Deeper Learning Blog Series: How to Integrate Deeper Learning into Your Classroom (4 of 6)

Student collaboration is an integral social aspect of Deeper Learning. As Dr. Tim Hudson writes in his recent white paper, Algebra Readiness through Deeper Learning in Middle School: How Teachers Can Empower Students to Achieve with Confidence, this competency promotes higher-level thinking and cultivates an environment of acceptance. How does it differ from the strategies surrounding Effective Communication, which I covered last week? I’ll answer that question and more below.

Competency 4: Collaboration

2Collaboration fosters cooperation, listening, accountability, and acceptance—important life skills that benefit every student. In order to properly collaborate, students must be taught how to actively listen and negotiate in positive ways that prepare them for their future endeavors and careers. In the ideal classroom, small groups of students exchange high-level concepts and every individual positively contributes, gives appropriate feedback, and takes accountability for their role as a member of the team. This ideal becomes a reality when students are taught the expectations of collaborative learning through conversation and modeling. Moving students into small groups is the easiest way to encourage initial collaboration, and practicing collaborative strategies throughout the year propels students forward.

Strategy: Practice and Reinforce Effective Communication

Teaching collaboration can be as simple as modeling effective communication strategies. As a teacher, I would lead by example through listening and responding respectfully. Try asking your students to explain what active listening looks like and practice strategies (making eye contact, nodding one’s head, and paraphrasing the interaction before responding) to help them hone the skills they have used in the past. Of course, it is key to practice these skills frequently, even when talking about weekend plans or homework questions—to uphold the expectation of collaborative learning as a required element in your classroom. I would also encourage my students to ask open-ended questions and offer suggestions on how to respond with constructive criticism when they disagreed. This fosters appropriate communication, especially for small group participation. For example, my middle school students did not require roles for each small group discussion, but I insisted they remain comfortable with the idea of being a focused member—as a strategy to reinforce expected behavior of working and
learning together.

Strategy: Honor and Understand Multiple Points of View

Math educators continually encourage students to use different methods to find the same result. Having students share their unique ideas with the class is important, but it is equally important for everyone to respect different perspectives. Students should be encouraged to listen carefully before responding, as active listening changes minds and opens new avenues to learning. In my classroom, I encouraged students to disagree, but to do so by positively restating what the other student shared, followed by a thoughtful rebuttal—to help cultivate an environment of collaboration so that everyone felt heard and respected, even if they weren’t agreed with. It fostered healthy conversation and collaboration.

Collaboration can be implemented into any classroom with students of any age. As a teacher, it’s important to empower your students to work together in learning this valuable skill for Deeper Learning. Students will be preparing themselves for their future lives and careers by learning social skills to communicate effectively with each other and accept differing ideas. Need to catch up on previous Deeper Learning Series blog posts? You can read them all here.

Read rest of the series

Kelly Urlacher

Curriculum Designer at DreamBox Learning
Kelly Urlacher began her career as a sixth grade teacher in Sammamish, WA in 2002. Shortly after, she received her Master’s in Education with an emphasis in Technology and Curriculum Development. After years of dedicating herself to students and education within the classroom, she earned her National Board Certification in 2009. Kelly currently works as a Curriculum Designer for DreamBox Learning and continues tutoring high school students in mathematics.