Trends in contemporary education theories promote skills and processes that foster criticality, creativity, communication and collaboration, alongside, written, visual and technical and numeracy literacies. These skills are said to prepare people for active citizenship –as participants and contributors - for highly competitive technological global societies and economies and equip learners for ‘life long’ learning.
Collaboration:: Rules for Engagement
Collaborative practices are considered transformational. Research indicates motivation, engagement, and participation are sustained when projects, teaching and learning environments and methods are collaborative.
Agency, and individual and group efficacy are promoted as collaborative practices encourage students to be active in their own learning, foster independence and interdependence through setting topics, goal and task setting.
Integration of digital and collaborative learning environments - networked communications, global flow of information, ease of access, global interactions
Knowledge and learning is understood as a social process; collaborations relies upon reciprocity, knowledge is constructed through interactions with others and through consensus decision-making.
Collaborations develop understandings of learning as a process and knowledge as constantly reforming.
Collaboration engages modes of narrative story-telling and is responsive to the diverse community of learners, their: different styles of learning, mindsets, and identities and personalities.
Collaboration is culturally responsive – to Kaupapa Maori and Oceanic/Pacifika peoples practices, processes and knowledge’s (see: Bishop, 2003; Thaman, 2003).
Collaboration positions the educator as facilitator (vs directive instructor) and responsible for ensuring the conditions for collaboration are established and maintained.
As a process it builds things like personal and relationship skills, agency, citizenship and social responsibility
Prior to teaching in the formal education sector I worked in community based education. I belonged to a collective which worked with the principles of collaboration. Consensus decision-making and critical reflection were an integral aspect of the learning and teaching process. I am particularly drawn to examining how current literature on pedagogy makes sense of collaboration in formal higher level education contexts.
I learnt the value of experiential learning and active involvement. Participation through the exchange of the personal - past and present - knowledge fostered feelings of inclusion and validation. I learned that being challenged can be ground breaking for a reformulating of thinking, attitudes and levels of awareness. I found personal engagement was effortless because collaboration made for dynamic and engaging interactions between participants which was both energising and draining all at once.
CoCA + Critical & Contextual Studies :: Te Ao Hurihuri
In 2016 Critical and Contextual Studies looked to some major shifts in the delivery and content of CCS first year papers. Responsive to changing trends in education we considered how we might incorporate digital and collaborative learning into the paper.
Mindlab:: Digital & Collaborative Learning
As the person charged with co-ordination of the paper I also took on academic development. I was highly motivated by the challenge and realised I needed to broaden my own understanding of the use of technologies in education and confidently justify their pedagogical value in a CCS paper.
Reflections on 1st Iteration of Te Ao Hurihuri
Te Ao HuriHuri (2016) a critical inquiry project asked students to consider real world issues or concerns and select one they felt passionate about, were interested in, and/or committed to that would sustain them over a research period of four weeks. Students had to demonstrate critical and contextual understanding by applying analytical tools and concepts they had learned earlier in the paper to broaden their knowledge of the specific issues, consider social responsibility, activism, visual thinking, community, and citizenship. They worked individually and produced written and creative work (in any media including performance).
This project embraced digital learning in its uses of blog posting and the G+Community, Students were active participants in the G+ Community demonstrating a very productive Community of Learning with very good levels of sharing of resources, critical exchange and feedback on their topic, creative production, reflection, and presentations of artist or design statements that accompanied their final creative work.
This project had some very real strengths in terms of meeting the 4 x 'Cs', the specific needs of the student cohort enrolled in Creative Arts practices; students who were independent learners; educators committed to issues of citizenship and agency; graduate attributes; making explicit the links between creative production and critical and contextual thinking.
What do educators and learners understand by collaboration and what experiences have they had with collaborative processes?
This project considers two focus groups
Introduction: Literature I have encountered proposes that collaboration is often misunderstood and very often the practices are conflated with group work and cooperative processes which involve directed instruction from the educator. Project design and methods of instruction need to provide some options for a more ‘true’ form of collaboration.
For successful Collaboration to occur educators and students need to understand the principles of collaboration.
Problem: Many educators and students will have experienced and be well disciplined into 20th Century industrial modes of teaching and learning.
- Have understanding and experience of collaborative processes.
- Understand their role as facilitators in this process.
- Understand digital technologies as platforms through which collaborations can occur. For example online platforms such as the G+Community support the notion of learning communities (global), that build around a rich flow of knowledge and communication in networked environments. These environments have been important to ways of thinking, communicating and working with others.
The aims of this inquiry are to establish if student engagement and participation is increased in a modified version of the Critical Inquiry Project Te Ao Hurihuri. This project will offer students options to work individually or in a small group collaboration.
This inquiry considers notions of a community of practice as a site of learning where people come together through shared practices, so involves not just the dispersal and sharing of knowledge and information but also the gathering of information, data, ideas and experiences from students and tutors in order to expose problems, allay anxieties, examine underlying assumptions, and to consider revisions or a reformulation of the overall project in an effort to enhance student enthusiasm and motivation.
Learners: Formal and Informal Evaluations, Feedback and Reflections
Student responses are invaluable and their feedback is a key indicator for evaluating the project in line with their experience and engagement.
Learners will be required to complete as part of the project group individual reflections of their learning including:
- identifying problems and dilemmas they found with project and processes;
- suggestions for us to consider about how they think the paper might be modified
- how they might apply their learning to other areas of their study
- reflect on weekly discussions held by the group about their process
- informal discussions in tutorials - what transpires from tacit to explicit knowledge
- formal university paper evaluation- institutional requirement
Inquiring into Practice: Educator /Tutor Evaluations and Reflections
Methods for evaluating the project in terms of student engagement and participation will consider:
- Firsthand experience and observations of learner activity
- Discussion – moving from tacit to explicit knowledge about own encounters with the collaborative process including the critical reflections about their facilitation role
- Critical Reflections ¬– comparing approaches, learning from each other teaching/facilitation practice
- Sharing tutorial feedback from students – compare across student cohort
Extended research inquiry by consulting with colleagues including:
Educators from different parts of CoCA, academic advisors, Library educators, Centre for Teaching and Learning, Kaupapa Maori and Oceanic/Pacifika advisors and akonga support, researchers as well as critical friends.
Modification of Critical Inquiry Project (2017)
Te Ao Hurihuri Critical Inquiry Project (2017) will include an option for small group collaborations, but will otherwise remain the same in terms of its overall objectives. The collaboration group will evaluate group process in the form of a reflections and informal feedback- (weekly and summative). Each student will critically consider the collaborative process of the group, group learning alongside their individual role and their contribution to the overall group. The group will also collaborate to produce a group reflection that considers the collaborative process in terms of:
- The organisational and planning strategies used to keep the project moving and keep each other motivated
- The personal skills they used or/and think they gained in working this way
- Negotiation conflict
- Listening to different perspectives, ways of working that were in stark contrast to their own
- Some real advantages or disadvantages to working collaboratively, and if would they would consider working this way again in their study, or other areas of life.
- Recommendations would they make for improving the project
- Key responsibilities for tutorial staff will be to ensure the principles of collaboration are followed so in their role they monitor both themselves and the groups, alongside ensuring the progress of the project meets timeframe constraints
Collaboration takes into account::
- Different learning styles and Growth Mindsets
- Favoured ways of working
- Culturally responsive: Maori and Oceanic/Pacific akonga
- Self-determination, interdependence, independence and self regulation
- Graduate Attributes Toi – (Creativity), Mohio – (Virtuosity), Matauranga – (Understanding), Mana – (Autonomy), Whanaungatanga – (Connectedness)
Feedback Going Forward
Information gleaned from reflections and evaluations made by staff and students and collated statistical data from the Academic Registrar will contribute to the ongoing development of CCS papers.
- How did collaboration processes compliment students learning styles?
- What did they learn from the process they can take into other learning projects?
- In what ways did the tutorial team consider it contributed to the overall participation, engagement and learning of their tutorial group – broadly and more specifically the collaborative group?
- How did the tutorial team moderate their urge to break with facilitation and take a more directive role?
- How might collaboration be utilised in other CCS papers across different levels?
- How can we in formal education contexts take up Bishops (2003) idea that students are involved at every step of the curricula – project, project design, goal setting, tasks, assessment evaluation?
Potential Impact of Findings
Responds to the key questions raised in this inquiry that surround student engagement and participation, as well as achievement and retention
The benefits of undertaking a project is that it provides some evidence for the benefits of digital and collaborative learning in CCS.
Digital technologies are legitimised as pedagogical tools, especially in CCS paper where instructional modes are heavily weighted in favour of transmission styles of instruction and writing a primary mode of production
Sets in place collaborative initiatives for other CCS papers at various levels.
Other obvious findings will reveal how closely we are meeting our objectives in terms of our university strategic plans and policies, and meeting TEC and Ministry of Education guidelines.