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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds So learning is a social activity. Life is a social activity. Our greatest achievements have normally been done with other people. Let’s think of the Hadron Collider, or the unravelling of the human genome, many of the discoveries that we’ve made, our ability just to get along with our family members, all those people we work with. This is homo collaboratus. This is what we do– or collaborata, maybe, if we’re talking to girls. So there’s no argument that if school is to prepare young women for life, then they need– it needs, we need, to help young women get better at collaborating. As to how you do that, it starts at the very top.

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 seconds So it starts with the culture of the place, the culture of the school, not just the classroom, but the corridors and everything about the school. So we need to model to all the students that we value collaborative working. We need to talk about it. We need to have rewards for those who do it well. We need to have displays of work that aren’t just done by one person. We need to think beyond the school netball team, the school dance group, the school play, all those areas of the arts and sports where collaborative work is often celebrated. And we need to ask ourselves the question, so that’s all fine.

Skip to 1 minute and 30 seconds But how does an individual student get the message that if they’re going to be graded for their own individual work, it’s still a really helpful thing to collaborate with others? So one of the messages they need to hear is that if they collaborate with others, they will do better. By the way, the evidence for this is really strong. So however you would report yourself and whatever level of ability currently you’re at, you would do better if you collaborate thoughtfully. The particular aspect of the collaboration– we’re now coming right down to a micro strategy– is how you give and receive feedback. How do you work with others in a group? And how do you give and receive feedback?

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 seconds And those two core skills, I think, need to be taught. It’s quite rare in a school to teach children how to give and receive feedback, what language to use, how to be kind, how to be precise, how to be specific, how to be forward-centred. As well as that, we need to surround our learners with methods, if you like, pedagogies that encourage collaborative working. So we often ask for an answer. And rather than it being a hands up, or looking for somebody who’s going to answer individually, we’re inviting them to turn to their neighbour or to work in threes before they say, or before they say what the group thinks about something.

Skip to 2 minutes and 48 seconds At the teaching and learning method for a whole period of work, or a lesson, or a series of lessons, we’re going to be using peer teaching, peer learning. We’re going to be using collaborative and cooperative learning strategies, things like inquiry led learning. We’re going to be using some of the tools like Edward de Bono’s thinking hats. We’re going to be looking at some of the work that you can take from management thinking, Belbin is a good example where we can remind learners that you play different roles in groups. So you need people who keep the time. You need people who keep us on task. You need people who go off and investigate things.

Skip to 3 minutes and 26 seconds So we need to flood the system with a sense of although, ultimately, when you leave school, yes, it’s true you do get a set of exam results and they’re not our results, they’re your results. Your results will be better if you’ve been collaborative along the way. And your results are just the beginning of your real life journey. And you’re going to have to collaborate. People will be interested in your results. But they’ll really be interested in what it’s like to be with you when you’re faced with a tricky situation, and you’ve got to work together.

Skip to 3 minutes and 56 seconds So if we’re going to be kind, and I think it’s a moral duty, by the way, if we’re going to really help young women get on in the world, we absolutely have to equip them to be first rate collaborators.

Learning as a social activity

In the previous step, you were introduced to the idea that collaborative learning is an effective approach to learning for girls. In this video, Professor Bill Lucas discusses the idea that learning is a social activity and explores the implications of this.

Watch the video, then discuss the following question in the comments.

Do you agree with Professor Bill Lucas’ assertion that we have a ‘moral duty to equip girls to be first rate collaborators?’

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This video is from the free online course:

Girls' Education: Teaching Strategies That Develop Confidence, Resilience and Collaboration

Girls' Day School Trust