Promoting Collaborative Learning

Something a little different today.  I’m developing a new module for my L3 Classical Course and I am keen to take a very collaborative approach to the learning.  I have promoted collaboration within my courses for some time and it is something I value highly, but in this case I am going to take  real step up in expectations.  It will be interesting how the students react, but I intend to lay a lot of ground work in setting up groups and negotiating expectations.  Below is a summary from a very useful chapter in a book I have at home which has given me some guidance on how to approach this.  I intend to share a couple more over the course of the next week or so.
Building Online Learning Communities, Effective strategies for the virtual classroom, Rena M Palloff, Keith Pratt, Chapter Eight: Promoting Collaborative Learning

Focus: This chapter provides guidance for developing collaboration and opens by recognising that a cyclical relationship exists between collaborative activity and the building of community (they both support the other).  The authors explain the importance of building online community to remove the potential isolation of students studying online and the benefits of working with others.  The chapter as a whole provides practical ways to promote collaboration.

Key Discussion:

  • The importance of students developing shared goals and the teacher / instructor negotiating guidelines
  • Developing community early in a course through the positing of introductions, commenting on other introductions and various other ice-breaking activities (gained some good practical ideas for next year).
  • The forming of teams / groups for small group discussion, group assignments and other small group activities.  This included a discussion on how to form these teams (both teacher and students directed) and guidance on how to get students to create team charters.
  • Some guidelines on developing discussion including some useful hints on expansive questioning and getting students to lead discussion
  • Some thinking around intergroup collaboration, resource sharing and collaborative writing

So What?

This chapter provided a number of ideas and help crystallize my own thinking.  My approach with the next topic will be based around small group collaboration where students will be working to develop their understanding of each of the key books of the Aeneid.  While the practical learning strategies are still forming in my mind, I have now got some clarity on how to set of the groups and what guidance they will need to work effectively.  The development of a group charter is a great idea, along with getting student buy in through peer evaluation (not that that is anything new), and I will get students to evaluate each others contribution after the first book.  This will give me a chance to move a few students around if I need to.  A few other ideas in there, especially developing a intergroup activity at the end of the book.


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