As teachers we know collaboration is needed to help students learn and to prepare them for certain future endeavors. There is an engineering program for Alaska Native students but most of our students who go have trouble because they do not offer tutoring and students are not used to real collaboration.
Most of the collaboration my students engage in, is the one person does the problem and helps the others complete the problem. They do not like to really collaborate. The engineering program wants students to already know how to collaborate before they get to college either for their college career or as a high school student involved in the summer program.
So how do we encourage true collaboration. I remember doing the thing with everyone getting a job and we'd work as a group that way butt even in high school I felt the whole process was kind of hinky and it didn't really teach us to work together. What helped teach it to us was when I had a teacher who asked us to be prepared to justify the answers we got. We had to be prepared as a group and we ended up debating so much in Math. I think this helped foster true collaboration.
I have the Kagan Books for various math classes but I need to extend the material so students actually work together rather than expect to tell them if each answer is "correct". It still falls comes down to how do you help high school students develop into collaborative learning units. I prefer the term collaborative learning unit to collaborative group since it indicates a more specific focus.
For those who want to create collaborative learning units, here are a few things to help do that.
1. Keep groups to between 4 and 5 members.
2. Use collaboration when introducing new material.
3. Break up the material into chunks so each group is responsible for presenting that bit. Or use a version of Jigsaw puzzle here.
4. Change the mindset of students when using technology. Use the technology to help encourage and develop collaboration, rather than using it for only internet research. Set up Google Docs for instance.
5. Enable students to teach each other as part of the collaboration.
6. Build in accountability. Have the group work on the assignment together but collect only one piece of work (teacher's choice) to grade for the group.
7. Set up the room to encourage collaboration.
I like suggestion number 6 because it creates accountability in a way that the students do not know whose paper will be corrected. So I have some work to do this summer to prepare to encourage collaboration in my classroom next year. I'd love to hear from people on their experiences.