Collaboration is not a Fancy Word for Group Work

Principals Pen Wednesday, 05 May 2021

In Living Faith’s Beliefs about Learning, we say that, amongst other things, we strive for our students to be effective collaborators.

It’s well documented that, more than any formal qualification, collaboration is one of the skills sought after by today’s employers. By instilling deep collaboration skills in learners at a young age, they are better equipped to thrive later in life.

But collaboration is not just about preparing children for the future; it’s also increasingly documented that collaboration helps learners thrive. By drawing on neuroscientific studies and reflecting on her own research, Professor Jo Boaler asserts that collaboration unlocks learning. Meanwhile, Professor Patricia Kuhl helps us understand why classrooms will be more successful if they adapt to the knowledge that learning comes from a social context. And Laal and Ghodsi, through the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, described major benefits of collaboration, including social (eg diversity understanding), psychological (eg self-esteem) and academic (eg critical thinking).

Collaboration can mistakenly be interpreted as a contemporary way of saying ‘group work’. Group work typically involves working with others, often with the purpose of completing a specific task. Collaboration, however, is the next level.

When people collaborate, they give and they receive, they prop up and they lean, they teach and they learn.

Collaborators invest time in mentoring their peers. They contribute to the learning of others. They don’t just bounce ideas off each other; they build upon each other’s ideas. No one ‘carries the can’, but everyone is fully invested in using their gifts to drive a shared vision and action authentic outcomes.

Rather than focussing on weaknesses amongst peers, collaborators focus on each other’s strengths, knowing that as one’s own strengths become even more refined, their weaknesses catch up. Additionally, genuine collaboration will see the weakness in one person constructively stimulated when that very weakness is viewed as a strength in a peer. Collaborators are certainly not superchickens. (Not sure what a superchicken is? Find out here!)

With genuine collaboration, students become more interactive, innovative, independent and interdependent.

Collaboration doesn’t come naturally to all students; it requires persistence. In the same way that we fall on multiple occasions before we successfully walk and in the same way that mistakes are an essential element to academic learning, it is to be expected that budding collaborators will make mistakes through experience. But we know that children need to journey through these mistakes and experiences – and their natural consequences – in order to learn and grow. Saint Augustine said, ‘The words printed here are concepts; you must go through the experiences’ and Mark Twain wrote, ‘If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.’ And so we excitedly and explicitly start the collaboration journey young.

Collaboration. This is what we want for our students. This is what we want for your child.

- Jane Mueller, Principal