Saturday, September 3, 2016

In Praise of Collaboration

At NTH@C our work focuses on five learner outcomes: agency, collaboration, knowledge and thinking, oral communication, and written communication. The outcome that has most struck me in the last week is that of collaboration. From the moment learners arrive at school in the morning, to the moment they leave, they are challenged to engage in learning through various methods. At the heart of a number of these methods is the use of collaborative learning structures to strengthen the learning experience.

Cornell University explains collaborative learning: 

"Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct. Collaborative activities are most often based on four principles:

  • The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.
  • Interaction and "doing" are of primary importance
  • Working in groups is an important mode of learning.
  • Structured approaches to developing solutions to real-world problems should be incorporated into learning."

For more information on collaborative learning, it can be found here on the Cornell University website. 

What does collaboration look like?

Collaboration can look like a lot of things. It can look like learners working together on a shared document in a digital space. It can look like learners sitting in various formations and interacting continuously or intermittently. It can look like a division of labor that comes together in a culminating presentation or product that each learner has a stake in. In all of these ways and others, collaboration is something that is evident in who we are at New Tech High @ Coppell. The pictures shown here are of the culminating presentation of our senior first week projects. When true collaboration happens, learners aren't just working for themselves but for others and for the collective as a whole.


What does collaboration sound like?

Collaboration sounds like a lot of different things given where learners are in a process. Sometimes collaboration sounds like clarification of objectives and making sure everyone in the group understands what their roles are and what the outcome is going to be. Sometimes collaboration sounds like incessant questioning of each other and what they are learning and doing. Sometimes collaboration sounds like a frenzied march to a deadline to make sure everything is done and completed to everyone's satisfaction. Sometimes collaboration sounds like giving feedback and seeking constant improvement. The pictures below show learners at 8:05 in the morning (30 minutes before school starts) refining their presentations that were due that day. Learners were talking, joking, laughing and providing encouragement.

By Steffany Batik, Principal of NTH@C