Collaboration is a skill necessary not only for college and career readiness, but also for day-to-day learning in a project-based and student-centered classroom. Facilitators should remember that collaborative skills must be intentionally scaffolded through teaching and practice before being assessed.
Many of us tend to believe collaboration is a static skill: you either have it or you don’t. In reality, we know that students can grow in their collaborative skills if they receive developmentally appropriate scaffolding. Teachers should define the indicators of collaborative skills; provide structured opportunities for students to collaborate; support student collaboration with tools and resources; and provide structures for students to set goals on and reflect on collaborative skills.
Indicators of Collaborative Skills
Collaboration is actually a set of skills, behaviors, and ways of thinking. These skill indicators are outlined in the NTN Collaboration Rubrics available for elementary, middle, and high school students. Teachers can use each skill indicator to define and describe collaborative skills in their classrooms. Tip: choose 1-2 skills from the NTN Collaboration Rubric to focus on in each project.
Structures for Student Collaboration
Teachers can utilize student-centered practices and protocols to structure student collaboration. Jigsaw, Text Discussion Protocol and Socratic Seminar are a few great practices from the NTN Learner-Centered Practices Card Set that you can try.
Another great place to get help for supporting Collaboration skills are the Collaboration Cards Learning Outcomes Card Set. There are numerous suggested protocols and activities for the classroom that help scaffold Collaboration skills.
Tools & Resources to Support Collaboration
When students are working in a collaborative group during a project-based learning unit, teachers should provide tools and resources that scaffold successful team collaboration. These might include:
- Team Contracts for outlining group norms and group roles
- Tools for project management:
- Project Management Log
- Online project management tools, such as Trello
- Kanban Boards (article from PBL Works)
- Staying on Task During Project Based Learning (video from Edutopia)
Collaboration Goal Setting & Reflection
Consider using a Bookend Lesson* to support students in setting intentions for collaboration, self-assessing their own collaborative skills, and reflecting on collaboration. Bookend Lessons are a useful structure for teaching both NTN Learning Outcomes and content knowledge in individual lessons.
*see Learner-Centered Practices Card Set for Bookend Lesson directions
Ongoing formative assessment of collaborative skills is important during a PBL unit. Teachers can use Collaboration Stamp Sheets for quick and easy feedback during team work sessions. Peer assessment can also plan a role in assessing collaborative skills; utilize the Peer Assessment Rubric tool in Echo to set up a peer feedback structure.
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