When a learning experience is designed with collaboration at its heart – alchemy happens.
This is true for most age groups but especially powerful in KS3&4. Tasks that lend themselves to collaboration are ones that require discussion and decision making – in short – challenge based learning tasks.
The big question is when and how often students are exposed to the opportunity to truly collaborate, to discover their hidden talents and skills in order to satisfy a task.
Recently, there was an opportunity to reimagine a transition point between Prep and Senior schools – in a meaningful and dynamic way. The nature of the day was to broadly introduce a wide spectrum of personalities to a new way of working in an unfamiliar environment. Combining a lot of unknown elements with the expectation that the students would overcome any barriers and rise to the challenge. This is a risky business when there’s 250+ students.
The ambitious plan was set in motion, the challenge was for groups of student to make a digital campaign about an environmental issue that they ‘cared’ about. Further, the students were placed into social groups (based on a house system) so that they would have the opportunity to make new acquaintances, for these to become an anchor in an undulating sea of unfamiliarity, once they started as newbies in the new term.
Make me care – this was the result of one group challenge. There were many examples of amazing, surprising and thought provoking work. I was amazed that the boys were able to sub divide the task so quickly, effectively identify their strengths and then going on to carry out their roles so efficiently. One boy chose, having been introduced that morning to a modelled version of a Keynote slide deck, to compile his own version with emotive images about climate change. A second and third boy worked on a collaborative Pages document to write a poem which turned into lyrics for a song, assisted by a third boy who put himself forward to sing the lyrics to a backing track created in GarageBand by the fifth member of the team. The end result was emotive.
This one stood head and shoulders above the others for a few particular reasons:
- These five students had never met or worked together before.
- They worked to a deadline ( approx. 2.5hrs of working time)
- They showed diligence and self belief in offering up their particular skill set. They were creative and collaborated at every stage in a supportive manner.
- They were mindful of the needs of the individual as well as focused on the final group outcome.
- They took risks, they dared to be different. They took ownership of their learning and took responsibility to do their role to the best of their ability.
- They were confident and unconstrained by what had come before and reimagined their response.
- The end product transcended expectations of their tutors but more importantly of themselves. They were proud and a little surprised by what they had produced… resulting in sustained, enthusiastic response of the audiences applause.
- They were left with the desire to have the opportunity to work in a similar way again, curious to discover new ways of sharing their learning and where this springboard would take them next…