Supporting collaboration with technology
Collaborating with others can help pupils to develop, challenge and elaborate on their ideas, building understanding. However, collaborative learning, or group work, can also be highly ineffective if done badly, and often achieves worse outcomes than allowing pupils to work individually. So what are the conditions for effective collaboration and how can technology help us to create them?
What is your goal?
First of all, it’s useful to consider the reason for encouraging collaboration at the point in pupils’ learning you’re choosing to implement it. What do you want it to achieve? How will it further pupils’ learning? Does it help you to assess learning, perhaps? Might students learn more working individually or does collaboration mean that pupils can support one another’s thinking and practice? Never do group work ‘for the sake of it’.
Creating conditions for learning
Structured group work has yielded strong results in trials when both of the following are in place:
- Group goals - the aim of the task is clear and the activity is purposeful
- Individual accountability - each student has a clear role in contributing to the overall team success, so there are no ‘passengers’.
The Ringelmann effect tells us of the tendency for individual members of a group to become increasingly less productive as the size of their group increases. Pairs and threes could be a good aim for group size.
The role of technology
Technology can enable collaboration and group work at a distance, for example through the use of collaborative tools such as Google Docs or Microsoft OneNote for project work. An advantage of this kind of tool is that it is easy to track individual contributions and monitor progress towards goals, helping to reduce the risk of uneven contribution from team members. It can also be used to help give pupils who are sometimes quieter a voice, as can be seen in the next step.
Once you have read this article and made any notes to record key learning points, click the ‘Mark as complete’ button below and then select ‘Next’ to learn how technology can help pupils develop their understanding through dialogue.
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