Welcome to Community and Collaboration!
What we’re thinking about
What methods might help foster community in the classroom? How do we develop collaborative assignments that are generative, fair, and fun? How might we rethink our goals and approaches to peer review? In this workshop, we will address these questions through the development of a collaborative assignment sequence/course unit for your class next semester. Though use of this assignment is (of course) optional, participants will leave this workshop with a concrete model for future collaborative assignments. (Led by Maggie.)
When we’re meeting
Friday, September 30, 2:00-3:00 in the WC Commons
Friday, October 7, 2:00-3:00 in WC Commons
Monday, Oct 10, 2:00-3:00 in TBA
What we’re doing
Taking our cues from active and problem-based learning–with an eye toward also understanding what our students will experience when we assign them a group project–our goal, outlined in this prompt, is to revise this sample assignment as a group.
To do this, first we’ll talk about past experiences with collaborative work.
Then, we’ll probably want to return to the prompt, figure out what we need to accomplish, and write up a task list and timeline for those goals.
At the end of the workshop, we’ll use a few different assessment tools to evaluate our group’s process and product.
Why we’re doing it that way
Problem Based Learning
While the jury is still out on whether problem-based learning (a pedagogical method which originated in medical schools where students are given a problem which they are asked to figure out how to solve) is especially effective for “recalled content knowledge” (Allen et al., 20011, p.25), PBL has been shown to cultivate positive student dispositions toward learning (Springer et al., 1999) and improves student engagement (Ahlfedt et al., 2005; Murray & Summerlee, 2007).
Where writing is involved in PBL, studies have shown that it improves student performance in content-based exams (Butler et al., 2001; Drabick et al., 2007; Stewart et al., 2010).
Experiential learning is often closely associated with internships and service learning in that this pedagogical method asks students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-life situations. This kind of work has been associated with improved academic performance and higher rates of graduation (Dundes & Marx, 2006) as well as motivation and skills development (Crowe & Brakke, 2008).
Why Learn Together? Group Work, Collaborative Learning, Cooperative Learning, Team-Based Learning
Group learning has been shown, not surprisingly, to help students develop the kinds of self-knowledge and social skills that are increasingly necessary in the workplace (Sedgwich, 2010). Ädel (2011) argues that interaction has become a key component of recent theories of how learning works, especially with regard to transfer, and indeed that these models find that “the establishment of a social context and group identity” are “central to the learning experience” (2932).
Group work has also been shown to help students “negotiate meaning, share ideas, collaborate, and reflect and report on learning experiences”(Allan, 2011). Likewise, group work helps students develop “greater self-autonomy and responsibility” (Bourner et al, 2001; Burdett and Hasite, 2009). More than this, one study found that the “problem-solving ability” scores were “significantly improved” compared to the control group (Kim et al., 2016) …pretty cool.
To avoid the pitfalls of group work–to help ensure that social interactions go smoothly and that everyone contributes somewhat equally–McInnis and Devlin (2002) suggest that the instructor provide some structure to groups (assigning group roles for example) and be as clear as possible about assessment and why a group activity is especially helpful for learning in the context of that assignment. Some studies suggest skills for managing difficult group dynamics do not, however, emerge on their own–instructors should give clear guidelines, help students learn about what makes for effective group work, and even intervene in problematic dynamics (Brutus & Donia 2010; Prichard et al., 2006). And faculty rarely teach these skills (Colbeck et al, 2002; Myers et al., 2009).
There is a lot of scholarly debate about what methods of assessment (individual, group, process, product) are fair and aid most in learning. For assessment, then, it seems like the best thing to do is work backwards from your goals and your courses’s overall assessment philosophy. Maybe? Like I said, there’s a whole lot of debate.
Despite these potential issues–which are, in any case, the same kinds of problems students will deal with in the workplace–there is a lot to recommend group learning. Figuring out how to work in a group is central to school, work, and life (Lizzio and Wilson, 2006; Noonan, 2013; Burdett and Hastie, 2009). And, overall, group work, team work, collaborative learning–learning together improves student achievement (Johnson et al, 2000).
I’m imagining that this project is a bit like experiential learning… but backwards… but not really…
The “real-life” situation of this workshop that we’re experiencing here, I think, is the real-life situation of the student, in your classroom, who’s been asked to engage in a collaborative writing project. By placing ourselves in this situation, experiencing what it might be like to be that student, I’m hoping that we’ll accomplish a few things:
First, a cool framework for collaborative assignments. Given the awesome potential of group work for learning and performance, I’m hoping that by putting our heads together, we can develop a really nice framework for future collaborative assignments we might want to design.
Second, to that end, I think by experiencing collaborative work, we’ll be better able to smooth out the kinks for next time. Having experienced it ourselves, we’ll be able to think through what else would have been helpful, what would have made the experience go smoother, or the product more awesome and do some good revisions.
Third, fun. Like… problem-based learning, which I think is basically what we’re doing here, is supposed to help increase not only learning, but engagement and positivity. (puttin all my cards out on the table here!) So… hopefully, this will be the most enjoyable way to spend our workshop time 🙂
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