Collaborative teaching and learning Nicola Spoto's learning diary

Module 1

1.1 What is collaborative learning?

Collaborative Learning is a process through which learners at various performance levels work together in small groups toward a common goal.

It is a learner-centred approach. 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.

Q 1.1 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 always been quite skeptical about collaborative learning because in my experience it means dividing the class in groups and giving them a task. But when I did so, there were always few students who worked on the task and many others that weren't focused on it. The problem is that I don't really know how to manage this method!

As it happens in real life, when you work together with you peers sharing ideas and facing problems, you learn much better and with more gratification then when you face a problem alone. Moreover, collaboration enhances interpersonal skills, which are very useful nowadays.

I'm not an expert about collaborative learning so I haven't witnessed how much this methodology can improve my students' skills. By the way I hope to use this kind of teaching approach very soon!

Q 1.2 Is your classroom set-up flexible and interactive like the one shown in the video? Without necessarily having access to flexible classroom furniture, has the video inspired you to see how you might make your classroom environment more collaboration friendly? What about the technology and online tools used by the students; have you used these with your students and have they effectively facilitated collaborative learning?

Unfortunately in my school there aren't classes set up like the classroom shown in the video: this is discouraging if you want to give your students collaborative tasks. They have to move desks and chair in order to arrange groups of tables. In this case they do a lot of noise and they spend too much time in it, also because collaborative activities are pretty unusual for them. They consider them as a waste of time, an occasion to chat with their peers.

I think that if collaborative activities were more frequent, my students would be more focused on the task and on the goals to achieve. In order to make the school more collaboration friendly, it could be useful to choose one single classroom where to arrange tables in groups of four/five. We have some digital white boards, so we could put one of them in this class. In my opinion, laptops and tablets are vey useful if you want your students to search for and share information: there are so many online tools they can use and these tools are very user-friendly.

The key point is to make your students used to these kind of activities and digital instruments as well as to know, as a teacher, what kind of competence you want to develop in your students.

Q 1.3 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 haven't ever used the "circle time", but I often discuss with my students about what the pros and the cons are in the tasks they have realized. For example, during the correction of their homework, students reflect on what mistakes they did and how it would have been possible to avoid them.

These moments when students give each other some advice about how to improve are important in order to foster students' collaboration skills.

I agree with the idea that technology is very useful in association with collaborative practices. First of all students help each other in using digital tools: in every group there is someone more expert and someone less. On the second hand students can work collaboratively also at home using Google docs, for example and sharing their ideas in a virtual classsroom they have created. Last but not least, giving feedbacks becomes easier for the teacher too

Q 1.4 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?

My students are quite motivated and, even if they are not used to collaborative learning activities, usually they follow teacher's instructions. So I don't think that in my school it would be difficult to cope with students engaged in collaborative practices.

But it would be quite demanding to keep them on track and to check every single step of teamwork, especially with students that need more help. Online tools can be useful, but this kind of work needs a lot of time to be done: in order to give a feedback to every group the teacher has to work a lot at home!

In my opinion, assessing collaborative learning is difficult too. In collaborative activities you have to evaluate the team work, but as an Italian teacher I am asked to give a mark to every single student too.

The answer to this problem could be using observation grids to evaluate interpersonal skills and team's collaboration: I know that Rubrics is a very useful resource. In addition to this, students should have the opportunity of expressing their impressions about the pros and the cons of their work. In order to evaluate what information students have learnt i think that oral and/or written tests could help.

To sum up, the final mark should take into account the final product, how the team worked and what every member of the team has learnt in terms of academic content.

Q 1.5 Have you experienced similar or different difficulties in collaborating with teachers, and if so why? Do you, like the teacher in this video, find it difficult to guarantee the quality of the collaboration that takes place between your students? What about the uneven efforts made by individual group members resulting in frustration for some students when it comes to assessment of the whole group?

Italian teachers are not that good at working in team, so it is not always easy to work together. We haven't been trained to do that! This is why I think that collaborative projects have to involve teachers with good interpersonal skills: if you want to teach your students collaboration, you have to be good at it!

Some techniques such as the jigsaw strategy could be useful in order to guarantee the quality of the collaboration between students.

In my opinion is not fair giving every single member of the team the same mark even if they haven't done the same kind of job and have displayed different level of collaboration or engagement in the activity. Evaluation of a collaborative activity should always take into account not only the quality of the collaboration and of the process, but also the personal contribution of every single student.

Observation greeds could be a useful tool in order to evaluate students' level of collaboration and how the team worked together; oral or/and written tests should be used to assess academic content learning of every member of the group.

1.6 Module 1 Learning Activity. Reflect on some recent learning activities you have carried out with your class in the past year, which have included some level of collaboration, and follow these steps: Select two of these learning activities; one which you think required a low level of collaboration from students, and one which you think required a high level of collaboration from students. In your Learning Diary, describe each learning activity in no more than 300 words, clearly outlining the aspects related to student collaboration. In your Learning Diary, explain why you think each activity requires a low or high level of collaboration from students.

A low level of collaboration is when teacher divides the class in groups, but the activity is not completely learner centered. In this case, the teacher gives the students different tasks and guides them in planning every single step of the activity and/or provides them with the information they need. There is a low level of collaboration when students are not requested to negotiate and to reach an agreement between each other, too.

In my class a low level of collaboration activity is when students are asked to do latin grammar exercises after my explanation of a new grammar rule. They work in pairs reading the manual and doing some fill-in-the-gaps exercises. They help each other in finding the missing word; they do not to have to negotiate anything because the right answer is only one and the exercises are very simple, but they share their ideas. This kind of activity usually takes 30 minutes and it is the teacher who decides when to start and to end it.

On the other hand there is a high level of collaboration when students plan autonomously the activity and decide their roles. A high level of collaboration implies the realization of something new and a high degree of negotiation. Students share ideas, take decisions, plan every step of the activity by themselves. The job of every single member of the group is vital for the teamwork and the final goal can be achieved only if every participant to the activity does what the others are expecting from him.

In my class this happened last year, when my students where divided into groups in order to realize an exhibition of ancient greek vases. They had to collect information about the vases' techniques and to study the age when the vases were realized. Then they thought about how to display them in the showcases and how to present to the public the results of their research. In this case I, as a teacher, have played only the role of facilitator of the activity giving the students all the responsibility of their decisions.

MODULE 2

Q 2.2 Do you agree about the importance to have a shared language concerning what we mean by collaborative learning? Do you agree that having collaborative skills is not a personality trait and that you can design learning activities to develop these skills in your pupils? Professor Butler mentions that ‘Technology can support new pedagogies that focus on learners as active participants with tools for inquiry-based pedagogies and collaborative work spaces’. Do you agree, and what are your experiences of this?

It is very important to share the same language, especially in education: your students have the right to understand what you expect from them. Only if it is clear, they can improve. Moreover "collaboration" is one of those words whose meaning is only apparently plain and clear: every single person tends to have a strictly personal point of view about this concept. So in my opinion the teacher must clarify what the main aspects of collaboration are and it is vital to explain what collaboration is and what it is not. But there should be an agreement about what collaborative learning is also among the teachers. Otherwise the inputs they give their students could be contradictory. In order to have a shared language, teachers should carefully plan the collaborative learning activities together and negotiate what they mean about collaboration before starting any collaborative activity in their class.

I think that some people are more inclined to collaboration than other ones. But I do think that you as a teacher can improve your students' interpersonal skills, too. If your students are frequently asked to work together in a proper way, even a not so collaborative person can improve and learn how to effectively work with others. In order to teach this kind of skills, in the beginning the teacher should frequently give feedback about how collaborative his students are during the learning activities. It is very important to give the students the opportunity to assess their behaviour and to critically reflect about it. Evaluation grids of collaborative skills, self assessment and peer assessment are key points, in my opinion.

In learner centred activities, technology can play a vital role because digital tools can stimulate the interaction between the learners, and the teacher and the learners too. There are so many virtual learning spaces you can use (Edmodo, Moodle and so on). In addition to this, students can find new information very quickly searching the Net, but they have also to evaluate the quality of new information. So inquiry-based activities lead to an improvement in critical thinking. Last but not least using online tools students can manipulate information in order to create some new product (videos, presentations, etc.). They usually find very stimulating these tasks and thanks to them they get a deeper comprehension of academic content.

Q 2.3 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 these questions are fundamental in order to plan really cooperative acitivities. Till now, when I tried to use a collaborative approach in my class, I was always disappointed by the fact that in every team there was a leader, who did eveything, and many passive students, who didn't work enough. Now I realized that the problem was that I hadn't a clear view of what collaboration is and therefore I wasn't able to make my students work in a collaborative way.

In my opinion, at the beginning of the learning activity it could be useful to explain to the students what a collaborative approach is, giving them some examples and some behaviour rules (in the group the work must be equally divided, decisions must be made together, when team members don't agree about something they have to negotiate a common solution, etc). Professor Butler said we can not expect our students work in a collaborative and interdependent way if they are not used to it. So in the beginning we have to guide them using self-assessment grids in order to make them aware if they are collaborating or not.

In addition to this, I have to admit that it's a great idea to express the key points of collaborative learning by asking some easy questions. For me, as the teacher, this is a quick way to check not only if I have planned carefully the activity, but also if my students are involved in really collaborative tasks or not. To sum up , answering these questions, teachers have a guide to plan the activities, students can understand if they are working in a collaborative way, teachers and students can assess and self-assess the entire learning activity.

Q 2.4 How useful do you find the rubric Professor Deirdre Butler explained? Do you think it is useful in helping you understand the type and quality of collaboration taking place in the learning activities you design? Have you used this or similar rubrics before to help you design collaborative learning activities? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of it?

In education every method that enhances teachers' and students' awareness in what they are doing is good. In my opinion this rubric is very easy to use, because it is simple and clear and it could be a means by which students can easily understand if they are working in a collaborative way or not.

Another aspect I find it interesting is the fact that this rubric is quite flexible: Professor Butler explained that is not necessary that every activity is coded at a 5. It depends on what you want your students to do or what the goal is. So an advantage of this rubric is that it could be used in many different activities, sometimes more sometimes less collaborative. This way either the teacher and the students will become familiar with it and the metacognitive process will be easier and quicker than using many different rubrics for activities that require different levels of collaboration.

On the other hand, a disadvantage of this rubric is that it should be declined better and other more specific criteria should be defined. For example: what does it mean "are the students working together"? Are the students working on the task together or do they divide the task in different activities that each one realizes on his own? Are they working together giving each other feedback or not? What kind of feedback are they giving each other? Are they sharing their idea taking into account others' suggestion or not?

Another risk in using rubric is that during the learning activity the teacher hasn't enough time to observe how every single team works. This is why it is useful enhancing self and peer-assessment in the class.

Q 2.5 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?

The scenario template is very interesting beacuse it forces the theacher to plan carefully the learning activity. I haven't ever realized collaborative learning activities in my classes till now, so I find it very reassuring to know in advance how to act in the class. The scenario template is a good starting point. I found very inspiring especially the Collaborative work and the Collaboration and assessment in group scenarios, which specify what teacher and students are expected to do in every single step of the activity: they are pretty general and they can be adapted in many different teaching and learning contexts. I think I will follow some of their suggestions!

In my experience, after dividing the class into groups, the team members don't know what to do: they start chatting and asking each other what the teacher expects from them. They spend their time without making any progress and in the end one student takes in charge of the entire work. To avoid these problems, it can be very useful to share the scenario template with students. This way students that are not used to a collaborative learning approach would have a guide in order to plan their work and to realize the task in a really collaborative way. I think that it could be a good idea to present the scenario template to students in the dream phase.

To be honest, I am pretty skeptical about the chance to interview experts outside the school even via online tools. It is not easy to find people that are eager to give students tips about how to research a topic! Sometimes experts come to my school in order to give a lecture, not to guide students in a learning project! This is why I do think that in the ask phase students could interview their peers and/or the teacher rather than other people.

It could be a risk to create too detailed scenario templates: they must be clear and easy to read not only for teachers but also for students! Sometimes a bad layout and too many details make the templates very difficult to understand: in this case reading them can be a very discouraging experience! This is why in writing them down it should be used a very simple language with short sentences describing roles, activities, goals and so on.

2.6 Module 2 Learning Activity Use the 21CLD framework and rubric (see video 2.4 and pages 3-9 of the PDF entitled ‘21CLD Learning Activity Rubrics’ available in the Resources section of Module 2) 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.

At the end of Module 1 I described a low level of collaboration activity I usually do in my class:

In my class a low level of collaboration activity is when students are asked to do latin grammar exercises after my explanation of a new grammar rule. They work in pairs reading the manual and doing some fill-in-the-gaps exercises. They help each other in finding the missing word; they do not to have to negotiate anything because the right answer is only one and the exercises are very simple, but they share their ideas. This kind of activity usually takes 30 minutes and it is the teacher who decides when to start and to end it.

In this case students are working together helping each other finding the right solution to the exercise. They discuss together about the right answer and give each other feedback, but the they don't share responsibility because when we check the answers with the other mates, every single student is responsible for what he or she has written in the student's book. They don't take substantive decisions, because the right answer is only one and they are expected to find it in the manual and/or in the notes they have taken during the lesson. In addition to this, their work isn't interdependent, because what one student do is not the basis for the mate's work. To sum up this activity has to be coded at 2.

This was the high level of collaboration activity I described at the end of Module 1:

In my class this happened last year, when my students where divided into groups in order to realize an exhibition of ancient greek vases. They had to collect information about the vases' techniques and to study the age when the vases were realized. Then they thought about how to display them in the showcases and how to present to the public the results of their research. In this case I, as a teacher, have played only the role of facilitator of the activity giving the students all the responsibility of their decisions.

In this case students worked together and helped each other in order to create a new product, a vases' exhibition. They were mutual responsible for the final product and worked as a real team: so they shared responsibility because all of them were in charge of the final result. They collected information and they decided what kind of information was more useful to explain the vases' features in the captions. They took subtantive decisions especially about the process, because they were free to plan what to do, what tools they could use, the roles of the team members. But they didn't take substantive decisions either about the content (they found information about the vases, but they weren't requested to take a stance about some aspects of the topic) or about the product (at the beginning of the activity the teacher explained that an ehibition would be the final goal). I don't think that their work was interdependent, because every team member realized a single frame of the task: one student decided how to ehibit the vases, another one realized the captions, some of them presented the entire activity to the public. To sum up this activity has to be coded at 4.

The rubric gave me the chance to analize better these activities and to become aware of the level of collaboration involved in them. I didn't change my mind about this last aspect, but my previous idea was more intuitive than reasoned. As I said before, I think that the rubric is very useful in order to deepen teacher's awareness in what he is doing in class. I think in the future I will keep in my mind the 4 question about what collaboration is and I will use them to check the level of collaboration involved in the learning activities I will plan. In the end: a good means to improve my awareness as a teacher!

MODULE 3

Q 3.3 Do you think your assessment of collaborative work sometimes discourages students or encourages competition? If yes, how you do think this could be avoided? Is the assessment you carry out brief, clear and timely, and how do you ensure it is so; do you have tips to suggest for others? Does the summative assessment of each student in your school/subject take into account the learning outcomes related to collaborative work (such as project work/results)?

In my school we assess students individually and summative assessment take into account only written and oral tests. This practice can enhance competition especially among very motivated learners. Collaborative learning activities can be a solution to this problem only if the teacher evaluates not only the quality of the final product, but also the process which have leaded to the final goal. This is why the teacher should provide for several moments of formative assessment. If students know that their work is evaluated in order to make them improve and not only in order to give them a mark, they feel more confident and less stressed. So competition is avoided.

To ensure a brief, clear and timely assessment is useful to specify the criteria you follow. If students know exactly what they are expected to do, usually they are more engaged in the learning activity and they can understand better where they can improve. In my opinion the key point is to use an easy and clear rubric and to share it with students before the beginning of the activity and during the learning process.

To enhance students' awareness, it could be useful to give at the beginning of every learning phase a grid with some questions that enable students to plan what they are expected to achieve at the end of every learning phase. This means can help students to verify if they achieved their goals and this attidtude triggesr self and peer evaluation.

In addition to this, summative assessment should be the result of:

1) teacher's observations, peer-assessment and self-assessment, which evaluate how collaborative students' attitude has been during the learning activity;

2) written and oral tests about the amount of academic content which every student has learnt;

3) the mark given to the final collaborative product.

Q 3.4 What do you think about the various assessment methods used by Chrysa to assess her pupils’ collaborative learning? Do you think the questions she asked her pupils were helpful in getting them to reflect about their collaborative skills? What do you think about implementing peer assessment with pupils of a young age (6-11 year olds)? Are there special considerations to be taken into account? What about her final question she asks us and our expert to reflect on; do you find it challenging to know how best to assess the individual participation of a student in a collaborative activity?

I found very interesting the methods which Chrysa used to assess her pupils! It was a good idea to evaluate individual and groups' performace as well as the groups' functionality. I liked the questions Chrysa asked her students during the final discussion: she made them to think about not only the weak points, but also the strong aspects of other mates' work. This kind of approach is fundamental in order to ensure positve and motivating feedback! In addition to this, the metacognitive moment is useful to give some tips about how to realize an effective collaborative attitude in other learning activities in the future.

You can implement peer-assessment, no matter what the age of students is, if you are able to create a positive learning enviroment. This is not easy. Students should be guided to express their ideas: they should be taught to point out the pros and the cons of their mates' work using polite and supportive words. A useful method is to make them to think about their feelings when they are criticized not in a proper way. Evaluation grids and rubrics are useful, because this way assessment takes into account collaborative products and students' approach from a more ojective point of view.

In order to assess individual participation of a student in a collaborative activity, every member of the team should have the opportunity of evaluating the other members. If in a group there are four people, in the end the teacher can rely on three different peer-evaluation. This could be the basis of the final assessment about how a student participated to the activity, if the teacher integrates it with his observations. Usually students are very honest in these situations, if they know that their opinion is seriously taken into account by the teacher.

Q 3.5 What do you think about the projects described by Antonio, from the student collaboration point of view, as well as the teacher collaboration point of view? Do you agree with the 7 benefits Antonio associates to assessing collaborative learning? What about the challenges he mentions concerning group dynamics, team management and the time needed to prepare and implement assessment of collaborative learning in the classroom – are these challenges you also face? Antonio mentions the use of collaborative digital tools, reorganizing the classroom space and introducing more interdisciplinary teaching and the sharing of materials amongst teachers as useful tips. Do you agree and what are your experiences of these suggestions?

From a learner's point of view the activities described by Antonio are very engaging, because students can participate to the lesson in a less passive way than it usually happens. From a teacher's point of view collaborative learning activities can be very demanding as regards the efforts to implement them and the time spent in preparing materials. But in the last few months I find it very frustrating to see my students pretending to take notes during a lecture and not been really interested and/or involved in the topic of the lesson. So in my opinion the best benefit in collaborative learning is that it is a student-centred process where teacher takes a backward step.

It is not easy to enhance in Italian teachers a collaborative attitude towards their work. But it should be compulsory to study a topic in an interdisciplinary way because in the real word when you face a problem you try to solve it using different approaches and different means.

For me as a teacher it's very difficult to cope with groups' dynamics: I am not a psychologist and I am not trained to this kind of activities. But in order to make the students to stay on track and to focus on what the main goal of their work is, it is fundamental to give them clear instructions about how they can plan the activity and how they will be assessed during the learning process, especially if they aren't used to the collaborative learning approach.

In a collaborative learning activity, evaluation can be very demanding and can request a great amount of time if the teacher doesn't involve in it his students. Students should be asked to give a report of what they did at the end of every learning session. They should be given the possibility of been assessed by peers through grids and easy check lists, too. On-line tools (kahoot, Rubistar, google form, etc) could help. I have to say that for me, as an Italian teacher, it is not familiar the idea that students can assess themeselves and their peers, but it's important to implement this approach in my classes.

Q 3.6 When setting up student groups to work on a project, Anna often leaves students free to decide who they would like to work with and each team member’s role. However, when it comes to peer assessment Anna prefers to use a random name picking tool, as she believes this helps ensure objectivity and is more likely to encourage useful and constructive feedback among peers. Do you agree with these different approaches? Anna mentions a variety of digital tools which are helpful in implementing and assessing collaborative work, such as Edmodo, Scrumy, Tackks, Padlets, Google Forms etc. What are your experiences of these tools?

In my opinion sometimes it can be useful that the teacher forms the groups and gives the roles, because it can happen that some students want always to work with the same mates. Students should be asked to work with different people, even with those mates they don't like so much. This is a good opportunity for everybody to know better other people and perhaps to become friends. I agree with Anna when she says that peer-assessment has to be anonymous, especially when students are not used to it. At first it should be done randomly in order not to hurt students' feelings, too.

What about the digital tools mentioned by Anna? Padlets is an easy and user-friendly one and it's versatile too. It gives the opportunity to create a basic portfolio and to share it quickly. Thanks to it the teacher has the possibility to monitorate his student's work in a glimpse. I haven't ever used Scrumy, but Anna's words made me curious about it!

Q 3.7 Have you ever used existing rubrics and checklists to assess collaborative work? Have you ever constructed your own rubrics or checklists for this purpose? What about involving students in the design of rubrics, checklists or other assessment tools? What have been your experiences? What do you think of the tips given for constructing rubrics and checklists in the video? Are the guidelines and examples given in the CO-LAB Assessment Guidelines useful?

I have never used rubrics to assess collaborative work, but I have often used them to evaluate some products such as essays and reports written by students. I always found them useful in order to make clear to me before than to the students what I wanted them to realize. Checklists are a new tool I've never used, but thanks to this course I've discovered how useful they can be in order to change my perspective: from assessment of learning to assessment to learning. Checklists give students a clear idea what they are expected to do without being frightened about evaluation. They are a good method for developing self-awareness and a metacognitive approach in formative assessment. I have read the tips in the guideline and I totally agree, but I think I will involve my students in designing rubrics and checklists only in the future.

Q 3.8 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?

In a traditional learning enviroment weak students sometimes think that teacher is not fair with them especially if their marks are not satisfying. This way teacher's judgement loses its credibility and weak students can't take profit from teacher's observations. In my opinion self and peer-assessment is a good solution to this problem. Using rubrics and clear criteria is the key point as regards peer and self-assessment: the entire process becomes more objective and less tied to relationship existing between two students or students' personalities. Summative assessment should take into account the attitude of a student towards collaborative learning activities, but I find it difficult to evaluate this aspect. How can the teacher observe all the students during the activity and collecting significant data for all of them?

MODULE 4

Q 4.2 What do you think about the ‘co-teaching rotation’ collaboration model mentioned by Valentina? Do you find it an interesting approach, and is it one you have experience of? Valentina mentions the need for teachers to bring their best skills and practices to the team while remaining flexible to adapt them in case others suggest better ways of working. Do you agree with this and what are your experiences of acting upon the constructive criticisms of other teachers?

Collaboration is always a good thing and it would be very useful to have a colleague with you in class. But it's not so easy to have the possibility of co-teaching in Italy, especially in Secondary schools where usually there is only one teacher in class per class-period. So I can't use this kind of approach. On the other hand I do believe that a flexible attitude towards other colleagues' tips is a key point in education. I usually share ideas and experiences with some colleague of mine in non formal moments, when we take a coffee together, for example. This moments are always inspiring.

Q 4.3 Have you heard of all the platforms and digital tools mentioned by Reyhan in the video, and what are your experiences of using them for teacher collaboration? 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 haven't used all the tools mention by Reyahn and I haven't ever realized a learning project with colleagues of other countries. I use some social media networks such as Facebook in order to participate to some discussions about educational topics. I find this opportunity very useful: this way you can discover new digital tools or methodologies you can implement in your classes. Sometimes I share some files and other teaching resources with some colleagues of mine via Padlet, Google docs or Moodle.

Q 4.4 Do you agree with the benefits and challenges highlighted by Professor Butler? Which benefits and challenges would you add based on your experiences? What opportunities have you been able to take advantage of in your own context to collaborate with teachers both in and outside of school? Do you collaborate with teachers in your own subject group, across age groups or across themes relevant to the whole school, and if so how?

In my school it's not easy to collaborate with other colleagues, because many of them are focused on the curriculum and they are very traditional, sometimes old-fashion, about education! But there always is one colleague eager to innovate and to find new approaches. It is important to find someone to share ideas with. Digital tools are fundamental because they give you the opportunity to collaborate with people that lives far from you and in every moment of the day. I found it interesting the tip of realizing collaborative teaching activities across age groups or themes involving more teachers of the same or of different subjects. I will try it in my school!

Q 4.5 Do you agree with the list of skills and conditions mentioned as necessary for teacher collaboration to flourish in schools? What would you add to this list based on your experiences? Does the leadership in your teacher training institution or the current school in which you teach model collaboration? If so, how, and do you think this is motivating and beneficial for students? Do you work with teachers who are sceptical about collaboration, and what have you/will you try to help them see the advantages of this way of working?

I think that the key-point in order to collaborate with your colleagues is to accept that your methods, your ideas about education, your attitude towards your subject and your students aren't absolutely the best. It's not easy to accept that what you do in your everyday teaching experience is not always good. There could be something wrong or something that could be done better. If you accept that another person can give you some useful tips, you can collaborate with others in an effective way. In my school there isn't such an attitude, but I try to break this wall of individualism sharing my practicises, giving support when it is requested, giving positive feedback. If you create an environment where everyone feels at ease and feels free to express their ideas without being judged or criticized, there is the possibility to collaborate.

Q 4.6 Do you use technology specifically for the purpose of collaborating with other teachers? Would you say that the nature of your digital collaboration with teachers is equivalent to ‘sending and displaying’, as mentioned in the video, or more about processing, analyzing and sharing? Why do you think this is and can you give examples? Which digital tools would you recommend for teachers to use for collaborating and why?

Last year I created a Padlet with a colleague of mine I usually work with. We put on it some learning material, tests, quizzes and so on. Especially when we had to write down a class test we shared our ideas and created something new starting from the material we created before on our own. I think it was a useful and a real way to collaborate. In many occasions I find it useful to consider a different point of view: thanks to my colleague's experience, I realized that some exercises I thought were easy were not, for example! Padlet is a very simple tool, but it is strategic to implement digital tools among the theachers!

Credits:

Created with images by LoveToTakePhotos - "teamwork farm workers co-operation" • Unsplash - "office two people business" • geralt - "photo montage faces photo album" • Buecherwurm_65 - "articulated male meeting together" • Raymond Mendoza - "Teamwork" • OKF DE - "Teamwork" • dannielleblumenthal-thinkbrandfirst - ""teamwork"" • vinzcha - "teamwork" • WokinghamLibraries - "books shelf organized" • makamuki0 - "castells hands collaboration" • Stefan Baudy - "Question!" • Free the Image - "Cubed" • Joshua_Willson - "blank hardcover book" • Freeimages9 - "chalk color red" • jackmac34 - "snails race gastropods" • Alexas_Fotos - "play stone figures wood" • Wokandapix - "rock art craft" • Alex & le temps qui passe - "Collaboration" • havens.michael34 - "Care" • Alexas_Fotos - "school back to school training" • Mimzy - "back to school pencils rainbow" • Activ-Michoko - "sunglasses written school" • PublicDomainPictures - "artistic bright color" • nicksmirni - "Teamwork" • mikesween - "puzzle game solution" • Newtown grafitti - "TEAM"

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