Collaborative teaching and learning my learning diary

About me...

My name is Dorothy Mascarenhas! I am Portuguese and Brazilian but was born and raised in France, in a beautiful region called Jura more precisally in Morez.


This town of about 7,000 inhabitants stretches for nearly 3 km along the Bienne Valley, a narrow valley encased in rocky walls and dominated by impressive railway viaducts. Morez is the eyeglass capital of France, providing around 55 % of the French production. Its museum gives an overview of the 200 years history of this activity.

I returned to Portugal, where currently live near Lisbon in Alverca do Ribatejo.

My dream was always to be a teacher since my early age. And it was in Escola Superior de Educação of lisbon that I realized this dream.

My facebook page

My teaching context

I am working in a group of schools that integrates the three cycles of basic education in Alverca do Ribatejo, near Lisbon (Portugal). It is a neighborhood with some socio-economic problems and families with difficulties at different levels.

This year I am teaching a first grade with 24 students between the ages of 5 and 8 years old.

My classroom is a place I try to make nice. We have a computer with internet connection and an interactive whiteboard.

But at school we have a room with several computers where we can also work.

We also have a resource center at the school that the children attend daily.

I love arts and I believe that is the affection we have achieved our students.

I hope this MOOC will provide us all with new inspiration for innovative teaching and learning.

My classroom4 padlet

Module 1: What is collaborative learning?

For me learning is an active process whereby students assimilate the information and relate this new knowledge to a framework of prior knowledge.

Learning requires a challenge that opens the door for the learner to actively engage his/her peers, and to process and synthesize information rather than simply memorize and regurgitate it.

Learners benefit when exposed to diverse viewpoints from people with varied backgrounds.

Learning flourishes in a social environment where conversation between learners takes place. During this intellectual gymnastics, the learner creates a framework and meaning to the discourse.

In the collaborative learning environment, the learners are challenged both socially and emotionally as they listen to different perspectives, and are required to articulate and defend their ideas. In so doing, the learners begin to create their own unique conceptual frameworks and not rely solely on an expert's or a text's framework. Thus, in a collaborative learning setting, learners have the opportunity to converse with peers, present and defend ideas, exchange diverse beliefs, question other conceptual frameworks, and be actively engaged.

1.2 Collaborative learning in a flexible classroom

In my classroom I dont have this kind of furnitures but I think we dont need it to do colaborative working. It's more easy but is not essencial.

Here is my classroom and i like it. I think I have the essencial to make them work in a collaborative way.

Unfortunately students still have many behavioral difficulties. So we haven't do collaborative projects yet.

1.3 Collaborative learning through project-based learning

Unfortunately my classroom does not have these computer resources.

I've done this to study the kings of Portugal. For example on the first dynasty of kings of Portugal groups were constituted as the king who each wanted. In the class they were formed nine working groups would have to present the information they had collected to the class about the king chosen by the group.They might present the work as they wanted. But it was in conjunction with all class of elements that we developed the script for each job.We define the script that the classroom thought important to see covered on each king. Then they choose how they want to do.

They do the evaluation of each groups and their too. We always do this evaluation.

Use of this kind of work strategy only has positive points is one example of people learning together. The only negative aspect is more work for the teacher ;)

I think the tecnology are important today. There is technology tool that's easy to use in the classroom but the most of teacher has fear to use them. My students often used PowerPoint to accompany oral reports on curricular topics. They like it.

1.4 A foreign language teacher’s experience of collaborative learning

It is always very difficult to evaluate and control the behavior of students in the working groups. Especially when students are young children. When the teacher is not near always enjoy to play.

So it is very difficult to work collaboratively with children with 5 or 6 years.

I try to enjoy the support of the teacher's presence to help us.

1.5 A History & Geography teacher’s experience of collaborative learning

It is very difficult in schools work collaboratively. Many teachers do not want to change their teaching practices. Some are afraid to admit they do not know and others for convenience. There is also a large part that does not want to have extra work. Working groups happens almost the same there are always those who work more than others. So I think that my role as a teacher is to try to sensitize them to change, to experiment, to ask for help ...I try to explain to them that is not a problem not knowing but that is not correct not want to learn and not to struggle.I explain to them also that I know see who worked more or less in the group or to see who did not participate.

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.

Low level of collaboration:

After reading the lesson the groups discuss about it.

High level collaboration:

The classroom wanted to make a play for the end of year party.They wanted it to be about one of the kings of Portugal. They chose the first king, D. Afonso Henriques and chose everything about the piece together. They organized themselves the groups to make accessories, asked for help to parents to set the scene and elected themselves the characters.Finally the theater piece was presented to the entire school community.

1.7 Module 1 Resource Section

Young Portuguese pupils' opinions about collaborative learning

Learning in Groups: A Handbook for Face-to-Face and Online Environments

By David Jaques, Gilly Salmon

To read and reflect:

Module 2: How can you design collaborative learning in the classroom?

When students learn actively, they retain more course content for a longer time and are able to apply that material in a broader range of contexts. Many faculty members assume that their role is to teach. Instead, think: My role is to help students learn.

New research shows that faculty who are facilitators, collaborators, leaders, and organizers are having great success in helping students prepare for lifelong learning and making them more capable to work in fields where they must acquire new skills and knowledge regularly.

Active learning can be applied to most commonly used course activities, depending on whether they involve the student or they position the student as a receptacle passively receiving content.

To reflect...

2.3 The 4 Collaboration Questions

a) Are they working together?

Students work together when the activity requires them to work in pairs or groups to: discuss an issue, solve a problem, create a product.

b) Do they have shared responsability?

Students have shared responsibility when they work in pairs or groups to develop a common product, design, or response. Shared responsibility is more than simply helping each other: students must collectively own the work and be mutually responsible for its outcome.

c) Do they make substantive decisions?

Students make substantive decisions together when they must resolve important issues that will guide their work together. Substantive decisions are decisions that shape the content, process, OR product of students’ work:

Content: Students must use their knowledge of an issue to make a decision that affects the academic content of their work together, such as taking a stance on a topic they will then write about, or deciding on the hypothesis they will test.

Process: Students must plan what they will do, when to do it, what tools they will use, or the roles and responsibilities of people on the team.

Product: Students must make fundamental design decisions that affect the nature and usability of their product.

d) Is their work interdependent?

Students’ work is interdependent when all students must participate in order for the team to succeed. The strongest learning activities on this rubric are structured to require the participation of all students. To meet this criterion, students must be required to produce an interdependent product (such as a presentation that they each must share in developing and presenting) or other interdependent outcome (such as a decision that requires information that is distributed across students). Most interdependent work involves two levels of accountability:

Individual accountability: each individual on the team is responsible for a task that he or she must complete in order for the group to do its work. The role of each student on the team is essential.

Group accountability: the students must work together to produce the final product or outcome. Students must negotiate and agree on the process, design, and conclusions of their work.

It is important that the work is structured in a way that requires students to plan together and take the work of all team members into account so that their product or outcome is complete and fits together.

in 21CLD Learning Activity Rubrics, ITL Research (2012).

2.5 Collaborative learning scenarios

I find it useful this learning scenarios because it forces us to plan the activities with more care in order to contemplate all the steps of the collaborative learning. They inspire me a lot. But we must always have in mind our reality and adapt them to our students.

A Learning Scenario consists of 7 phases:

These 7 phases help you as a teacher to plan and structure your learning activities in advance. The 7 phases are Dream, Explore, Map, Make, Ask, Remake and Show.

In the first phase “Dream”, students can brainstorm, think freely and share ideas.

In the “Explore” phase, students collect information on a certain topic. In the phase, students collect information on a certain topic. In the

“Map” phase, they structure their thoughts and ideas and seek to understand how they are related.

In the “Make” phase, students develop or create a product or practise an activity.

One possible activity for students in the “Ask” phase is to interview experts and stakeholders.

In the “Remake” phase students replan or revisit their product, on the basis of the feedback or further information they received.

The last phase “Show”, students publish and present the results of their work “Map” phase, they structure their thoughts and ideas and seek to understand how they are related.

Asteroids Scenario Resource: Peer Assessment Sheet

Module 3: How can you assess collaborative learning?

3.3 Assessment for improving collaborative learning

3.4 : A sports teacher's experience of assessing collaborative learning

One goal of collective formative assessment is to create a sense of a learning community—to help learners see how their individual pieces add up to something greater when they collaborate.

Comments reflecting group work back to them can help students see that areas where they have strengths might be areas where others need to grow. Students gain a sense of purpose for participation when they see specific ways they can learn from and with others.

The Typology of Collaborative E-Learning Assessments was constructed to categorize the six interrelated types of assessments.

4 Of these types, three are relevant for assessing projects with collective outcomes: team self-assessment, instructor assessment, and external assessment.

Team Self-Assessment: Collective self-assessment takes place when the team or group assesses their combined performance. This could include a description of team participation andcontributions, 360-degree assessments, or a summary of the process used to accomplish the work. It could take the form of a written assignment, checklist completion, or a presentation to the class. Team self-assessments should be built into the project timeline, offering instructors the opportunity to provide both formative and summative assessment along the way.

Instructor Assessment: This type occurs when the collective outcome is assessed according to the achievement of the entire group.

External Assessment: When the collaborative project or activity extends beyond the classroom, external supervisors, mentors, or stakeholders might have a role in assessment of the team or group’s performance. This can include feedback to team by field placement supervisor.


• Assessment and Collaborative Learning:

Collaborative Learning: Group Work and Study Teams:

Active Learning, Group and Collaborative Learning:

Assessment in and of Collaborative Learning:

University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Engage Program:

The most difficult part of our work is the evaluation of our students. It is always something that causes me many difficulties because I am afraid of being unfair.

I consider Chrysa s method very interesting and ilustrates very well an engaging way of performing assessment in colaborative learning.

Group grades can hide significant differences in learning, yet teasing out which team members did and did not contribute to the group or learn the lessons of the assignment can be difficult. Once again, this adds complexity to group projects that teachers often underestimate. Is not easy!

3.5 An ICT teacher’s experience of assessing collaborative learning

The projects are always a very useful tool to be able to work in groups and in an interdisciplinary way. I completely agree with Antonio about the seven benefits he mentioned about collaborative work. While group assignments have benefit for teacher they also have complexities that instructors should consider carefully, for example in these areas: allocating time, teaching process skills, assessing process as well as product and assessing individual as well as group learning. I am in agreement with Antonio as how tools it uses to favor the collaborative work. Using 21st century IT tools for assessing is very helpful.

What are best practices for designing group projects?

What is true for individual assignments holds true for group assignments: it is important to clearly articulate your objectives, explicitly define the task, clarify your expectations, model high-quality work, and communicate performance criteria. But group work has complexities above and beyond individual work. To ensure a positive outcome, try some of these effective practices (adapted from Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1991) or come talk to us at the Eberly Center.

  • Create interdependence
  • Devote time specifically to teamwork skills
  • Build in individual accountability
  • Create interdependence

While some instructors don’t mind if students divvy up tasks and work separately, others expect a higher degree of collaboration. If collaboration is your goal, structure the project so that students are dependent on one another. Here are a few ways to create interdependence:

  • Strategy
  • Example

Ensure projects are sufficiently complex that students must draw on one another’s knowledge and skills. In one course on game design, group assignments require students to create playable games that incorporate technical (e.g., programming) and design skills. To complete the assignment successfully, students from different disciplines must draw on one another’s strengths.

Create shared goals that can only be met through collaboration. In one engineering course, teams compete against one another to design a boat (assessed on various dimensions such as stability and speed) by applying engineering principles and working within budgetary and material constraints. The fun and intensity of a public competition encourages the team to work closely together to create the best design possible.

Limit resources to compel students to share critical information and materials. In a short-term project for an architectural design course, the instructor provides student groups with a set of materials (e.g., tape, cardboard, string) and assigns them the task of building a structure that conforms to particular design parameters using only these materials. Because students have limited resources, they cannot divide tasks but must strategize and work together.

Assign roles (.doc) within the group that will help facilitate collaboration. In a semester-long research project for a history course, the instructor assigns students distinct roles within their groups: one student is responsible for initiating and sustaining communication with the rest of the group, another with coordinating schedules and organizing meetings, another with recording ideas generated and decisions made at meetings, and a fourth with keeping the group on task and cracking the whip when deadlines are approaching. The instructor rotates students through these roles, so that they each get practice performing each function.

  • Devote time specifically to teamwork skills
  • Don’t assume students already know how to work in groups! While most students have worked on group projects before, they still may not have developed effective teamwork skills. By the same token, the teamwork skills they learned in one context (say on a soccer team or in a theatrical production) may not be directly applicable to another (e.g., a design project involving an external client.)

To work successfully in groups, students need to learn how to work with others to do things they might only know how to do individually, for example to...

  • assess the nature and difficulty of a task
  • break the task down into steps or stages
  • plan a strategy
  • manage time

Students also need to know how to handle issues that only arise in groups, for example, to:

  • explain their ideas to others
  • listen to alternative ideas and perspectives
  • reach consensus
  • delegate responsibilities
  • coordinate efforts
  • resolve conflicts
  • integrate the contributions of multiple team members

Here are a few things you can do both to help students develop these skills and to see their value in professional life.

  • Strategy
  • Example

Emphasize the practical importance of strong teamwork skills. Explain the value of teamwork skills in (and outside) the workplace by offering real-world examples of how teams function and illustrating what can go wrong when teamwork skills are weak. One instructor asks students to generate a list of skills they believe employers look for. Often students answer this question with a set of domain-specific skills, such as drafting or computer programming. The instructor then contrasts their answers with the answers given by actual employers, who often focus on domain-general process skills such as “the ability to communicate clearly” and “the ability to work with others”. This activity serves to reinforce the process goals for group work assignments.

Address negative or inaccurate preconceptions about group work. If students haven’t taken group projects seriously in previous courses or if their experiences were negative, it may affect how they approach assignments in your course. Consider asking them to list positive and negative aspects of groups based on their previous experiences and then to brainstorm strategies for preventing or mitigating potentially negative aspects of group work. Also explain how you have structured your assignment to minimize problems (such as the free-rider phenomenon) they may have encountered in the past.

Provide structure and guidance to help students plan. Model the process of planning for a complex task by explaining how you would approach a similar task. Build time into the project schedule that is specifically devoted to planning.

Set interim deadlines. Break the project down into steps or stages and set deadlines for interim deliverables, e.g., a project proposal, timeline, bibliography, first draft. In addition to setting interim deadlines, give students a rough sense of how long various steps of the project are likely to take and warn them about matters they will need to attend to earlier than they might expect.

Establish ground rules. Create ground rules for group behavior or ask students to do so themselves. Group ground rules can include things such as: return e-mails from group members within 24 hours; come to meetings on time and prepared; meet deadlines; listen to what your teammates have to say; respond to one another’s comments politely but honestly; be constructive; criticize ideas, not people. You might then ask students to formally agree to these ground rules by signing a group learning contract (Barkley, Cross & Major, 2005). Find sample team contracts here…

Teach and reinforce conflict-resolution skills. Disagreements within groups can provide valuable opportunities for students to develop both better teamwork skills and better end products (Thompson, 2004). But conflict can also erode motivation. To help students handle disagreements and tensions productively, provide language they can use to voice objections and preferences constructively and reinforce listening skills. Structured role-playing can also be helpful: present students with a hypothetical source of tension (e.g., a domineering personality, a slacker, cultural differences in communication style) before real tensions arise and then ask them to work toward a resolution, improvising dialogue and actions. Role-playing conflict-resolution in advance can help students recognize similar issues when they arise and respond to them creatively and appropriately.

Alert students to common pitfalls. Point out potential pitfalls of team projects and/or your particular assignment. Common pitfalls may include underestimating the amount of time required to schedule meetings, coordinating access to labs, computer clusters, or studio space, getting research materials from Interlibrary Loan, obtaining IRB permission for research interviews, mailing reports to external clients, preparing presentations, revising reports, etc.

Foster metacognitive skills.

Encourage students to assess their own strengths and weaknesses (e.g., tendency to procrastinate, openness to criticism, strong oral communication skills) and to consider how these traits could potentially affect group dynamics. One instructor gives students a self-assessment survey and lets group members compare their answers. Find sample self-assessments here...

He then asks: What mechanisms could your group put in place to capitalize on these strengths and compensate for these weaknesses? Answers generated include setting hard deadlines (if a number of group members are procrastinators), developing a system of turn-taking to make sure that everyone has the chance to speak (if there are shy group members), using flow charts to represent the task (for group members with a visual orientation or weak language skills), etc.

Incorporate process assessments. Ask students to periodically evaluate their own or others’ contributions to the group in relation to a set of process goals, such as respectfully listening to and considering opposing views or a minority opinion, effectively managing conflict around differences in ideas or approaches, keeping the group on track during and between meetings, promptness in meeting deadlines, etc. Then give groups a chance to generate strategies for improving their group processes.

Build in individual accountability

It is possible for a student to work hard in a group and yet fail to understand crucial aspects of the project. In order to gauge whether individual students have met your criteria for understanding and mastery, it is important to structure individual accountability into your group work assignments.

In other words, in addition to evaluating the work of the group as a whole, ask individual group members to demonstrate their learning via quizzes, independent write-ups, weekly journal entries, etc. Not only does this help you monitor student learning, it helps to prevent the “free-rider” phenomenon. Students are considerably less likely to leave all the work to more responsible classmates if they know their individual performance will affect their grade.

To create individual accountability, some instructors combine a group project with an individual quiz on relevant material. Others base part of the total project grade on a group product (e.g., report, presentation, design, paper) and part on an individual submission. The individual portion might consist of a summary of the group’s decision-making process, a synthesis of lessons learned, a description of the individual student’s contributions to the group, etc.

One statistics instructor assigns student groups the task of presenting, synthesizing, and evaluating a set of articles on a particular topic. It is important to him that every group member have a firm grasp of the complete set of readings, even if they individually only present one or two. Thus, he builds individual accountability into the project by warning students in advance that he will ask each of them questions about the readings they did not present. This helps to ensure that students read the full set of articles, and not just the readings they present.


Barkley, E.F., Cross, K.P., and Major, C.H. (2005). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R., & Smith, K. (1998). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.

Thompson, L.L. (2004). Making the team: A guide for managers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.

3.6 Collaborative learning and student peer reviews

3.7 Collaborative learning - What to assess and how?

Assessment for learning is effective when pupils:

  • ƒ show changes in their attitudes to learning and in their
  • motivation, self-esteem, independence, initiative and
  • confidence
  • ƒ show changes in their responses to questions, in contributions to plenary (full-class) sessions, and in explanations and descriptions improve their attainment ask relevant questions,
  • ƒ are actively involved in formative assessment processes, eg setting targets, peer or selfassessment,
  • recognizing progress in their written work, skills, knowledge and understanding.

To effectively use assessment for learning teachers need to:

  • ƒ know their pupils well, know why pupils make mistakes, and be able to make judgments about next
  • steps or interventions
  • ƒ share learning intentions with pupils and use them to mark work or give feedback or rewards
  • ƒ build in review time for themselves and their pupils
  • ƒ encourage pupils to take responsibility for their learning by providing opportunities for pupils to describe their response to learning intentions or targets, the strategies they use and the judgments they make in relation to their progress
  • ƒ give pupils examples of a variety of skills, attitudes, standards and qualities to aim for analyze pupils' performance in tests and use the information for future learning plans
  • ƒ feel confident and secure in classroom practice.

In addition, teachers need to produce plans with:

  • ƒ emphasis on learning intentions and on sharing them with pupils and other adults in the classroom
  • ƒ assessment criteria for feedback and marking, peer and self-assessment
  • ƒ differentiated classroom groups
  • ƒ built-in review time and flexibility
  • ƒ notes of pupils who need additional or consolidation work
  • ƒ time for guided group sessions for explicit formative assessment opportunities
  • ƒ adjustments highlighted or crossed out: what did or did not work and why.

To effectively use assessment for learning schools need an ethos (guiding beliefs or culture) that:

  • ƒ values attitudes to learning and promotes trusting relationships
  • ƒ encourages and builds self-esteem
  • ƒ believes that all pupils can improve and measures individuals against their own previous attainment
  • instead of against other pupils
  • ƒ uses value-added data
  • ƒ provides support, guidance and appropriate training for teachers
  • ƒ manages change well and includes maintenance systems
  • ƒ encourages review and self-evaluation at individual, subject and school level.

3.8 Answers to teachers’ questions on assessing collaborative learning

Diagnostic assessment

Although it is possible to use any tool to make a diagnostic assessment, it is important to opt for simple, clear and fast to use tools and, preferably, tools that can cover the aspects we are planning to use more in the future. For this purpose it seems appropriate to use a rubric covering the following four dimensions:

  • factual (facts, events)
  • conceptual (concepts, ideas),
  • procedural (how to do),
  • meta-cognitive (explanations).

Peer assessment

Peer assessment in a group or class is very important if we take into account the credibility that may be given to the opinion of each peer. We know that in a group there will always be students whoseopinion has more credibility than that of the others. However, identifying these students and improving their participation in peer assessment may be a good strategy for teachers to assign greater value to this assessment method.

Asking students to give a public opinion about the work of their peers involves being responsible, and complying with the clearly specified criteria and use of qualitative scales or equivalent levels of proficiency.

In fact, self-assessment and peer-assessment could be considered as more authentic than other assessment methods as they may help students to move away from seeing teachers as the main source of judgement about the quality of their learning outcomes, to a more autonomous and independent way of learning. Additionally, the skills involved in self and peer assessment can easily be transferred to other learning contexts.

Usually in peer-assessment, each learner assumes the role of assessee as well assessor; in other words doing the learning activity themselves, as well as providing feedback on their peers’ work.

Research has shown that self-assessment combined with peer assessment reduces the trend for friends to assign top grades among themselves (friendship dependency), blurs the tendency to benefit the leaders in groups with fewer extrovert members (benefit of the dominators) and also reduces the circumstances in which less committed students benefit from group work withoutcontributing significantly to it (benefit of "parasitism").

Differentiating individual participation: Group assessment versus individual assessment and selfassessment

It is important to differentiate the individual participation of each group member. A student’s individual participation (for example their added value, respect for others and negotiation skills) can be integrated into the student’s individual summative assessment by establishing its relative weight from the beginning of the assessment process.

A percentage value can be assigned to these assessment dimensions and descriptors established in order to help us to quantify the weight of each of these indicators in the whole assessment. For example, we want to pay attention to the assertiveness of their interventions, as well as the quality and relevance of their questions and answers. So, we can consider:

  • their ability to negotiate,
  • their ability to persuade others,
  • their ability to integrate ideas from others, including different or contrary ideas.

We can give value to:

  • their respect of unusual viewpoints or inventive ideas
  • their originality
  • their individual handicaps

By assigning a percentage weight to individual assessment as part of the summative assessment related to group work, we can achieve differentiation that, on the one hand gives validity to the assessment and on the other hand becomes formative because it develops self-regulation.

Discreet assessment

Discreet assessment can be used as an approach to assess individual participation and performance within collaborative practice when students are not aware that they are being assessed. However, this can raise ethical issues and even if students do not know when they will be "observed" or assessed, they must know that they could be observed and assessed without advance warning.

But we can also use discreet assessment criteria if we include some skills related to "how to ask" and "how to give feedback", the fairness of students when they self and peer assess, the secondary skills they demonstrate when moderating working groups or debates, the proactive attitudes they have integrating peers with difficulties including cognitive, cultural or physical limitations.

The use of Mind Maps, Concept Maps and Infographics

When we use non-standard assessment tools such as concept maps and mind maps or infographics, we are using extremely useful and versatile tools that are capable of valuing different skills from what is usually assessed.

For example, teachers can include in the assessment criteria the depth of the concept maps produced by students, the number of branches featured in the mind maps, the clarity of the infographics, the aesthetics and creativity, and the synthesis and wealth of language used in these kind of artefacts.

Involving students in the definition of the parameters to be considered in the assessment, the teacher engages them in the process of creation and assessment.

3.10 Module 3 Resource Section

CO-LAB Guidelines for Assessing Collaborative Learning in the Classroom (Luis Valente, University of Minho) (Polish translation)

Collaboration and Assessment: Theory and Practice (Luis Valente, University of Minho)

Module 4: How can teacher collaboration facilitate collaborative learning?

4.1.1 Q&A Session with Prof. Deirdre Butler!

4.2 A primary school teacher’s experience of teacher collaboration

I agree with Valentina. But the experience of co-teaching rotation collaboration can go very well if both colleagues are to achieve the same goals. I have had an experience where the colleague did not want to get involved at work with the class and this experience makes it unsuitable and a waste of resources.

In order to have effective collaborative work, it is important that there is time to plan and reflect on practices so that you can change what you need. But what happens nowadays is that we spend more and more time in school dealing with bureaucratic aspects and we have less and less time and will to gather together because of tiredness. We must fight against the setbacks and invest in our work. But it's not easy everyday.

4.4 The benefits and challenges of teacher collaboration

Isolation can be a side effect of becoming a teacher. It is very easy to get caught in the trap of walking into a classroom, shutting the DOOR, and tending to your own students. This is how many schools function, with educators sharing nothing more than a parking lot. Some people like it this way, but an effective teacher is someone who wants to grow in the profession. An effective teacher wants collaboration.

What is collaboration?

Each day teachers gather in hallways, lounges, or other communal locations to talk. They talk about their families, movies they watched, difficulties they’ve had with students. Some would define this type of collegial discussion as collaboration. While these discussions are crucial to maintaining the morale and sanity of any faculty, do they help anyone grow as an educator?

Professional Learning Communities co-creators Rick DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, and Robert Eaker would define collaboration as teams of teachers who work interdependently to achieve common goals — goals linked to the purpose of learning for all — for which members are held mutually accountable. This type of definition seems to take all the fun out of teacher planning time, but it is exactly what needs to be in place in order to build strong students and strong teachers.

How does it begin?

The majority of educators want collaboration. This would become the vision for the school: collaboration with a purpose.

Although there is a willingness to work together, few teachers have direct experience with quality collaboration. This can lead to power struggles and frustration if there is not an understanding of the stages of team development. Educational researchers Parry Graham and William M. Ferriter labeled these stages forming, storming, norming and performing.

1. Forming

This is the easiest stage where a team comes together with a sense of excitement and anticipation. People begin to learn about each other and develop processes for how their group will function. It is not unusual for a few dominant personalities to try to lead the discussions.

2. Storming

Teaching styles and practices can be a very sensitive and personal area for many educators. Those who are used to working in isolation can find it difficult to share ideas or have their practices questioned. This can sometimes lead to conflict within the collaborative team. It’s not unusual for members to feel defensive or overloaded in this stage. There has to be a realistic expectation that not all groups will function at the highest level from the very start. Working together can lead to conflicting views of educational practices and team goals. Keep in mind that through conflict, growth will occur.

3. Norming

As educators continue to collaborate, they begin to see the positive side to collaboration. Teams begin to see an increase in productivity, interpersonal relationships improve, and meetings begin to focus on achieving consensus through shared input.

4. Performing

When a team reaches a high level of functioning, the academic and professional growth goes through the roof. When teammates disagree about a topic, they can discuss it with a sense of collegiality and an understanding that the ultimate goal is an improvement of the learning environment for everyone. Regardless of the stage of development, progress is easy to identify as long as collaboration exists.

Why does it matter?

Collaboration is not always a concept that is greeted with open arms. Educators who have had success working in isolation may view this process as an invasion of their pedagogy and a waste of time. Harry K. Wong, a well-known educational author, states that the trademark of effective schools is a culture where all teachers take responsibility for the learning of all students. The key to strong collaboration is recognizing that a student shouldn’t be the responsibility of only one teacher, but of all teachers.

Teacher interaction can no longer be defined by the parking lot they share or the idle discussions in the lounge. A professional culture requires teachers who are willing to share, support, and explore together. Developing a collaborative culture will result in reducing teacher attrition, improving student learning, and creating the type of school that everyone searches for when they decide to become an educator.

4.5 Skills and conditions needed for teacher collaboration

In all models of collaboration, however, it is necessary for teachers to break down the typical walls of isolation by engaging in professional discourse about topics that are private in most schools: teaching and learning. Only through extended conversation and feedback regarding instruction, lesson design, assessment, and student achievement measures does the focus of professional learning truly move from one focused upon teaching to one focused upon what students are learning. DuFour (2005)

4.6 How technology can facilitate teacher collaboration

Collaboration moves teachers out of isolation and helps them grow in their practice. This growth, which can be defined through student learning data, occurs because “teachers do not learn best from outside experts or by attending conferences or implementing ‘programs’ installed by outsiders. Teachers learn best from other teachers, in settings where they literally teach each other the art of teaching” (Schmoker, 2005).

4.6 How technology can facilitate teacher collaboration

Teaching is complex and demanding work that requires highly specialised skills and knowledge toimpact significantly on student learning.

4.7 Irish teachers’ reflections on teacher collaboration

We are increasingly being asked to spend more time in school. But this time does not allow us to exchange more ideas or work more collaboratively. It s not possible to find time to collaborate with colleagues during ordinary time at school. For those who have small children like me only after putting them to bed, I do something.

There are days when I still have energy and will and others do not. It is not easy to manage. But we have to fight against the inherent difficulties of our profession. It is our duty. The articulation in the teaching is very important and it facilitates in the very life to us. We managed to approve what the best has to offer us and vice versa. I have had several experiences with a colleague from another cycle of education but at the same school about theater. I could do something I surely would not have had the courage to risk alone. I tried new challenges and I liked it. It is important to accept what the other has to humbly give us and together we build something new. All of them have to win with this mainly our students.

4.8a Module 4 Learning Activity in English

My lesson plan

Peer Review Rubric – Collaborative Teaching and Learning Course Lesson Plan

4.9 Module 4 Resource Section

Created By
Dorothy Mascarenhas

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