Now the exam pressure is on to cram as much information into students’ heads as possible so they have the knowledge to pass exams, it seems that the art of discussion and collaboration skills are suffering.
In a recent experiment a group of teachers found that fitting in just 15 minutes of collaborative work a week was difficult. Yet when the kids are ‘released into the wild’ and have to acclimatise to the working environment, they will be expected to collaborate with colleagues.
Collaboration helps kids with:
Sharing information. These days students are more geared to sharing from their experiences on social media (the days of that protective arm around the book are long gone), but sharing information with a specific end in mind is the core of collaboration.
Discovering different perspectives. It’s usual that different people will see issues from a different viewpoint and sharing these will help all those involved to get a more rounded view of the issue.
Learning to work with others. This is something that most business models require and helping students to do this gives them an edge when they enter the working world.
More insightful information analysis. In order to arrive at the best possible outcome, all members of the group need to look at all the information available – and to collect additional information to ensure they have all the facts for consideration.
Improving critical problem solving. The process of problem solving using a collaborative approach usually delivers a better outcome than when it’s done in isolation. This means kids go through a more exploratory process when working in collaboration.
Understanding that everyone has value. Even the quieter members of the group have something to offer and often come up with an insight that would be overlooked by the more active people in the group.
Confidence building. Being part of a collaborative process helps to build confidence in children who are less likely to stand up and answer in class.
What can parents do to help?
Whilst you can’t change how your child is taught at school, you can help them to develop their collaboration skills. Involve them in family decisions, whether that is where to go on holiday, what car to buy next or which supermarket is the best choice for your family. Encourage them to listen, discuss, evaluate and make rational contributions.
Valuing their input and helping them to consider all aspects of the issue will help them learn the skills to work with others.
What organisations could they join where these skills can also be developed? Scouts or other young people’s groups, community projects or charity work (maybe volunteer as a family) are all opportunities to not only foster collaboration, but also to have fun.
As the song goes ‘it’s just another brick in the wall’ of learning, but a really useful one.