The strategic plan for Wake County Public School System, the school district I work for, includes an emphasis on the 4 Cs ~ collaboration, critical thinking, communication and creativity. At my school site, we recently held some differentiated training for teachers focused on collaboration.
I was tasked with instructing the teachers that considered themselves proficient in this area, so my challenge was to offer them some ways to push their practice even further. My group included three of our elementary special education teachers, a middle school health/PE teacher, STEM coordinator, several middle school teachers and a couple of upper elementary school teachers, therefore it was important for them to be able to discuss their work related to the topic.
To begin the discussion, I asked the teachers to talk about the following questions:
Some of the qualities they noted…
- ask questions
- engaged in learning
- show confidence
- actively listen
- open to ideas
- communicate effectively
- absorb information from each other
I shared rubrics offered by Buck Institute for Education on their website to give teachers some examples of collaboration rubrics at different levels. Note that the rubrics for grades 3-5 and 6-12 have two pages and include scoring for individuals and teams. The K-2 rubric is a great starter for all ages. I cover up the grade span before copying (because – well, you know why!) and use it with my students as a self-assessment at the start of the year. Later on, we move up to the 3-5 version. You can find these and other rubrics here.
With those ready-made rubrics in mind, we talked about the benefits of writing rubrics with students. It creates greater buy-in and gives them a clearer picture of what is expected for proficiency, and can be a very powerful learning tool.
Focusing on the WCPSS definition of collaboration (below), we looked at areas of assessment that could be used in a student-generated rubric. Note that these aren’t standards-based learning targets, but rather the habits we hope to instill in our 21st century learners. And really, how will your students know how to improve in these areas or if they’re meeting the mark without some discussion and guidance from you?
One final challenge I posed to the group was to try out some organizational tools to help give students opportunities to manage their learning in groups. These documents are from BIE, available in the Student Handouts section. The video mentioned on this slide is also very helpful.
How do you encourage collaboration in your classroom? What have you found to be the best ways to manage students/help them manage themselves when they collaborate?
*Click on the first image at the top of the post to access my presentation in full.