Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Collaboration Abomination

Let's mix together three Conditions today--Belonging, Sense of Accomplishment, and Fun & Excitement. One of the 21st Century Skills that schools are asked to work on is Collaboration. This is very Aspirations-friendly as working together towards a common goal creates Belonging and many students say it helps inject Fun & Excitement into learning. When done correctly it can create a wonderful group Sense of Accomplishment.

Asking students to collaborate is not new. I remember group projects--working with another student or two to produce some history presentation or science project. One of the "good" students, I recall being frustrated that we were graded in a clump and not everyone was doing their share. Most of this team work was in elementary school; I recall going it alone for much of my late 20th Century high school experience.

But I am not talking about collaboration, I am talking about Collaboration. Working together as a skill, not just as a way of shaking up the pedagogy. How do you effectively communicate your ideas? How do you listen attentively? How do you respect and accept others' ideas even when you do not fully agree? How do you create consensus? How do you rebuild trust when someone has broken trust? Some of this can be learned in the school of hard knocks, but in the 21st Century something more is expected. Collaboration can and should be deliberately taught. And there are plenty of resources for doing just that.

A friend of mine mentioned that his somewhat shy fifth grade daughter was asked to work on an assignment with a boy in her class. My friend had no problem with this as he thinks she could use some work on the social skills a partnered project would teach her. The problem was that no such skills were actually taught. The teacher, if she made a conscious decision at all, went for "figure it out yourselves." The young boy his daughter was assigned had no interest in working with her or seemingly on the project itself. She wound up doing all the work with her Dad's help, disliking group work more, and being told, by her father (regrettably, he says), "To just get through it." Nor was there any assessment of the collaboration itself.

My friend asked, "You're an educator, right? Are you getting this? Collaboration is a skill they are supposed to be teaching in schools. We got a handout about it. But no Collaboration skills were taught. And Collaboration was not graded. What was the point?" My friend was as frustrated as I was way back when. So in the end, no Belonging, no Sense of Accomplishment, and instead of Fun & Excitement, Anxiety & Frustration. Is your school teaching Collaboration?


No comments: