This is a cross post from my own blog.
I have been doing quite a bit of reading and reflecting lately about collaboration in schools. There are many articles like this one that leave me scratching my head.
What does it mean to collaborate? To me, collaboration is when learners share and work together to achieve a common goal. This means that everyone who is involved in the collaboration takes an active role and understands their own role, as well as the roles of others. Collaboration is an important skill to teach our students. But do we truly understand what it means? Just because a group comes together to work on a project does not mean that they are going to collaborate. For example, what happens when groups of students or teachers have to work on a project together? They usually break the project into parts and delegate the parts to the group members. Before the project is due, the group meets again to put all the parts together. Is this collaboration? Sounds more like delegation to me. Not that there is anything wrong with learning to delegate. The other thing that happens in group work is one person does all the work and the other members have a free ride…definitely not collaboration. If true collaboration were to happen, each group member would be able to explain the whole project, not just the section that he/she worked on. Group members would be able to explain how all the parts are related and how they fit together.
How do we get our students to truly collaborate? We have to develop learning activities that will encourage them to collaborate and work together. We need to give them the necessary tools and technology.
Recently, I dealt with two students who submitted work for their online course which was very similar. When I talked to them about it, they told me that they had worked together…sharing ideas, researching, discussing together. When each of them wrote the assignment, their assignments were similar. Is this cheating? Or is this collaboration? If you look at the final products (the assignment), it is cheating. But if you consider the process, it is collaboration.
Collaboration is an important skill to teach our students. The best way for us to do this is to model good collaboration for them. When we work together as educators, are we collaborating in its true sense?
I will continue to think and learn about this topic. Your comments would be much appreciated.