What do we need to pay attention to in designing collaborative learning for students? (Thoughts from Beate Planche and Lyn Sharratt)
Leaders create the conditions for effective learning. In the classroom, the teacher is the leader supported by school leadership. Teachers effectively become the stewards of collaborative learning once the right conditions are in place. They play a vital role as instructors, guides and facilitators of collaborative learning as well as modelling a co-learning stance. Project-based learning or other inquiry processes are increasingly used as the frame for collaborative learning. What follows are many of the vital steps to consider in the inquiry journey.
Attend to the learning culture – Collaboration needs an underpinning of safety, trust and strong relationships. We also believe strongly in what we call “Parameter No. 1” (Sharratt & Fullan, 2009, 2012) which reinforces that all students can learn given the right time and support. Such a positive belief also students to build a growth mindset. Teachers as co-learners model a curious nature and the assurance it is important to risk-take in learning. It is also important to avoid difficulties by being proactive. Developing working norms for collaborative learning is an important part of the preparation as well as plans to support students who have focusing, learning or behavioral challenges.
Attend to learning processes – Teachers need to be skilled in both understanding collaborative learning processes and in assessing the impact of their teaching on student learning. Attending to learning processes means that teachers have considered the scaffolds and supports students will need to be successful. The need for personalization and differentiation are realities to be integrated. Teachers who understand the importance of creating deeper learning conditions prepare students to work together so that they can:
For further information on collaborative learning for students and staff, consider –
“Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence” by Lyn Sharratt & Beate Planche
(Corwin Press, 2016).
Blog for Larry Ferlazzo by Beate Planche and Lyn Sharratt, Corwin Authors.
What a difference an exciting learning day makes! When we have had a chance to engage with our peers in dynamic interaction and co-learning as opposed to unsatisfying 'PD', we come to understand the importance of what I will call a sense of a learning legacy. The legacy of opportunities to learn together collaboratively reinforces our sense of purpose. It can remind us of why we become educators! It can model what we must do for our students as well as ourselves.
Energizing learning experiences touch our hearts, hands and minds. What might we see, hear and feel as a part of a collaborative process such as inquiry? Leadership is at the heart of a successful experience:
2. Clear focus
Collaborators who work as co-investigators become focussed especially when clear parameters for collective work have been established. Collective learning goals are intentional and determined through the analysis and assessment of student data and actual work on our table. The needs of all learners are considered and success for each student and staff member is our inclusive goal.
3. Shared responsibility
As the work unfolds, leaders help to distribute the responsibility of the collaborative project or inquiry to increase the feeling of shared ownership. Goals are clear and subsequent actions are well defined and purposeful. Diverse opinions are seen as a strength of the collaboration but consensus is built through working together. Collective co-learning helps to build relational trust and stronger learning relationships (Planche, 2004). Monitoring of our collective work is built into the process and discussed as we progress and move forward. Success is shared as is any challenge. Continuous improvement of our practice on the success of our students is an understood and common goal.
A learning culture where collaborative work can thrive is built through the work of challenging and strategic work of insightful leadership. In such a culture, as co-learners, we feel accepted and challenged which reinforces a strong sense of shared purpose. What a difference a learning day in such an environment can make! The best thing about a truly collaborative culture is that it does not take a leader with a formal title to impact the learning environment. Informal and formal leaders can all have significant influence and the opportunity to make a difference. However, formal leaders hold the reigns of time and resources and are ultimately responsible for creating the conditions for collaborative growth. Collaborative efforts wither without the legacy of strong learning leadership. So leaders....this is a call to make all days learning days to remember!
Planche, B. (2004). Probing the complexities of collaboration and collaborative processes. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sharratt, L. & Planche, B. (2016). Leading Collaborative Learning-Enpowering Excellence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
My area of sustained interest is understanding the complexities of collaboration and their impact on learning in the classroom and in the workplace. The growing interest in pedagogies which promote an inquiry stance or more constructivist engagement also really resonates for me.