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A Collaborative Classroom

As you begin the process of planning for the school year, you will want to give serious consideration to how your classroom is structured. Early research on teaching and learning has revealed that what happens in the classroom in the first 3 days determines the environment for the entire year. This insight is important as you begin to think about your classroom and your curriculum. An effective implementation is most likely to occur in the collaborative classroom, a classroom in which knowledge is shared.

The Carnegie Learning Way captures the belief that students develop understanding and skill by taking an active role in their environment. Furthermore, Carnegie Learning believes that effective communication and collaboration are essential skills for the successful learner. It is through dialogue and discussion of different strategies and perspectives that students become knowledgeable independent learners. These beliefs can be realized in the collaborative classroom.


A collaborative classroom is an environment in which knowledge and authority are shared between the teacher and the students. In a collaborative classroom, teachers are facilitators and students are active participants. All students, not segregated by ability level, linguistic proficiency,  interest, or achievement, benefit from the environment created in the collaborative classroom. 

Teachers in the collaborative classroom combine their extensive knowledge about teaching and learning, content, and skills with the informal and formal knowledge, strategies, and individual experiences of their students. The collaborative classroom differs from the traditional classroom in which the teacher is seen as an information giver.


The collaborative classroom is identified by discussion, with in-depth accountable talk and two-way interactions, whether among members of the whole class or small groups. It is a well-structured environment in which questioning and dialogue are valued and appropriate parameters are set so that active learning can occur. Given the importance of dialogue, it is essential for you, the teacher, to understand the linguistic proficiencies of your emergent bilingual students- in order to foster a safe environment for students to speak freely. Careful planning by the teacher ensures that students can work together to attain individual and collective goals and to develop learning strategies.

In the collaborative classroom, students are encouraged to take responsibility for their learning through monitoring and reflective self-evaluation. The collaborative classroom is one in which teachers spend more time in true academic interactions as they guide students to search for information and help students to share what they know. As facilitators, teachers have the opportunity to provide the correct amount of help to individual students by providing appropriate hints, probing questions, feedback, linguistic supports,  and help in clarifying thinking or the use of a particular strategy.


Critical to teaching and learning in the collaborative environment is the ability to define the responsibilities of the teacher and students. For effective collaboration and teamwork, teachers and students must agree to certain responsibilities that support the learning process. The table shown reflects the parallel responsibilities of teachers and students.

Monitor student behavior. Develop the skills to work cooperatively.
Provide assistance when needed. Learn to talk and discuss problems with each other in order to accomplish the group goal
Answer questions only when they are group questions. Ask for help only after each person in the group has considered the problem and the group has a question for the teacher.
Interrupt the process to reinforce cooperative skill or to provide direct instruction to all students. Believe that all members of the group work together toward a common goal. Understand that success or failure of the group is shared by all members.
Provide closure for the lesson. Reflect on the work of the group.
Evaluate the group process by discussing the actions of the group members. Appreciate that working together is a process and encourage group members to interact with, and relate to the rest of the group members.
Help students to become individually accountable for learning and reinforce this understanding regularly. Realize that each member must contribute as much as they can to the group goal. Understand that the success of the group is dependent on the individual work of each member and that students are accountable for their own learning.















(Tinzmann, M.B.; Jones, B.F.; Fennimore, T.F.; Bakker, J; Fine, C.; and Pierce, J., 1990).