Easing the Pain of Student Collaboration

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One of the most valued skills employers are looking for in an employee is the ability to collaborate. This doesn’t just mean being “nice,” it means being able to be part of a productive and efficient team that gets the job done. And while a significant amount of adult time is devoted to teaching very young kids the basics of playing well with others, as students enter into middle and high school, little attention is given to developing a student’s ability to collaborate. At the same time, every teacher has experienced the pain that comes with student collaboration. Whether it’s one student doing most of the work, several students complaining about a “slacker” who’s not doing anything, high achieving students (or their parents) complaining about group grading, or your own frustrations with trying to determine who did the work and has mastered the content, doing collaborative projects with students can often seem harder than just keeping the kids in rows quietly doing their individual assignments. One of the best strategies is establishing team contracts. Whether you provide a template or let the students create one from scratch, the contract should reflect the best thinking of the team. It is important that the task of creating a team contract not feel like an arbitrary or perfunctory task. Rather, students should know that they are in charge of defining how their group will work together and they can agree to add whatever they feel is necessary to achieve success. You will find, over time, that some students get very good at writing contracts that hold everyone accountable to a high standard. Read more