Here are some collaborative classroom ideas to try:
Teach your students how to collaborate: If you want your students to collaborate effectively, you need to teach them what and how a good group collaboration looks like. To do that you can show them a good explanation video, discuss with them what indicators of good collaborations are or show them examples of successful collaboration. You should also take some time to explain to your students how they can benefit from a smooth and efficient collaboration and how this skill will be important for their future. Only when your students understand the importance, the reasons, and the approach to good collaboration, then they can start working together efficiently and making valuable decisions as a group.
Create and display norms for a successful collaboration: Together with your students, come up with norms or rules for a successful collaboration. You might want to create and put up a poster with the norms and rules you agreed on, so that they are visible for your students at all times. Also, it is important to address and discuss the expectations your students have of a successful collaboration and working in a team. This way your students know what to expect and what is expected of them while working with one another on a task.
Continually evaluate collaborations: While teachers can assess students, students should also assess themselves and each other during a collaboration. For the assessment you could ask your students to reflect on the roles, relationships, recognition, rewards and results that occurred during their collaboration. This will also teach your students to work with different perspectives on the same process or issue. It is important that your students evaluate both the negative and positive aspects of their group work. After the evaluation, the group should consider ways to change the work methods, processes or roles that they found are not optimal for the collaboration.
Plan some extra time for evaluations: It is important that you give your students time to discuss and evaluate their progress. Otherwise, students might not take the time themselves to reflect on and communicate about their ongoing collaboration. Your students need to understand that it is important to spend time evaluating their work frequently in order to improve their overall process of collaboration. During evaluations your students should discuss things and processes they still need to work on, what needs to change, but also what currently works for their group. This way they can create a more efficient group environment. For a better reflection, you might also want to introduce some ideas, rubrics or questions that the students should monitor or focus on during their collaboration to analyze and discuss during their next evaluation.
Focus on specific indicators in a rubric: There are a variety of indicators for good collaboration. For instance, providing thoughts, providing feedback, conflict resolution, skill share, team roles, team communication, etc. At the beginning of your class, have your students review one rubric before collaborating. Your students should then focus on that one indicator and have a reflection at the end of a lesson. For example for the rubric of providing feedback, you could ask the following questions as part of the reflection: who reported to the group? Who took notes for everyone? Who pointed out when something was not working out the way it was planned? Who pointed out when something was going great?
Incorporate the concept of collaboration: If you want to teach your students how to work together, you should incorporate the concept of collaboration into every lesson. Collaboration should not be taught in isolation, but rather as a skill that your students repeatedly need to master group tasks. Think about how collaboration could work and look like in your classroom. For example, if you teach in an online or blended environment collaborative tasks will look and work differently than in a physical classroom.
Collaboration as a formative assessment: It is important to improve collaboration and incorporating collaboration into your formative assessment is one way to do it. The goal of formative assessment is to monitor students´ learning process to provide ongoing feedback. Later, this feedback can be used to improve your teaching or it can be used by students to improve their learning and skills. This means that teachers interact with the students during the collaboration process and that students receive feedback continuously. Formative assessments during collaboration can help students to identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work. At the same time, it can also help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately. This way collaboration can be improved continuously – from students themselves and from input of teachers.
Encourage collaboration: Collaboration can be encouraged with the correct wording, like ”discuss”, ”come to an agreement”, ”debate”, and ”explain”.
Consider a school-wide focus: A culture that fosters collaboration usually extends beyond the classroom. To help the 21st Century Skill of collaboration grow, teachers could prepare school-wide vocabulary, posters, and initiative.