Group Work Is Not Collaboration

My biggest “a-ha” in the past few month has been around collaboration.  Thanks to some awesome PD from our board, my ideas on collaboration have changed drastically.  

The change stems from a redefinition of collaboration.  The TCDSB is trying to push for collaboration as “interdependent work”.  If there’s any way one person can do a group assignment alone, then it’s not interdependent/collaborative.  The assignment is just an exercise in delegating work.  

The more that I sat with that idea, the more that I remembered this video that a colleague emailed me a few years ago.  (*NB: There’s a lot of swearing in here.  Skip it if bad language offends.) 

I really think that deep in this angry rant, there’s a point.  If the “collaborative” lesson can be done by one student, that’s just what might happen.  It may not be the best way to get students to work together.

Often when I approach a longer text with my 2s, I’ll get them to summarize with each other.  First this will happen by talking about the reading.  Eventually it will move into writing.  Summaries all get combined, and we have a concise version of the text to refer to during our lessons.

This is group work, not collaboration.

Yesterday we were going to do this for The Lorax.  However, instead of working together to summarize the story, I asked each of them to write or draw something on a sticky note that would remind them of their favourite part of the book.  When that was done, I split the class in half and asked each half to put all of their favourite parts in order.  

Beautiful interdependence.  

The groups needed each part in order to create a summary AND they needed to work together to get that summary in order.  The conversations that ensued were amazing.  When they were ready to share their summary, the other side of the class gave feedback.  They rearranged the positions of students that needed to be somewhere else.  I threw in my two cents too, but there was very little that needed to be said at the end of the acitivity.  

Neat.

This is not a “group project” like the one Luan was raging about, but maybe this is closer to the model that larger assignments should try to follow.

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