Portrait of a Learner 9-12

Systems Change


Factor Connections

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Collaboration is the ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams. It involves the ability to exercise flexibility and make compromises to accomplish a common goal, along with a shared responsibility for collaborative work. It also includes the ability to express one's ideas, and listen to others' thoughts or needs. Collaboration can be influenced by various factors, including characteristics of the learner, the immediate and surrounding context, and the larger cultural setting and expectations. When students are able to learn with and from each other, they can strengthen their Social Awareness and Relationship Skills, thinking behaviors, and learning outcomes. When students are given opportunities for Collaboration and supported in the process, they learn to work together, communicate with peers to test out ideas, collectively reason, and think critically and creatively.

Main Ideas

Collaboration is a multifaceted skill that involves Communication with others, resolving conflicts, and managing tasks. When students are truly collaborating, they are not only working alongside one another (i.e., cooperating) but also working together towards the same shared goal. Learners who collaborate effectively engage in socially shared regulation of learning, where team members are held equally accountable and contribute equally to the work. By adolescence, students have all the tools they need to effectively collaborate towards shared goals, and research shows that by discussing diverse perspectives, peer Collaboration can lead to increased learning. Therefore, building Collaboration into classroom pedagogy may be particularly effective by high school. Educators can create inclusive classroom environments that foster Collaboration by providing scaffolding that allows learners across different skill levels and backgrounds to use their strengths while working and learning together. Meaningful inclusion supports students with diverse interests and abilities by allowing them to bring their own strengths, skills, and practices from home to the classroom, and to respect others' strengths and perspectives. To that end, keeping in mind that students who have language-based learning disabilities or ADHD often have difficulty gauging social cues is an important component of inclusion. In addition, while inattentiveness and impulsivity are often barriers to engagement for learners with ADHD, research has also found that even learners with ADHD who don't display perceived “behavior problems” are still often less engaged.

Socialization practices and cultural paradigms for learning together or dividing roles can contribute to differences in Collaboration that can in turn contribute to learners' Motivation to engage in peer Collaboration in the classroom. For instance, while social interactions are typically scaffolded in urban Western populations, children in Indigenous or farming communities may learn to collaborate through observation and active participation in daily chores and practices without much adult supervision. Therefore, it is important that educators consider cultural differences and culturally-specific social behaviors in their teaching practice, and aim to support students in experiencing positive emotions during Collaboration activities.

Creating an environment that fosters true Collaboration means ensuring that everyone feels comfortable, supported, and engaged and invested in the work. Educators can support engaged and collaborative learning in adolescents by intentionally varying the amount of presence they have and the level of support they provide when students are engaged in project-based tasks or discourse with peers. This encourages learners to ask questions and explain their thinking, to ensure everyone's ideas are seen, heard, and considered. Learners will have to listen as well as respond to what others in the group say and by doing so, figure out gaps in their knowledge. In high school, students and teachers increasingly incorporate technologies into Collaboration, giving rise to computer-supported collaborative learning, which supports the collaborative creation of content and Communication and can promote collaborative learning within and beyond the classroom walls.

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