A Helping Hand – Working Together

An approach to learning. A learning style. Currently evolving. The sharing of knowledge. Expressing views and ideas. Assisting and helping. Working together. Collaborative Learning.

Collaborative Learning is an ongoing and widely debated topic in Scottish Education and a learning style encouraged and discouraged. It is an approach to learning and a way of working together and sharing ideas, building on knowledge and, most importantly, enhancing children’s confidence in being social. However, as a practitioner, I am also aware that collaborative learning does not always have a positive impact on children’s learning and development.

Due to my ongoing collaborative practice in university classes, as well as having observed collaboration of between children in my placement, I find that working collaboratively can have the positive impact of enhancing confidence and building on knowledge. Working with others allows opportunity to gain an insight to other people’s ideas and ways of thinkingwhich in itself puts into practice communication skills we teach our learners…
– Listening
– Talking
– Turn-taking

“Jigsaw Learning”
– http://www.schoolsworld.tv/node/1247

I was unaware of just how interesting and helpful collaborative learning can be – the outcomes. However, after watching this video, my insight has been enhanced and I can relate it to what I have observed in practice.

“Jigsaw Learning”, as seen in this video, is an approach to learning which is active-based. Active Learning is an important approach the Curriculum for Excellence promotes and jigsaw learning encourages this. This is a learning style in which children participate in game-­like activities, working together. In Park Lane Primary School, seen in the video, the children demonstrate collaborative learning by researching and creating presentations on provided poems. This is an example of Jigsaw Learning, which places responsibility on the children and encourages equality of opportunity and teamwork as the research-based task is controlled by the group of children. As the groups alternate, the children develop socially, as well as sharing their knowledge.

Collaborative Learning allows the teacher and the children to be flexible and adaptable to every child’s stage of development. In this video, the children peer assess their work and if any corrections are required to be made, this follow ­up is done collaboratively. To encourage Collaborative Learning, in Park Lane Primary School, the children are seated at tables of mixed ability groups, which are changed every two weeks. This forces children to work together to overcome struggles or difficulties, which often encourages scaffolding to take place – children of higher ability can assist and support children of lower ability (Vygotsky, 1978). However, having seen this arrangement in my placement setting, I am aware that this can also have a negative effect on children’s confidence in using their voice with their peers, as, in some cases, their classmates are not the friends they are most comfortable in using their social skills with.

Not only has my awareness of Collaborative Learning been enhanced by this video, my understanding has developed of how Collaborative Learning works in a beneficial way for each individual child involved in the learning experience. For example, the children are assessing each others’ work, explaining their feedback. The outcome of this is that children understand areas to improve on, as well as recognising their next steps. Peer support is an important trait in working together which proves effective for many children, as it allows children to assist their peers in overcoming difficulties they may have reached themselves

children being the teachers at this time. 

Collaborative Learning works within the classroom between the teacher and the pupils, as well as pupil-to-pupil. In this video, the class teacher provides the children with an insight to their aims and targets for their stages of all curricular subject areas. The teacher shows the targets to the children in the class and following this, the children think of activities and tasks to carry out, to allow them to meet their targets. This allows the children to have an understanding of the content they are learning and, subsequently, having pupil-directed input of how they want to learn it. The children then peer-assess, making links to the success criteria and this allows each individual child to have an awareness of their progress and an understanding of areas of improvement.

One pupil in Park Lane Primary School, as seen in the video, explains,
“some people might not understand the work, but someone else might understand the work really well. I think it works really well because they can help each other”.

Working together, in pairs, small groups or larger groups, is a memorable experience for myself. I remember reading books in groups, throughout Primary School. I remember, paired-­reading, in which I worked with a younger pupil within the school, assisting her in reading. As well as the pupil developing her Literacy, it benefited myself and my social development.

I would best summarise my understanding of Collaborative Learning as the approach the Curriculum for Excellence takes of theorist Lev Vygotsky, that learning is a “social process” and learning is most effective when people are learning from each other. It is the group tasks which are the most memorable. Collaborative Learning is most important.

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