets the needs of a stakeholder and/or solves a need in society. Although the journey and the end point is very open, the path is defined by a set of parameters everyone learns and follow. Structured creative thinking leads to success at this level.
2. Keep groups mid-sized
We break the rules on this one slightly, but it’s through experience. We have a limit of three to a group. Experience tells us, that in a practical setting and at this age group (Year 7-8), any more equals a ‘free-loader’.
3. Establish flexible group norms
Do we need more structure in place about working in a group. Key stages plan? task assigned for the day?
4. Build trust and promote open communication
Trust is built through the process of learning the design process. A design thinking exercise allows students to work with and discuss the needs of a stakeholder and build a trusting relationship based on their needs. The difference we have found in students who complete this step vs. those who do not is vast. Adding emotion to product design, gives students a sense of importance as a designer, that they are designing for a purpose, for a need. Not just because we have to complete a project at school. Moving from this exercise into open-ended group or individual design leads to more trusted, in-depth conversations between students.
5. For larger tasks, create group roles
Students as experts. Student led workshops, rewarded through a learning passport ‘super stamp’. Which is extra kudos and entry into an end of semester prize draw.
6. Create a pre-test and post-test
We currently don’t do so much in the way of pre-testing in terms of a formative assessment. But do our post testing through a google form. This serves as data for our end of semester grading for report writing. This learning happens through videos and questioning time at the beginning of each class, in some way a summative assessment as over time we observe a shift in thew groups ability to participate in questioning and debate around the Technology related topics covered. Perhaps asking the same survey questions of the students at the beginning of the semester with no prior knowledge would be an interesting task.
7. Consider the learning process itself as part of assessment
I guess we do this through our grades of the Key Competencies or ‘Heroes’ on our Technology Reports, but don’t explicitly make that link with the students when they are discussed. This could be an area of improvement when we unpack the Heroes in relation to each of client school values/key competencies.
8. Consider using different strategies, like the Jigsaw technique.
We trialled this earlier in the year by diversifying the way we taught the Design Process. Our collaborative classes happens through two classes coming together at certain points in a Technology rotation, so at any one point we could have one or both groups who have been with us before. We had students work in groups to become experts on a stage in the design process, make a movie about that stage and then put them together to ‘teach’ the entire class.
9. Allow groups to reduce anxiety
Student led projects, needs/ability based, music in the classroom.
10. Establish group interactions
I think the best way we create this own our space is through role-modeling. We have a shared leadership model. We bounce off each others strengths and keep each other on track. The use of timers to manage the classroom helps everyone work through vital stages of the design tasks.
11. Use a real world problems
Every single thing designed and made in our rooms can be hinged to an idea or a problem that has been created or imagined by one of our students! You won’t find a classroom full of thirty pencil cases being churned out round here!
12. Focus on enhancing problem-solving and critical thinking skills
The Design Process and Technology itself naturally leads to this structure.
13. Keep in mind the diversity of groups
This semester my collaborative partner has been focussing on asking our students where they are from and the backgrounds of their family. It has been interesting to listen to and watch students engage in conversation after she has walked away about how different each of them are and how that might impact the way they think or what they assume about each others background. I think it’ our role as educators even when students self-select their own group members to work with as they do in our space, that we give them opportunities to realise the diversity within their group. And how this can help how they might go about solving their design problem or working as a team.
14. Groups with an equal number of boys and girls are best
This would be something for us to look into. As students self select whom they work with. What sort of gender mixtures are they choosing and why?
15. Use scaffolding or diminished responsibility as students begin to understand concepts.
Our Design Process scaffolds students through the steps of creation. We slightly release the strict adhesion to this process when/if they complete a second design task.
What would happen if we let students show us how they wanted to plan?
16. Include different types of learning scenarios
Do we need to differentiate our video chats each morning to have a mix of quizzes, group debates? Are we covering enough ground for the different modes of learning?
17. Technology makes collaborative learning easier
I liked the idea of using Technology to help students get to know each other better, perhaps this could be something we do at the beginning of the pentad. Especially since we have multiple schools come on some days.
18. Keep in mind the critics
How could we include individual think time?…………..
19. Be wary of “group think”
Do we need to track group movements more between the semesters, should there be a rule of not working with the same person as last time?
20. Value diversity
How do we get participation from those students who don’t interact during our video chats. Back to the thoughts about how we could diversify these. What needs to change?