Quality Collaboration Strategies
Designing group work that allows for quality collaboration is a challenging task. Many teachers rely on how they were taught, where each student has a specific role such as time-keeper, or note-taker. The book Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom by Elizabeth G. Cohen explores group roles, how these roles can engage all students, and many other aspects of group work.
When considering group roles, the book discusses that the traditional method of assigning a different role to each student isn’t the most effective way for groups to run. As a traditional example, one student might be tasked with keeping track of time, and another student might be tasked with keeping notes. However, aren’t these skills (note-taking and time-keeping) important for all students? Shouldn’t all students have the opportunity to practice these skills?
Instead of assigning each student a different role, all students should be responsible for participating in all roles. One student can be tasked as the “time-reminder”, reminding students to keep track of time. Another student can be tasked as the “note-checker”, to check that all students are taking their notes throughout the activity. These types of roles are better suited so that not only are all students practicing all relevant skills, but they also are being reminded by their peers about staying on task.
If you are looking to improve how you run group work in your classroom, I highly suggest reading Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom. They not only offer ideas on many other areas of group work, but the author also provides many activities that work to directly strengthen the collaboration skills of students in class.