Working together works

It’s been a subject of long debate. How important is it to teach students how to work together. In the working world, collaboration is vital and huge amounts of money are spent on team building events and team working courses. At the end of the day though for a school, student’s work is judged on its own merits and collaboration in exams is, well best said to be frowned on.

Now, thanks to NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts – funded from the National Lottery) the subject is being examined in more detail. In the report “Solved! Making the case for collaborative problem-solving”, the authors produce evidence that Collaborative Problem Solving does indeed raise attainment measured by standard tests and then look at the barriers that the approach faces. You can read the full report here.

They make the point that collaboration isn’t just problem solving in the company of others. To deliver the benefits students in a group have to have the chance to truly share information, ideas and questions without snap judgments being made. There may be a ‘right’ answer to the problem but over-specifying the route to reach the answer is what constrains collaboration.

The question then becomes, how do we enable students to tackle this kind of problem solving. We’ve all seen the stock photos of students sitting around a single computer pointing at something on the screen but that’s not the real world. There are virtual spaces where this collaboration can take place, OneNote Class Notebooks are one example.

If we want to instill the power of collaborative problem solving in students then we have to deliver a collaborative problem solving space.