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Collaborative Teaching & Learning MOOC Learning Diary

European Schoolnet MOOC - 24/10/2016 to 27/11/2016

I teach English as a Foreign Language in a High School in central Italy. I have taught 11-13-year-olds for over 10 years and this is my first year in this school where I teach students aged 14 to 19. I'm addicted to European Schoolnet MOOCs since I learnt a lot in past professional development courses and I am gradually trying to adjust my teaching accordingly.

Module 1

What is collaborative learning?

UNESCO definition of collaborative learning

Collaborative Learning is a process through which learners at various performance levels work together in small groups towards a common goal. It is a learner-centred approach derived from social learning theories as well as a socio-constructivist perspective on learning. Collaborative learning is a relationship among learners that fosters positive interdependence, individual accountability, and interpersonal skills. For collaborative learning to be effective, teaching must be viewed as a process of developing students’ ability to learn. The teacher’s role is not to transmit information, but to serve as a facilitator for learning. This involves creating and managing meaningful learning experiences and stimulating learners’ thinking through real-world problems. The task must be clearly defined and be guided by specific objectives. Sometimes cooperative and collaborative learning are used interchangeably but cooperative work usually involves dividing work among the team members, whilst collaborative work means all team members tackle the problems together in a coordinated effort.

What do you understand collaborative learning to mean? In your experience of implementing collaborative learning in the classroom, have you witnessed academic achievement, student attitudes, engagement and retention being enhanced? What about the skills mentioned in the video – have you witnessed your students develop these as a result of collaborative learning?

I have often tried to get my students to work together and sometimes the results were not bad. However, most of the times it is more a form of cooperative learning, since they tend to divide the tasks among the members of the team. In doing so, they start making decisions and taking responsibilities. I think it is a first step in the right direction. I have also tried to have them give me feedback on their decision-making process, so that I can better understand the way they worked. Whenever I could, I managed to observe them while they were working in class. Unfortunately, limited, old-fashioned and technology-deprived school spaces are not helping, so they mainly work together outside of class hours.

What can I say? This is my ideal teaching space! My reality is very FAR from this example!

Have you ever carried out a similar exercise to the ‘circle time’ described in this video, where the teacher explicitly discusses with students how the group work went, what were the positive and negative aspects and what could be solutions for the future? If so, has this improved your students’ collaboration skills and have you seen evidence of this in collaborative work carried out afterwards? The teacher states that ‘Technology becomes useful in class especially when collaborative practices are used’. Do you agree, and why?

I certainly agree on the use of technology. It is a tool which becomes useful it there is an effective pedagogical plan underlying its use. As to the circle time, I have never used it myself but I have used other forms of activities stimulation reflection, peer assessment and self-assessment.

In your experience of collaborative learning, is behavior management and getting students to stay on track a challenge? Do you agree that assessing collaborative learning is particularly difficult, and what are your experiences of this? How do you monitor teamwork? Do you find the ways mentioned in this video (e.g. through self and peer assessment) useful? What about the online tools mentioned?

I think Anna has perfectly nailed the challenges collaborative activities pose. I have tried using rubrics to assess collaborative learning but I admit the part where I have to assess collaboration and social skills is the hardest. You can only monitor teamwork if it's completely done in class, but you can partly rely on feedback provided by the students which can be free or teacher-guided. Teaching the students to assess themselves and their peers is both a learning goal and a helpful resource to understand the learning process. It is one of the most difficult goals to achieve, though.

Module 1 Learning Activity

Useful Reading Materials

Additional materials

Cooperative Learning - The Jigsaw Method

Module 2

Designing collaborative learning activities

Collaboration Questions

What do you think of the 4 major questions presented by Professor Deirdre Butler? Are they useful in helping you design a collaborative learning activity? Have you asked yourself these questions before when designing collaborative learning activities?

I think Professor Butler's questions make up a really useful checklist in designing collaborative activities and they certainly focus on the main challenges they pose. I have often reflected on the actual degree of collaboration of my students when we have groupwork. As many peers have previously pointed out, I think everyone of us has witnessed, at least once in their professional career, the unbalanced work of a group where one or two members end up doing all the work and the others simply wait to get it over with or get credits with little effort. It would be fundamental to change the way we design activities so as to reduce this risk and engage as many learners as possible to be active participants.

Collaborative Learning Scenarios

Check out the scenario template and 6 example scenarios in the resource section of this module. What do you think of the template? What do you think of the example scenarios? Do you find them inspiring? Can you see how you might adapt some scenarios to create collaborative learning activities for your own context? What do you find useful or less useful about these scenarios?

I first met the CCL Learning Scenario when I took the Future Classroom MOOC a couple of years ago. It has really affected the way I design my activities in class. I cannot honestly say that I have achieved all my goals; I still struggle when trying to implement some new ideas, for many different reasons. But the important thing is that I have been moving in the right direction and I could not have done anything without this benchmark. This framework can be followed exactly as it is or can be slightly changed according to one's context or needs, but it certainly provides a solid ground on which to move forward.

Module 2 Learning Activity

Use the 21CLD framework and rubric to assess at what level the two learning activities you reflected on in Module 1 are at. In your Learning Diary identify the codes (from 1 to 5) which best reflects the collaborative learning in your learning activities. Has using the rubric made you change your mind about whether the activities you wrote about in module 1 represent low/high levels of student collaboration? Explain why this is, or is not the case in your Learning Diary. Explain what is useful about the rubric and how has it helped you understand collaborative learning better, and how you intend to use it in the future.

I think I had correctly assessed the actitivites as I would give a code 2 to the first one (low level of collaboration) and at least a code 4 to the second. The rubric is certainly helpful to check that the activity has been accurately designed and to assess collaboration.

Module 3

Assessing collaborative learning

The videos shown are all interesting and stimulating and I'll certainly learn something from all of them. Personally, as an Italian EFL teacher I found Anna's work inspiring and I agree with everything she says about the difficulties we meet and the problems we face daily, while trying to implement these activities.

As to the tools, I have often used Padlet and Google Docs for collaborative activities. My classes regularly use Edmodo, although it takes a little bit of time at the beginning. My next step is introducing the idea of e-portfolio because I want my students to document what they do and to use it also as a reflective journal.

Source: http://www.simplypsychology.org/likert-scale.html

Dr. Luis Valente suggests self and peer assessment can help students to move away from seeing teachers as the only source of judgement about the quality of their learning, thereby helping them to become more independent learners. Do you agree, and what are your experiences of this? He also notes that research shows that self-assessment combined with peer assessment reduces the trend for ‘friendship dependency’, ‘benefit of the dominators’ and ‘benefit of parasitism’. Does this match with your experiences? What do you think of assigning a percentage weight to individual assessment as part of the summative assessment related to collaborative work? Any other thoughts on Dr. Valente’s suggestions?

I have no experience in the combination of self-assessment and peer assessment at the moment. I have never managed to finalise both in my past activities. I'm presently working with students who are not used to working collaboratively and I have just started by introducing assessment rubrics. In the last one I used, I assigned a percentage weight to individual assessment because I thought it was beneficial for improving students' commitment but also because a part of the learning outcome was strictly linked to individual performance.

Module 4

How can teacher collaboration facilitate collaborative learning?

Do you agree that not all teachers have the required skills to take advantage of digital technologies? Reyhan mentions social media networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as particularly useful spaces for teacher collaboration and professional learning. What are your experiences of social media networks for teacher collaboration and professional learning? What emerging digital technologies are you aware of that can help teachers collaborate more efficiently?

I love working in collaboration with other teachers, both locally and internationally. I've always worked together with my colleagues at school, then some years ago I started working with a US teacher through Edmodo, then with other European partners through e-twinning. For professional development, I have always appreciated the opportunities provided by technology. Thanks to social media such as Twitter or LMSs such as Edmodo I had the great luck of learning from the best teachers all over the worls, some of them (Barbara, Stella Maris, just to name two) are here, following the same course. My PLN is in continuous expansion.

Skills teachers need to collaborate

Lesson Plan

I'm sorry but due to lack of time I couldn't add the rubrics, check-lists and questionnaires I intended to attach. I'm going to work on them as soon as I have more time... sigh!

Fantastic Learning Diaries from course participants

Collaborative Learning Tools

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