Schools worldwide strongly emphasize integrating 21st-century skills in their curriculum. Today’s learners must acquire these skills to prepare for the ever-changing world. They must master these skills to succeed in their lives and careers ahead. Moreover, these skills also prepare learners to improve their academic performance in their college years.
Since today’s learners are digital learners, they’re constantly bombarded with a vast amount of knowledge and data. Equipping students with this skill set prepares them to navigate the digital world easily and ensures that they thrive in the constantly evolving world. One of the most crucial 21st-century skills is collaboration.
With the inception of diversity and inclusion in the learning framework, collaboration in the classroom has gained soaring significance and become a prerequisite for succeeding in career and personal life. It necessitates that students learn from others and contribute to each other’s learning, resulting in an interdependent learning environment.
Let’s explore some practical ways to foster collaboration in the classroom.
Well-trained School Staff
The most practical way to implement collaboration into the school environment is to develop the educators professionally. Teachers should pay heed to the significance of this 21st-century skill and successfully incorporate it in their teaching strategies and activities. There are numerous ways that schools can invest in their teachers’ professional development to integrate collaboration in the learning framework effectively. For example, supporting teachers in acquiring an Online EdD in Educational Leadership Degree will assist them in closely examining and reflecting on best teaching practices that foster collaboration in the classroom. Additionally, an online degree will help teachers gain the essential skills to create a collaborative environment across the school effectively.
When teachers clearly understand this skill, they will demonstrate and implement it effectively into their teaching practices to improve students’ engagement and academic performance. Moreover, getting a professional degree will empower teachers to promote collaboration in the classroom, leading to the students’ ability to work and communicate across diverse learning groups.
Classroom Layout to Support Collaboration
Another critical factor that educators must consider to support collaboration is the physical layout of the classroom. When students are distanced from each other, it is improbable that they will collaborate. They will become habitual of sitting and working independently. In addition, they will find it difficult when asked to work in groups. Therefore, teachers need to set up the classroom space keeping collaboration objectives in mind. For example, instead of keeping the students’ tables lined up, opt for the U-Shaped or T-shaped formation to sit and work in groups.
Experiment with various layouts to identify the one that suits students’ specific needs. Involve the students in designing the classroom and take their opinions. Involving students will increase their sense of belonging and lead to active participation and engagement. Hence, the layout and design of the classroom act as a catalyst to promote collaboration. For this reason, teachers must intentionally create learning spaces that support collaboration and teamwork.
Design Challenging Teaching Activities
While designing teaching and learning activities, educators must incorporate challenging strategies for the learners. Learners rarely require support and assistance when the activities and tasks are easy. However, when learners attempt challenging and multi-layered tasks, they seek the teacher’s guidance. It’s difficult and time-consuming to attempt multi-layered and complex tasks independently. Learners become demotivated and exhausted while working on complex tasks alone, leading to a lack of engagement and loss of interest.
When learners are unable to attempt tasks, teachers provide them scaffolding in peer support which nurtures collaboration. Therefore, learning activities must be challenging and stimulating, which require learners to work together and share knowledge. So, educators must consider activities requiring learners to research, engage in discussion and debate, develop their ideas in groups, and encourage positive interdependence in the classroom.
Help Learners Understand and Value Collaboration
While working in groups and pairs, teachers may face student’s resistance and reluctance. Some students do not like the idea of working with others and prefer working independently. Therefore, educators must help students understand the importance of collaboration and how it can benefit them in attaining the skills needed to excel in their careers and lives.
For effective collaboration in the classroom, students must understand the dynamics and implications of collaboration. Teachers need to familiarize and direct the students through the stages of team building, i.e., forming, storming, norming and performing. Establish rules and expectations of working in groups.
Furthermore, the activities should provide considerable time and opportunities to help develop students’ communication, leadership, decision-making, and conflict-management skills. Most importantly, teach learners the skills of active listening to effectively manage and accept varied perspectives. When learners recognize the function and benefits of collaboration, they participate actively in the collaborative activities and develop their academic and social skills.
Celebrate and Reward Collaboration
Create a school culture where every collaborative action is celebrated. Every instance of collaboration should be recognized and appreciated to show its importance. Teachers must create opportunities to celebrate the learners’ collective achievements. In addition, teachers must become role models and display actions that increase collaboration among learners.
They must highlight the advantages of collaboration in the classroom and its impact on learners’ performance. Moreover, when teachers reward every effort of cooperation, it will serve as a model for other students and motivate them to work together. Therefore, reward and recognition of collaborative efforts should be a norm in the classroom to foster a collaborative learning environment and serve as an example for others to follow. Additionally, organize formal events to appreciate and recognize efforts that successfully achieved collaboration.
In today’s academic sphere, educators can ensure effective collaboration by implementing various strategies. First, integrate 21st-century skills into staff professional development as a precursor to growing these competencies in students. Train the teachers to fully comprehend and implement teaching practices that support collaboration. Also, focus on the learning space and design the layout that encourages teamwork. Finally, create and integrate learning activities to nurture cooperation and help learners see the significance of collaboration in meeting the challenges of a constantly-changing world.