4 Methods to Enhance Student Collaboration in the Classroom
Teachers are continually looking for ways to enhance student collaboration in the classroom. Student collaboration can add much-needed variety to the standard, traditional lecture style of teaching. Classroom collaboration also encourages communication and cooperation among students and in effect allows them to teach one another. In some instances, students actually understand the material better when it is explained by their peers.
Another significant benefit of collaborative learning is the positive bonding experience that occurs among the members of each group when everyone is contributing to a common goal. During cooperative activities in your classroom, be sure to take the time to circulate among the groups. Check in and facilitate understanding as needed. Encourage all students to participate in some way to really enhance the collaborative benefits.
Consider the size and makeup of each group as you assign members and create roles. Ideal collaborative learning allows for the group to work cooperatively while individual students are able to retain their creativity and accountability. Every student should play an important role in the group and be able to benefit from their duties and place in the group.
In some cases, and for some assignments, it might make sense for students with similar abilities to be grouped together. In other instances, groups comprised of students with differing skill levels could benefit both the students and the project. Sometimes the stronger students will be able to teach and benefit the others, and all of them will benefit from their various strengths and talents.
One of the goals of collaborative learning is to highlight the fact that all students have something to contribute, and finding the most beneficial role for them benefits the group as a whole. The Global Development Research Center recommends assigning specific roles to qualified students for specific activities they are suited for. Determining what tasks or duties students are predisposed to may take some time and observation. Some suggested roles within a group might be:
- Leader or manager: Responsible for keeping the group on-task and overseeing each component of the activity
- Secretary or recorder: Takes notes and the minutes of meetings
- Artist/Creative director: Makes drawings, diagrams or illustrations as needed
- Monitor: Watches the time, distributes and collects equipment, keeps work area tidy
Introducing new curriculum
A University of Manitoba study has found that collaborative activities are even more effective when the class is introduced to new material or starts a new unit in the classroom. When introducing a new idea or concept, take the opportunity to break up the class into discussion groups of two or three. After 10 minutes, ask for a representative from the group to share what they talked about. This model works especially well with more subjective or open-ended concepts.
Organizing collaborative activities that involve creating or building something can be a very effective learning tool. Pairs or groups can work together to bring something from the idea phase all the way to completion, and every student involved will know they have played a role. From building a visual vignette from history, to creating a game related to social studies, to constructing a realistic, over sized model of a microscopic organism from science class, the collaborative students and the final results will make an impact. Students are also far more likely to retain what they’ve learned.
Collaborative learning works best when brand new material is being taught. Ideally, the material should be easily divided into roughly equal parts. One example would be dividing the elements and components of a country’s history into assignments for groups in your class. Assign each group a distinct chunk of the teaching and some suggestions related to how to explore it. Once they are through, have the group demonstrate or present what they have learned to the class. By the end of this collaborative activity, your students should have a fairly complete picture of the new material or teaching.
Collaborative learning is a fun and energizing break for students from the more traditional teacher-lecture model of education. Student collaboration in the classroom is an excellent educational enhancement. Collaborative lessons will make a memorable impact on your students, and they are well worth the time and effort to plan and implement.