Teaching children how to work with one another, and creating a variety of learning experiences which enable them to collaborate, is not only an excellent way to develop a dynamic classroom, but it also builds confidence in children as learners. Creating an effective collaborative environment is essential for the classroom and is also a stepping stone for other skills such as reflective thinking and building independence. Here at Astor International School we build our teaching around collaborative learning.
By creating a collaborative classroom, children grow in confidence as learners and begin to see that they can learn not only from their teachers but from their peers as well. This also supports the children in learning to look for their peers for support before going to the teacher. This builds independence as well as interdependence.
As students collaborate with one another and share their thinking with one another, they learn how to negotiate and compromise when their ideas are different. Having opportunities to share their own ideas boosts the children’s confidence in knowing that their ideas and thinking are valued in class. In this sense, the teacher’s role in collaborative learning is not to choose the best idea for them but instead to facilitate and get students to think of ways to compromise or negotiate so that everyone’s ideas can be used in the process.
Furthermore, collaborative learning promotes reflective thinking as children reflect on how they can improve on their work. As the students collaborate and work on a project, they experiment and explore various ideas in their groups, thus identifying the best solution for the task at hand. An example would be when the Astor Year Three students are exploring ramps during their inquiry lesson. The students had discussions on how they could create small bumps on their ramp to slow down the speed of the car so as to ensure that it does not crash. Students took their time to collaborate with one another and used different materials to test it out. After one round of testing, most of the groups went back to discuss how they could improve on their ramps.
At Astor International School, the teachers plan lessons to support collaborative work. Children have varied experiences in the sense that there are some activities in which they get to select the people they would like to collaborate with while in other activities the selection of the groupings are intentional. This supports and gives the opportunity for the children to work with everyone in the classroom. By the end of the year, children have gained various solutions to include others in their group, or are able to take on a range of roles in a collaborative situation.