Groupwork ≠ Collaboration


As educators we all make mistakes. However, one of the biggest mistakes I have made in my teaching career is assuming that just because I put my kids in groups that they are collaborating. I am passionate about preparing students for life after college and I try to keep the 21st Century skills in mind when lesson planning. Specifically, I incorporate the 4Cs as much as possible: critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. 


So, when I would put my kids in groups, I gave myself a pat on the back for checking off the collaboration box. Then I came across the article, G-R-O-U-P W-O-R-K Doesn’t Spell Collaboration by Timothy Quinn. What is crazy to me is that it was published almost 9 years ago. However, I do not hear enough conversation around this topic. 


One thing I didn’t take into account is that collaboration isn’t something the students already know how to do. We have to teach them to collaborate. As Quinn says, 


“Teachers must set clear expectations and devise a fair and meaningful way to assess student work. Most importantly, the teacher should constantly be circulating around the room, looking over shoulders, asking and answering questions, giving feedback, and taking notes on student progress.”


According to the article, the teachable collaboration skills are: 

• Listen to others;

• Establish common goals;

• Compromise;

• Assign roles and responsibilities;

• Determine measures for accountability;

• Give constructive feedback; and

• Assess the group’s progress.


In our ever changing world, driven by technology, it is paramount that students learn how to effectively collaborate. Collaboration is no longer confined to location or time. 


How do you teach collaboration? 


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