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Collaboration Considerations

Collaboration Considerations

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Published by Stephen Best
Considerations for Implementing and Assessing Collaboration Tasks and Projects in the Classroom
Considerations for Implementing and Assessing Collaboration Tasks and Projects in the Classroom

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Stephen Best on Sep 09, 2011
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09/09/2011

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Considerations For Implementing and Assessing Collaboration
Below are some considerations related to collaboration that you might wish to consider as you develop activitiesfor your own courses, or for inclusion within your program’s curriculum of study. Also listed are opportunities forassessment of collaboration efforts of the student, where applicable.
ORGANIZATION
 
OF
 
THE
 
COLLABORATIVE
 
TASK 
Questions Instructional Considerations Assessment Opportunities
How many studentsshould be on a team for thetask?
Experts suggest groups of 2-7, unless thereis reason to make them larger (if so, includesub-groups). You need to balance the work of the task, peer pressure from the group,and opportunities for collaboration into yourdecision
During the task 
, observe any work activities tosee if all have roles and to see if efforts areequal.
 After the task 
, survey or interview studentsabout their roles and ideas about optimalnumbers.
How should I group thestudents? Avoid having students decide groups
ontheir own, except for short tasks.
Group by interest 
if the activity allows forgroups to focus the task on this interest.
Group by ability 
or learning style (forheterogeneous groupings) if you want tofocus on encouraging communication andcollaboration skills specifically.
During the task 
, observe work activities to seehow students will differing abilities/interestsfunction with one another. Look for pairings of learning styles or interests that may beproblematic.
 After the task 
, survey individuals on each teamabout their interaction with others, or holdindividual and/or group interviews to discussthis.
INTRODUCTION
 
OF
 
THE
 
COLLABORATIVE
 
TASK 
Questions Instructional Considerations Assessment Opportunities
Would a group-building activity help to initiate thetask?
It depends on the depth of the task. Shortexercises for a specific goal generally don’tneed skill-building activities. Longer projectthat will go beyond a class session usuallymerit an ice-breaker to help everyone in thegroup get acquainted, and some shortexercise to help develop or review norms forthe group exercise.
During this introduction
, observation can helpyou identify early problems that might arise ingroup dynamics, such as formation of cliques orearly separation from the group. These mightlead to group re-organization or having you paymore attention mentoring or facilitating groupwork.
 After the task 
, asking students to reflecton the value can be useful for future planning.
What dostudents need to know at the beginning of the task?
Students should get the task and a rubricfor grading at the start of the activity.Unless you know if students havereasonable collaborative skills coming intothe task, provide a timeline for benchmarksbefore the final product, and providesuggestions for communication, organizingworkflow, running a meeting, and conflictresolution.
During the task 
, set up intermediate benchmark deadlines for portions of the work to bereviewed for progress. These can be peerassessments with a rubric or guidelines forfeedback, or you can review and give feedback.
 After the task 
, survey individuals on each teamto see what they think might have been usefulbefore the task was given or implemented. 
 
INTER-GROUP
 
COMMUNICATION
Questions Instructional Considerations Assessment Opportunities
How do Iensureeffectivecommunicatio n among all  members of the team?
Set guidelines for how often groups shouldcommunicate on long-term projects.Designate a “group facilitator” who can getfeedback from each member of the group.Provide a protocol for sharing ideas ormaking decisions that includes non-verbalfeedback and discussion. Use technologiesto stay connected with groups
During early stages of the task,
observe thegroup dynamic and communication, especially if using protocols to structure this. Provideperiodic “checkpoint” interviews or discussionsto see if all members are communicatingeffectively.
 After the task 
, individual surveys/ interviews are likely to provide the mostauthentic information.See the “Use of Technology” section below for technology based communication suggestions.
GROUP
 
 AND
 
INDIVIDUAL
 
ROLES
 
 AND
 
EFFORT
Questions Instructional Considerations Assessment Opportunities
How should  roles or functions be assigned?
First, decide if there are discernible roles forthe project, and if each requires similareffort. If so, you may want to assign thesefirst, especially on short-medium lengthprojects. Long projects can also use thisapproach, or can rotate roles as needed. Try to rotate roles for individuals over severalprojects. Try to use common names for roles fromtask to task, so that the responsibilities of that role are easily recognizable. Outlineresponsibilities for each role as they relate tothe task as a whole.
Prior to the task,
develop any descriptions forroles within a team, and ask students forfeedback about their perceptions of the role.
During the task 
, try to observe or collect studentwork that addresses the specific activities foreach role. Student feedback (surveys,interviews, and journals) with specific questionsthat address their own role and the perceptionof the other roles can provide feedback aboutan individual’s efforts on the team, and in whatcapacity they work with others. Encouragethose with similar roles in the class to discusscommonalities about their roles duringdiscussion.
What  happenswhen one member is not  performing as needed?
Be prepared to evaluate individual andgroup efforts, and set up a grading policyand/or group reassignment as an option.Remember that the goal of the activity is topromote learning and collaboration skills. If one person is intent on not collaborating,the others in the group should not suffer theconsequences if they make a reasonableeffort to engage the individual. Consider anoption for “being fired” from a team (seebelow under conflict).
Prior to the task,
briefly survey studentsthoughts or perceptions about collaborativetasks. This may be done through journals,show of hands or other voting, discussion, orwritten response. This may give you a sense of those individuals who try to refrain from groupactivities.
During the task,
be sure to monitorgroup and individual progress through feedback opportunities to students (surveys, journals,meetings, etc.). Gather documentation fromstudent work or feedback when you anticipatea problem, so that there is evidence if a changeof task is required.
How do Istructure rolesto support the learning of all  group members?
Encourage roles that are oriented towardthe “work” of the project or task, but nottoward the analysis, decision-making, orevaluation of the group. Encourage rotationof roles within a group on long tasks, so thatall people have opportunities to build skillsand knowledge.Consider questioning specific individuals whenobserving a group to ensure that all studentsunderstand their roles, and that all have a voicein the group decision-making and learning.During the task, pose questions for discussionor written response regarding what is beinglearned along the way about content andprocess skills.
 
CONFLICT
 
RESOLUTION
Questions Instructional Considerations Assessment Opportunities
How should a group deal with conflict?
Help groups distinguish between conflictover decisions about the content or processof the task and their efforts to complete thetask. Encourage developing consensusover content ideas and process. Haveindividuals within the group each outlinetheir ideas and concerns so that they canbe addressed as objectively as possible.
During early stages of the task,
observe thegroup dynamic and communication, especially if using protocols to structure this. Provideperiodic “checkpoint” interviews or discussionsto see if all members are communicatingeffectively.
 After the task 
, individual surveys/ interviews are likely to provide the mostauthentic information.
What if aconflict startsto damagethe learning goals of the activity?
For longer projects that have more potentialfor problems (and likely more consequencesfor learning), establish “checkpoints” duringthe process of the task, so that suchconflict can be prevented. If conflict withinthe group appears to inhibit the learningpotential and goals, have a process set upto mediate the conflict, involving each partysharing their questions and concerns ontheir own, and try to find common ground. Try to consider an “exit strategy” if a teammember is causing too many problems.Determine a policy for such efforts inadvance, though sharing this at the outsetof the task can be problematic for thoselooking for an early exit from a group.
During the task,
try to observe early tension, orhave participants journal or otherwise documenttheir experience as they go. Often, student self-reporting will bring out intra-team conflict early,especially if you are in the role of mediator. Donot “grade” based on conflict, at least informative stages, as this will limitcommunication about these problems with youwhen you would still be able to address them.
 After the task 
, make sure to allow for individualand group communication with you about theprocess. In student interviews or surveys, makesure to address how the conflict affected thelearning and progress of the group, not justemotions and dynamics. These are useful, butcan cloud perceptions of the function of thegroup.
FINAL
 
PERFORMANCE
 
 AND
 
GRADING
Questions Instructional Considerations Assessment Opportunities
How do I address thedifference between individual and  group grades?
Consider various models for grading thatcombine group and individual outcomesand efforts, with input for each. While thelearning outcome here is about “being aneffective team member,” it is best to try tofocus on outcomes for individuals and thegroup. Include self-reporting and groupdecisions about assigning points options forstudents to address this at the outset.Include individual and group elements in therubric for the task or project.
Prior to the activity,
make sure to includeopportunities to gather individual and groupfeedback about the process and about thelearning taking place. These may take manyforms, but will all provide feedback for gradingdecisions.If using a group decision about point allocationsor other similar approach, request writtendocumentation through individual and groupresponses, either through a common form, orother form of documentation. Though thegrading is similar to assessment in ways,grading requires more documentation should agrade be challenged by a student. Useoutcomes and the rubric to avoid concernsabout subjectivity.

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