23 July 2014

#MOEDCHAT Blog Challenge #3 - The Importance of Student Collaboration

Rather than trying to write and convince that giving students opportunities to collaborate was critical to team building, problem solving, and soft skills (or the like), I decided to this week use the research tool embedded in Google Documents (bonus points for following this tutorial to learn how you can, too) and see what 5 others had concluded:

1. When teaming up for web searching, students find information faster and make fewer errors in judging relevance of search results.
Lazonder, Ard W. "Do two heads search better than one? Effects of student collaboration on web search behaviour and search outcomes." British Journal of Educational Technology 36.3 (2005): 465-475.

2. Student collaboration is critical in any constructivist approach.
This literature review from 1996 is so basic its genius. We have so many layers of technology available to us now that its easy to lose sight of the real power behind their utility.

“Online communication presumes that students can communicate, that is, that they
can meaningfully participate in conversations. In order to do that, they need to be able
to interpret messages, consider appropriate responses, and construct coherent replies.
Many students are not able to engage in cogent and coherent discourse. Why? Because,
most students have rarely been asked to contribute their opinions about topics. They
have been too busy memorizing what the teachers tell them.”
Jonassen, David H. Computers in the classroom: Mindtools for critical thinking. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1996.

3. The ways we structure student collaborations is not be be careless. 1 + 1 may equal -3 in some cases with the wrong pairings.
Peer collaboration is a critical component to reaching learners in their “zone of proximal development” by taking advantage of pairings with “more competent peers,” but this paper investigates groupings in which the more competent peer’s opinions did not prevail, so both students actually regressed.

4. Students who collaborate in study groups keep up better with material, have more opportunities to verbally practice the language of academic discourse, and garnered and gave feedback through critique and conversation of reading materials.
When students cram, even in groups, they may share some of the work load, but they lose out of the social, collaborative growth they could gain from discussing the content.
Lazar, Althier M. "Who is studying in groups and why? Peer collaboration outside the classroom." College teaching 43.2 (1995): 61-65.

5. The “cognitive surplus” or extra design and intelligent energy we contribute in our free-time make large-scale, global projects possible.
+Clay Shirky is betting on the idea changing the world as information is democratized and everyone has access to information no single person could accumulate, curate, or disseminate.

What does that mean for students? When students are collaborating and sharing, that “one kid” who decides to do a little extra research because they were curious benefits the whole group's expanded understanding.

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Thanks for sharing!