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Creating a Community of Learners

If we expect students to work well together, they will need to understand what it means to learn collaboratively and how it will benefit them. A good description of collaborative learning used by many of our teachers is:

Collaborative learning is a process in which each individual contributes personal knowledge and skills with the intent of improving his or her learning accomplishments along with those of others.

Students should be aware that one of the most important goals of collaborative learning is to create a community of learners. They should understand that the community will grow and thrive only if all members of the group are active participants. Students must also understand that their role in the classroom will be different than what they may have experienced in other classes and so will the teacher’s role!

You will want to introduce the features of a collaborative classroom to your students. Important characteristics of the collaborative classroom include:

  • Shared responsibility
  • Choice
  • Discussion about how we learn from what is right as well as what is wrong
  • Working in groups, whether as an entire class or as several small groups
  • Shared outcomes and expectation of group productivity

Finally, you will want students to understand the goals and expectations of a collaborative classroom: Students learn collaboratively to gain greater individual proficiency.

  • All group members must show respect for others and their opinions, ideas and suggestions.
  • All voices are equal and all group members should be given the space to speak.
  • Groups will succeed or fail together.
  • EVERYONE suggests, questions, and encourages.
  • Group members are responsible for each other’s learning.
  • All group members bring valued talents and information to the task at hand.
  • All group members will respect and value the input of others.