Collaborative Teaching and Learning Andrea's learning diary

This is just one of the stunning early morning views I am privileged to enjoy every day. When I don't feel like marking tests or preparing for school, looking at the lake spreading out in front of me helps me to regenerate....

What is this European Schoolnet MOOC about?


I was born and educated in Austria (majored in English and Latin), taught there for 8 years and moved to Switzerland 24 years ago because of my first husband. I live about half an hour from Zurich, with my new partner who is a musician and conductor.

In my rare free time I enjoy activities like gardening, crafts, photography, upcycling and increasing my knowledge in ICT. I used to do all different kinds of sports, e.g. horse riding, rowing, skiing, and cycling, but do not have the time anymore. We go for extended walks regularly and keep fit while working in house and garden. However, I am looking forward to taking some of the sports uup again in a few years (I am thinking of early retirement :-))


I teach English in a state school (upper-secondary, 15-19 year-old students) and count myself among the senior teachers. I learned about eTwinning in 2012 and immediately started projects and collaborating with teachers and classes from various countries. I have won two European Quality Labels with my projects and taken part in other successful ones. I was glad that I could participate in a FCL in Brussels in 2013 (which is probably why I am still on the mailing list and have the chance of participating in this MOOC - as the only Swiss teacher).

It was through eTwinning that I discovered the world of web2.0 tools and wonderful apps which I have been integrating in my teaching ever since. Here are some of my favourites:

Much to my disappointment, Switzerland was banned from eTwinning and Erasmus after a referendum that curbed mass immigration and we teachers were completely blocked from accessing the website or the forum, unable to contact our colleagues across Europe. What a pity! The projects I completed in my eTwinning years have been my largest collaborative endeavours and quite demanding.

My school, which consists of two campuses, uses moodle as an e-learning platform, used to have netbook classes, followed by iPad classes, which will be changed into a BYOD policy as of next school year. This gives me the opportunity to use modern technologies in my teaching. Our classrooms are equipped with a PC (for the teacher), sound system, beamers and a few have IWBs and/or offer apple TV.

Concerning further equipment, both campuses have a computer room with 24 stations each and about 12 extra PC stations in the corridors for students to use. The classrooms at the more modern campus have lighter square tables which can be moved around and rearranged more easily than the quite heavy desks in the older building (which offers some corners with group tables in the halls, though).

I regularly set creative assignments for grammar practice that have to be done with apps rather than with pen and paper (eg. with VOKI, fotobabble, thinglink, padlet, various word cloud tools - my favourite being to engage and motivate students, which is not always easy in our modern world with the huge number of distractions waiting around every corner.... I make my students use their smartphones for quizzes (socrative, kahoot, google drive), instant feedback (mentimeter), brainstorming (answergarden), work with QR codes or create activities on whatsapp. Smartphones are not allowed for private use during the lessons, however.

I try to keep track of methodological and pedagogical issues and didactic approaches by regularly subscribing to webinars and checking relevant websites, blogs and material online.

I am also interested in providing my students with opportunities for collaboration (have used the tools available in moodle, google docs, thinglink, padlet and some others so far), which was also the reason why I signed up for this amazing learning event with colleagues from around the globe.

It is life-long learning that keeps us going .....

I am not on fb or twitter, but eagerly follow my peers' threads and posts there, next to the posts on the forum.

lake of Zurich


Ok, I have started my learning diary. I decided against using padlet, a well-known and often used tool in class, as I wanted to try sth new. Found out that some time ago I had opened an account with tacck, which a lot of participants seem to be using for their notes, so I started blogging with this tool, but I have been fighting with the settings a lot. Moreover, I have encountered problems when working on my LD on the iPad, which kept freezing or reloading the app. For this reason I restarted the diary on Adobe Spark, which impresses me regarding its design and easy handling (have used it for photo stories so far only).

autumn at the lake

Module 1

What is collaborative learning?

The learning objectives for this module are:

  • Understand the full meaning of collaborative learning, and that it requires more than teachers simply putting students in groups
  • Appreciate the key benefits collaborative learning can bring to students and the specific skills it helps develop
  • Appreciate how collaborative learning can be facilitated by a flexible, interactive classroom, and also through project-based learning
  • Create a personal Learning Diary to log learning activities, reflections and resources from the course.
  • Reflect in your Learning Diary on two learning activities and whether they require a low or high level of collaboration from students

1.1 Introduction

Definition of collaborative learning

"Collaborative learning is not just putting students into groups".

So what are the KEY ELEMENTS of 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 derived from social learning theories as well as the 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.

According to research reviews, collaborative learning enhances:

  • Academic achievement
  • Student attitudes (e.g. openness to diversity)
  • Student engagement
  • Student retention (Prince, P. 2004; Davidson & Howell Major 2014)

Moreover, collaborative learning contributes to the development of specific skills, e.g.

  • Leadership competences
  • Self-evaluation
  • Listening skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Skills of persuasion & negotiation
  • Team working skills (Jacques & Salmon, 2007)

1.2 Video on CL in a flexible classroom

my comments on the video about the flexible classroom:

It is amazing how differently designed furniture for a classroom can make a difference!
  • At our school we have single desks that can more or less easily pushed around and rearranged. Most of the time students sit in a U-shaped arrangement. We teachers do not have our 'own' classroom, but have to share it with up to 8 different colleagues, so I need to have everything put back to 'normal' at the end of the lesson. Being limited to only 2 lessons of 45 min a week (e.g. in classes following the maths profile) I would lose about 10 minutes of working time if I want to set up a collaborative learning environment in that class, which is the reason why I have rarely done so.
  • Task- or project-based learning is not very common at our institution - and hardly known to my faculty members (apart from 'group work'). I more or less stand alone, too, when it comes to integrating apps and web2.0 tools in lessons (apart from note-taking apps like goodnotes or dictionary apps). Since the majority of our teachers follow a rather traditional approach, it is also challenging to implement collaborative assignments in the classes, because the students are not used to them.
  • I have tried to go beyond mere 'group work', mostly in literature lessons, with varying degrees of collaboration and cooperation - as I understood it :-) - and hope to be able to do it the proper way after completing this course.
union in technology

1.3 Video on project-based learning

my comments on the video about PBL:

  • very well carried out and explained! ideal classroom equipment available, too.
  • It certainly takes highly motivated students (and teachers) for this type of teaching and learning. We all know from experience that the attitude, willingness to put in an effort, motivation and enthusiasm of students can vary a lot, depending on their age, character and socio-economic background.
  • With difficult classes it is sometimes easier and less time-consuming to teach 'the traditional way' (with the additional pressure of grades) in order to achieve the set goals.
  • I used to laugh at everybody who mentioned burnout when I was younger, but, in the last couple of years I have had to economize with my energy and watch my work-life balance. So I have decided to invest more time and innovation only into those classes who are interested and mature enough to take a different approach.
  • Learning events with such a multitude of colleagues from all over the world are an excellent occasion to get reminded of what can be done differently in our teaching. I want to thank everybody for the creative input they are sharing at this early stage in the MOOC!

1.4 video on project in the English lesson (Shakespeare)

I wonder how many English lessons Anna has per week to be able to produce such admirable work with her class!

1.5 extract from Monica Giansanti's script and my comments


Using technology, both in planning activities and in working with students, highlights a first obstacle: the need for teachers to have sufficient digital competences, that are not always so widespread at school.

  • I completely agree with Monica here. The degree of ICT skills at my school is not so high with some colleagues still struggling with basic features of moodle. When it comes to web2.0 tools, knowledge even more decreases..... I sometimes feel alone with my creative approaches ....

Another crucial aspect is to succeed in harmonizing the different styles of teachers when working together to ensure unhealthy competition doesn’t arise. I observed this aspect much more collaborating with local colleagues than with European ones. Maybe it is something we learnt at school! Nevertheless I have had some positive experiences and I hope to develop and improve them.

  • Again, how true! I have enjoyed working internationally much more than collaborating within my own school, partly due to the above-mentioned problem of rivalry and/or lack of digital skills.


Social constructivism is the pedagogical framework I refer to for innovating my didactical approach, methodologies and strategies in my daily work. Of particular importance is students’ active role in their learning and building of knowledge and skills.

When thinking about this, I ask myself how can students be really involved in defining the topics on which they are asked to collaborate on? I have to admit that in my teaching I always end up choosing the content and topics students will work on, and only sometimes try to involve them in making decisions. I am so directive in planning the lessons and the activities, because it is less time consuming, but above all for the awareness of my role.

  • Time IS indeed an important factor. In the end we must achieve a certain level with our students and this can only be done by sticking to a rigid schedule, guaranteeing the desired academic level. After all, we teachers know the curriculum better than our students who sometimes only want to see a fun factor in what they are doing. Monica exactly reflects my own thoughts .... I also like to be in control ...

However, this year I would like to introduce Project-Based Learning into some of my teaching, allowing students to choose the questions they want to answer to drive the project, but for this I know I will need to give up some of my control as a teacher and allow my students to take a more central role.

So my questions to the experts and peers on this course is, is it possible and feasible to encourage students’ active participation in planning learning activities, and what is the best way to do this?

  • Probably a mixture between teacher-guided and student-based decisions (a compromise) should be achieved: students should get the feeling that they have had a say in the planning and teachers should also be satisfied with the quality, level and content of the learning activities.

.... I created six groups each composed of four students. When I set up the groups of students, the main difficulty I found was in identifying how to guarantee the quality of the collaboration – in other words it is difficult to ensure that all students will collaborate and gain equally from the experience. This is because I'm leaving them to work independently and sometimes the more confident or able students dominate the activity, leaving shyer or less able students to become disengaged.

To face this risk I tried one approach which involved organizing the work of the groups in two different ways for two steps of the process: first the groups were heterogeneous, My hope was that the more competent students would help and motivate the less competent students rather than make they shyer; later the groups were homogeneous and they worked with different roles and competences, that I choose for them (someone wrote the text, others were looking for images, in the same intent of creating an e-book). This worked to some extent, but I wonder what other ways there are to ensure that the design and implementation of my learning activity allows for a high quality collaboration for all students involved.

Secondly, another challenge I often come across when implementing collaborative learning is that the more confident and competent students are conscious of their larger efforts in the group and they complain and are dissatisfied when the group receives one unique grade, as they don’t think it is fair or reflects their individual input.

  • Yes, this is a recurring problem. I would suggest forming homogeneous groups and setting differentiated goals, according to students' abilities, for each group. This way all the students will receive the mark they deserve. I remember a webinar on mixed ability classes I attended, where the pairing off of students with similar ability was recommended.
  • I also find it extremely difficult to ensure that students stick to the target language when working in groups. It mostly only happens when I monitor them directly and remind them of using English. After all, they should practice their speaking skills and not have their discussions in their mother tongue.
A rolling stone will not gather moss.

1.6 Module 1 learning activity: examples of collaborative activities from my teaching

  • low collaboration activity (level B1)

Dealing with the grammar aspects of modal verbs, students in my iPad class (in groups of 4-5) were given the task to set up a certain number of 'weird' rules (as a fun variety to ordinary regulations) - expressing prohibition, permission, advice, recommendation, obligation etc. - concerning various places, buildings, institutions in everyday life, such as school, office, swimming pools, traffic, sports etc. They collaborated on a google doc and were free to illustrate their page.

work on rules and regulations using modal verbs - B1
  • high collaboration activity (level C1)

Doing poetry in my last year class, I picked 5 love poems (2 Shakespeare sonnets, sonnet by E. Barrett-Browning, W.H. Auden and contemporary Alice Oswald) and asked the predominantly female students (aged 18, level B2 to C1, divided into groups of 4) to read and analyze the poems with regard to interpretation (themes), figures of speech, author's message, biography etc. As the material was relevant for the upcoming A-Level exam, the objective was to provide comprehensive information for everybody in the class as preparation for the oral final exams (students included video and audio as well to guarantee correct pronunciation in the recital). Groups set their own homework and distributed individual tasks and research among each other. Self-reflection had to be submitted in form of a short journal (mark). There were presentations in class, which were also marked, so assessment took individual students' commitment and performance into account rather than to the whole group (this way I wanted to prevent lazier students from leaving the work to the more conscientious ones). However, before we started students were asked to negotiate on how much the mark would count towards the overall mark. Collaborative tools were thinglink and padlet, links to which were published on moodle. The project covered 3-4 weeks (3 lessons à 45 min. per week).

analyse, interpret and recite love poetry from across the centuries

The short project included student negotiation, peer correction and feedback, interdependence, self-reflection, collaboration in ICT matters and content and enhanced their ICT, team, listening and presentation skills.

e pluribus unum
more autumn leaves

Module 2

How can you design CL in the classroom?

The learning objectives for this module are:

  • Understand how to embed collaborative learning into lesson design
  • Appreciate the four dimensions of collaborative learning concerning group work, shared responsibility, making substantive decisions, and interdependent work
  • Understand how the 21st Century Learning Design Collaboration Rubric and Learning Scenarios can help you reflect and design collaborative learning activities
  • Assess the two collaborative learning activities you described in Module 1, using the 21 CLD Rubric, and report in your Learning Diary

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Embedding collaborative learning into lesson design

some excerpts from Deidre Butler's speech: "People don’t work in isolation, so how are you going to get people to work together with new information and solving unstructured problems. ... technology is ubiquitous, our connection is there, the actual push and drive from the world is actually pushing us into a space where we have to actually think about what learning looks like in a digital era. ....Technology can support new pedagogies that focus on learners as active participants with tools for inquiry-based pedagogies and collaborative work spaces ..."

... If you design learning activities that demand the use of these skills, students will develop them. ...But we need a shared language, a shared meta-language. So when I talk about are people working together, what does that mean? Do they have shared responsibility? What does that mean? If they are making substantive decisions, what does that mean? And if I talk about interdependence, what does that mean?"

So, which SKILLS do students need to develop?

Bloom's Taxonomy of intended learning outcomes
  • negotiation -
  • conflict resolution -
  • agreement on what must be done -
  • distribution of tasks -
  • listening to the ideas of others -
  • integration of ideas into a common whole (= working towards a common goal)
at Lake Zurich

2.3 The 4 collaboration questions

  • are they working together? it means working together either within their class or with people outside the classroom, face to face or using technology. They work in pairs or groups to discuss an issue, to solve a problem or to create a product
  • do they share responsibility? on a common product, common process, common design, must collectively own the work (outside classroom: mutual responsibility of the task)
  • do they make substantive decisions? on content, process or product - either one; danger: do not overwhelm inexperienced Ss by designing too complex tasks
  • is their work interdependent?
21st century learners

2.4 21 CLD Collaboration Rubric

codes 1 to 5 of a task

IMPORTANT: Teachers have to ask themselves where the evidence of the learning objectives are (use rubric before designing the scenario to build in collaboration from the start - and for assessment afterwards)

2.5 Collaborative learning scenarios

The 7 phases of a learning scenario

DREAM: Ss brainstorm, think freely and share ideas

EXPLORE: Ss collect information on a certain topic

MAP: Ss structure their thoughts and ideas and seek to understand how they are related

MAKE: Ss develop/create a product or practise an activity.

ASK: Ss interview experts and stakeholders

REMAKE: Ss replan or revisit their product (on the basis of the feedback or further info they received)

SHOW: Ss publish and present the results of their work

important to remember:

  • CCL = Collaborative Classroom Lab
  • the introduced learning scenarios can be adapted to any subject
  • the Irish examples are subject-specific
  • when designing such scenarios, take the school curriculum, the age, the level of pupils and the subject taught into account.
from my lavender garden

2.6 Module 2: Learning Activity

A. Review of Module 1 - Learning activity

a. I want to critically analyze the task on modal verbs which I regarded as low-level collaboration, referring to the suggested rubric. When I set the task a year ago, I naturally did not have all the knowledge I have acquired in the meantime, so I expect that a few of the essential elements of TRUE collaboration will be missing :-)

  • working together (discussing an issue together, giving feedback) - yes
  • sharing responsibility (developing a common product, responsible for the content) - yes
  • making substantive decisions (referring to their own knowledge of the issue, discussing and deciding on the setting for their content, deciding on which content to include) - yes

--> as to taking roles in the group - I think in my task Ss assign roles to team members based on the list of roles that I have mentioned in the description and not on their own account - no

--> the exercise was about practising the use of modal verbs. I, the teacher, decided on the common outcome (= a set of weird rules), so I did NOT involve them in this decision or leave them an option - no

??? A lot of questions arise now ??? in this respect! - I am not sure how Ss will know about which roles they should take if the teacher does not give them suggestions or examples. - Will they find their own? - What about Ss who are supposed to work collaboratively for the first time? - Where do they get the information from if not from their teacher? - Do I guide them too much when mentioning they should assign roles in the group to each other? ....
  • interdependent work (group members are aware of their roles, both individual and group accountability are involved, results must be grouped logically) - yes

After checking the task critically against the collaboration rubric, the task I originally viewed as low-level collaboration seems to come out with a code between 3 and 4.

PS: I reviewed my first review a second time, after reviewing two of the three assigned tasks from other participants in the optional peer review activity. The more you practise assessing, the more critical you get, it seems, and the lower your rate your own assignments on the rubric, so I went down 1 point after all.

b. What about the activity I assigned to my last-year students while doing poetry, which I considered high-level collaboration?

  • working together (small group discusses issue together, they analyse and interpret a poem based on previously acquired knowledge and practice, give feedback to each other; they work face to face AND from home via the collaborative webtool thinglink) - yes
  • sharing responsibility (group members develop a common response - especially in interpreting poems it takes more than one view, but a look at the text from various angles) - yes
  • making substantive decisions (Ss decide on how they will tackle the task and assign roles in their teams, plan the process of their work; decide on who will open an account with thinglink, which image to choose, which audios to include, who will work on which tag, which information to be included, who will post it on padlet etc) - yes
  • interdependent work (fair division of work, working towards the deadline, agreeing on the design, content and conclusion of a comprehensive analysis of an assigned poem consisting of various components) - yes

The task I originally viewed as high-level collaboration can be evaluated with code 5.

PS: Again, I am insecure about how much I am allowed to guide Ss in the process, e.g. is it ok to ask them to use certain tools to share their work with the whole class or to suggest a collaborative tool from the beginning. Would they have to find those tools on their own??

2.7 Optional peer review activity

Reviewing two of my peers' learning activities made me even more reflect on what it takes to create a truly collaborative project and increased my knowledge and practice in doing so to a great extent.

look closely
autumn walk

Module 3: How can you assess CL?

The learning objectives for this module are:

  • Understand the principles of assessing collaborative learning
  • Appreciate the various challenges teachers face in assessing collaborative learning and the tips, tools and solutions available
  • Understand the value of using rubrics and checklists for assessing collaborative learning, and how to construct them
  • Appreciate the importance of involving students in the definition of assessment tools used for collaborative learning
  • Start creating one or more lesson plans integrating collaborative learning and assessment using the Learning Designer

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Teach Meet

on Wednesday 23 November - video at the end of the LD

3.3 Assessment for CL

What is the purpose of assessment? It...

  • helps students position themselves in the learning process and become aware of the extent of their efforts to achieve objectives,
  • needs to make learners take responsibility for their own learning by helping to regulate their efforts, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and enable them to seek help in order to overcome difficulties.
  • shouldn’t discourage learners, but rather strengthen their commitment to learning.
  • should encourage students to learn collaboratively and not encourage competition.
  • should also contribute to a collective conscience promoting the belief that we learn better in groups because we can overcome our difficulties more easily when we help one another.
  • Feedback regarding assessment must be brief, clear and timely. Self-assessment and peer assessment can be fast, timely and objective when assessing collaborative learning if it is implemented in parallel with learning activities, uses the same language used by group participants, and is conducted diplomatically so as not to create obstacles in the social relationship of the group.
  • Ultimately, assessment has to be useful for learning; it must make sense for those being assessed and not only for those assessing.

The benefits of assessment relate directly to how effective the assessment is. The assessment’s internal and external credibility, legitimacy and reliability recognized by stakeholders has a significant impact on its value and potential.

There are three types of assessment

Formative Assessment, Self-assessment and Summative Assessment

Formative assessment can help to improve teaching strategies and students’ study because it provides very contextualized feedback both to students individually and to groups, as well as to their teachers.

Simple assessment tools can be used for formative assessment, as long as the goals are clearly defined. It is necessary that those involved realize the importance of the selected assessment tools, and acknowledge their value. Feedback must be immediate to have direct effect on the learning process, so it’s important to use assessment tools which are easy to build, easy to use and provide easy data analysis.

Self-assessment should focus on individuals and their commitment, motivation, engagement in teamwork and their ability to achieve personal goals.

Group goals can be formulated using checklists or progress level scales applied over a pre-defined timeline systematically or at particular milestones while carrying out projects or tasks.

Summative assessment aims to provide a formal academic record of students’ learning progress and to establish proficiency levels. Often summative assessment is confined to tests only, which is not fair. If students are requested and expected to engage in group work, develop projects and present results, build blogs or other digital products, then summative assessment should consider these type of “artifacts” as learning outcomes to be assessed, so we need to assign a weight to each of them in the final summative assessment, so as to take account of students’ work as a whole.

3.5 An ICT teacher's experience in the assessment of CL

benefits of CL assessment (teacher from Portugal)

  • It is a student-centered process
  • Promotes students' involvement in the assessment tasks
  • Promotes students' responsibility and motivation towards the learning process
  • Promotes self-reflection and students' argumentation
  • Students can learn socially from each other
  • Promotes digital literacy through the use of digital web 2.0 applications
  • Promotes development of 21st century skills and competences

The main challenges in assessing CL

  • Changing role of the teacher/students in the classroom.
  • Group dynamics: students must have a positive attitude and receptivity towards their involvement in the assessment
  • Group assessment versus individual assessment
  • Management of teams/groups of students so that everyone participates and collaborates in the activities
  • Time available to prepare and apply assessment of collaboration in the classroom

proposed solutions to solve those problems:

  • Assessing collaborative learning requires regular communication between peers and peers and teachers.
  • Digital tools can be used to support teacher’s planning activities. The use of collaborative digital tools enables teachers to efficiently observe student groups and deliver feedback. Digital tools can also support students to publish and share their assessments.
  • Reorganizing the classroom space can introduce more collaboration-friendly dynamics in the classroom
  • More interdisciplinary teaching and sharing of materials amongst teachers also facilitates collaborative teaching

questions for reflection:

1 – In collaborative learning situations, should student outcomes be assessed in a different way than the traditional way?

2 – Is the way we assess collaborative learning independent of the curriculum and of the students' age group? Can it be applied to all disciplines and classes?

3.6 CL and peer reviews

".... At the end of a project my students often produce a digital object - a webpage, a video, a multimedia presentation, etc - to show what they have learnt. They have also their own blogs which they use as digital portfolios for their projects. I think this is a nice way to encourage self-efficacy and metacognitive reflection. My goal in using blogs is to provide them with a tool through which they can reflect on what they have learnt and then be able to compare it with the initial stages of their learning, see where they have developed new competences, and identify areas for improvement or further learning...."

--> for peer review - comments on tacck, padlet or use google forms

--> for quick checks - kahoot, socrative or other quiz tools;

--> for evaluation of individual or group presentations - anonymous feedback from smartphones (mentimeter, answergarden, socrative, kahoot)

3.7 CL - what to assess and how?

Assessment models could be based around:

  • Individual and collective learning outcomes;
  • Teamwork and group goals including individual commitment;
  • The methodological process adopted to implement and complete the project or task;
  • The product or
  • A mix of targets.

Considering we are seeking to develop collaborative learning scenarios, the emphasis should be put on assessing the development of team work skills and the results achieved by the group, much more than evaluating individual successes.

When and how to assess go hand in hand: end of class - simple, quick (checklist rather than written reflection); evaluation of progress in form of scales, quizzes, rubrics, detailed feedback; for further info for teacher - mindmaps, blogs, portfolios

Using rubrics

A rubric is a scoring tool (4 levels of progress and clear descriptors) that lists the criteria for a piece of work and articulates gradations of quality for each criterion, from excellent to poor (Goodrich, 1996).

  • speedy and effective way of collecting information on students’ learning and can be used to provide feedback .
  • flexible and effective for both self- and peer assessment.
  • Teachers can also use them to give formative feedback if the descriptors are sufficiently clear and objective.

IMPORTANT: According to Brookhart, the biggest mistake teachers make when using rubrics is that they focus on the task or product, and not the learning outcome or proficiency the task is supposed to get students to demonstrate. (When students are involved in defining the criteria and identifying quality descriptors, they are much more able to understand and identify with the assessment objectives).

Using checklists

  • useful in reducing common errors made when assessing and validating knowledge. The simpler they are, the higher their value (between 5 - 10 items is ideal; clear wording; should fit on one page and be applied quickly)
  • Good checklists are accurate, efficient, well-targeted and easy to use in all situations, provide clear clues on the most critical and important aspects and are, above all, practical.
  • help people to manage a complex process, to establish priorities clearly, and to work better in teams.

3.8 Prof. Valente - answers to earlier questions

Some of the answers included in the video:

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 without contributing significantly to it (benefit of "parasitism").

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.

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.

3.9 Module 3 Learning Activity

This learning activity poses a real challenge to me who has hardly ever worked with assessment rubrics before. The only time I remember using rubrics was during the entrance exams to our school, when teachers were asked to assess the oral performance of candidates.

After looking at several examples of rubrics that peers in this MOOC have shared or are available online, I decided to make my own, an amalgamation of two or three simple but practical looking examples. After all, the descriptors should be easy to grasp and understandable for the students. So I spent a whole afternoon designing and creating a satisfactory rubric for self and peer assessment and another one for group result assessment (the padlets) with rubistar, a tool suggested by a lot of experienced teachers in this course. It is really easy and convenient and one can adapt the existing descriptors to one's own needs

Then I started creating a collaborative project for the learning designer. As I am about to start a unit in my coursebook (English File intermediate) which is dedicated to iconic figures (with the example of Steve Jobs), I decided to take Arjana's shared learning acitivity on amazing women as an inspiration for my task and to extend and modify it. I am planning to start the project in my iPad class (mostly boys) next week, so it will probably be on notable male figures mainly :-)

We are using moodle as our e-learning platform, on which I have already embedded useful links and tools for the project, such as scrumy, teamup, blendspace, padlet. I will be using moodle's feedback tool for brainstorming ideas. I am about to put everything into the learning designer to be able to submit it at the end of the course. Quite some work to do, and luckily I had a weekend without major plans.....

3.10 Resources

sunrise at the lake

Module 4: How can teacher collaboration facilitate collaborative learning?

The learning objectives for this module are:

  • Appreciate the benefits of teacher collaboration and how best to take advantage of them, as well as the challenges, and tips and tools for overcoming them
  • Understand the required skills needed by teachers for effective collaboration, as well as the conditions needed at school level for teacher collaboration to flourish
  • Understand how technology can facilitate teacher collaboration
  • Finalize the development of one or more lesson plans integrating collaborative learning and assessment, as well as elements of teacher collaboration, using the Learning Designer.
  • Peer review the collaborative learning lesson plans of two course participants.

4.1 Introduction

Teachers, as well as teacher trainers and principals, need to model collaboration in order for students to take this seriously, and recognize and be convinced of its value.

4.1.1 Deirdre Butler's webinar

could not attend due to parents-teachers evening.....

Audio quality is rather bad and impedes comprehension .... Some of the questions D. Butler answers are:

  • How can we integrate lazy or disruptive students and make sure that they actively work? (find out about their interests and strengths)
  • Should the teacher decide about group division in class or should there be freedom of choice (to promote full responsibility)?
  • How do we assess the work of the individual student if the work is done in groups?
  • How can we assess the different levels of social/interpersonal skills or interaction in a group? (close monitoring necessary, different types of learners must be taken into account, difficult)
  • Even if we use multiple tools, how can we ensure the assessment is fair, and not be influenced by the average performance of top students and weaker students?
  • How many really complex and meaningful CL activities should a teacher implement in one school year? (start with ONE if you are the only teacher working that way; find a colleague to team up with and collaborate; depends on your confidence level)
  • Can students profit from CL, even if it is only practised rarely or for a few hours or by only one or two teachers? (of course)
  • How to apply CL in subjects like maths which require individual, abstract thinking?
  • How can we best deal with noise in the classroom? (if students are focused, it will be productive noise which is ok)
  • What about students using their smartphones while collaborating? (as long as they are on task and check task-related information, it is ok)
  • What percentage of the whole student's performance should CL cover?

4.2 A primary school teacher's experience of teacher collaboration

excerpts from the video: "Cooperative teaching experiences also provide mutual support and assistance for planning and implementing lessons, assessing students’ progress, sharing professional concerns, and addressing students’ learning needs. Most importantly, working in teams allows more opportunities for students to understand and connect with content thereby maximizing individual learning potential.

To be effective, the art of collaboration requires thoughtful consideration on the part of teachers. Collaborative teachers have to spend time before and after school to coordinate their efforts. However, 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. I would like to ask the experts and my peers on the course, how we might convince such colleagues of the importance of teacher collaboration. Perhaps we can start by showing them experiences and evidence of collaboration not only improving teacher performance, but also student performance. Finding time to work with colleagues is also an issue, and I would welcome any ideas to meet this challenge."

my comments:

  • Well, I feel the readiness and required openness towards collaboration is there, yet only in a small number of colleagues at my school, but the main problem is the TIME. Due to different individual timetables, different lesson-free days, an increasing number of after school conferences and meetings on general school issues, and finally our various individual personal commitments, it is becoming more and more difficult to find a time window for meetings that suits everybody.
  • Our school occasionally offers some extra time reserved to the exchange of ideas and discussion of relevant issues to the faculties, but even then we hardly find the time to cover the predominant topics, let alone pedagogical or methodological questions.
  • Sadly, I am the only teacher at our institution with eTwinning experience. There is one colleague who teaches French who has collaborated with a colleague from another Swiss school in a project and who I occasionally exchange teaching experiences with. She is open to integrating and experimenting with apps, too. I remember presenting the idea and chances eTwinning offers (or offered when CH was still participating) in front of my colleagues - unfortunately with little or no echo! For this reason collaboration for me is imaginable and doable with colleagues from other countries rather than those in my own school.
  • We used to have interdisciplinary projects with two or more teachers of different subjects working together. However, most of the time we ended up with everybody doing their share after a short planning session. It resembled group work (putting teachers together) rather than collaborative work.

video excerpt: "To conclude I would say that successful teacher collaboration begins with finding time to connect with colleagues, remaining open, sharing thoughts, and being ready to provide support."

  • It might be easier to collaborate as a teacher of younger students, e.g. at primary school level, since you are with the class the whole week. At upper-secondary level, I see my classes twice a week only and some of my colleagues rarely or never.

4.3 A secondary teacher's experience of teacher collaboration

Reyhan speaks from my heart! It is so rewarding to bring the rest of the world into your classroom. After being blocked from eTwinning and the possibility of collaborating with European teachers I searched for new ways of connecting with colleagues and classes around the world and also came across ePals. Sadly, when I asked three of my classes if they wanted to get in touch with peers from abroad and work together in a short project, they all declined. I did not want to force anything on them then. I think a class has to be ready and enthusiastic about the idea.

I seem to be luckier with willing students this year. I am teaching an all-girls class who is extremely ambitious and lively. I will do everything to make them interested in a project again. The video has also inspired me to try out skype for collaboration as a new tool.

4.4 The benefits and challenges of teacher collaboration

According to D. Butler, the key benefits of teacher collaboration at the same school are

  • peer-to-peer learning
  • collaboraton in a safe environment,
  • critical feedback from others in a trusted environment.
  • encouragement of risk-taking
  • sharing the experiences
  • designing a task together

The same goes for international collaboration - you can design really deep meaningful, authentic learning environments that move beyond the classroom. And that you yourself then become an effective modeller of collaboration. Because your students see you, not only working in isolation, but actually working with teachers in a department in school, across the school, across nations, across boundaries.

The main challenges of teacher collaboration are, within the school environment itself, to find TIME to collaborate with one another (difficult to align your timetables; sometimes schools can’t build in time for teachers to collaborate within the school environment.

-> look at available technology and tools for collaboration outside of the school environment.

-> the school itself could actually build the school environment that supports the culture of collaboration; (one class period built-in that is common across a department. So, let’s say the English department or the French department or the maths department would have one free class where everybody across a certain year-group could meet together, and look at things that they have in common. Or one common timeslot across a year-group where all departments could come together, and they could collaborate on a big task. So there’s not just collaboration within a subject, but collaboration across themes.

-> If you have the time, you could stay up late if you could really engage with a teacher. (e.g. when studying earthquakes, and linking up with teachers in Japan who have real experience of earthquakes. you do this, across time zones, and it doesn’t cost you anything either, because you could use Skype).

-> And we could link up together on Skype, and we could share a common platform, and we could share one another’s notes. I could then pre-record stuff, maybe bring it in to my students, etc. The focus is on trying yourself, as a professional, to look at where you can find opportunities to collaborate with one another. Once you then build up that community of practice – it may not be in your own school; you could build that community of practice across nations. That energises you ....

So, sometimes the opportunities to collaborate can circumvent the challenges.

4.5 Skills and conditions needed for teacher collaboration

Some key points in Mayella Dempsey's video are that teachers need knowledge, attitudes around wanting to collaborate; they need to have the skills for communication, for working with others, dealing with conflict (empathy, emotional skills) and they need to have a motivation.

"Teaching is a very isolated pracice" (behind closed classroom doors) -> leadership, shared responsibility, sharing skills, giving feedback must be practised in collaboration of teachers. Older and younger teachers can benefit from each other

There must be trust within the team and a common shared goal you are working towards.

What is the situation at my school like?

Our heads have implemented one lesson across the faculties for preparation of a study week in February (mentioned earlier in this LD) with the following aims: 2nd year classes in the language profile will have a natural science week whereas 2nd year classes in the science profile will have a focus on Social Studies and English. Last year classes will have courses focusing on final exams preparation in French, 1st year classes are offered workshops in Arts, Music and Sports. That seems to come close to what Mrs. Butler and Dempsey plead for. At the same time 3rd year classes will have their rhetorics days/debates, which will be visited by the 2nd year students, too.

English faculty planning the study week on Ethnic Diversity and Migration

So last year the English faculty, also integrating a History teacher, put together a programme (for the science classes with only 2 weekly lessons in English) on Minorities and Ethnic Diversity, including a museum excursion, covering the topics of migration, refugees, Native Americans, Aborigines and improvement of linguistic skills (i.e. revision of grammar and structures with the help of - partly online - games, which was my part BTW), and including an individual writing task on moodle. A kind of circle time with feedback and discussion finished the study week.

Having that schedule from last year facilitated the planning for this school year to a great extent, yet proved complex again due to having to take individual colleagues' availability on certain days, the excursions and attendance at the debates into account. I feel what we came up with tends to be cooperative rather than collaborative, since, after brainstorming some ideas, individual colleagues prepared workshops with a special focus (Maoris, Aborigines, Native Americans, migration in Europe), hardly looking left or right at what the other teachers were offering.

I was also in charge of the feedback last year. When reporting the outcome of the anonymous feedback of one of the three classes back to the faculty, I felt that some of the points the students had made were not always taken seriously. However, our programme basically comes close to what Mrs. Butler and Dempsey plead for in terms of teacher collaboration.

4.6 How technology can facilitate teacher collaboration

It's all about moving away from sending and displaying towards processing and analysing and sharing!

Technology is the key point in modern-day collaboration and allows working together across borders!

4.7 Irish teachers’ reflections on teacher collaboration

4.8a Module 4 learning activity

During the last few days, beside all the other commitments that school routine brings along, I have been quite busy continuing refining the collaborative project started in Module 3. The lesson plan rubric is extremely useful when it comes to checking on the details and the question if all the requirements of a truly collaborative task are met. I will also use the rubric when assessing my peers' lesson plans.

I have just handed in the final learning activity!

... and I have handed in the two peer reviews as well .....


4.9 Resources

4.10 Teachmeet Nov. 23, 2016

Thanks to the initiatiors of this wonderful learning experience, the European Academy, to Deirdre Butler, all the speakers in the videos, the peers who have invited me as a contact and all the supportive colleagues in the forum discussions (Anna, Arjana, Petra ... to name just a few) who have enriched my knowledge with their contributions.

Cordial thanks!

all nature/flower photography by the author

Created By
Andrea Zibung


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