I facilitated an AIMS math/science workshop last week in North Dakota. During the day, one of our participants realized that she needed to spend more time helping her students find ways to learn together, rather than in isolation. Midway through our morning she said, “I need to get better at being collaborative, and now I realize my students are not good at sharing and collaborating. How can I help them be better at this skill?” How did she come to this realization? As a facilitator I regularly ask participants to share, collaborate, and work on project-based lessons to learn together. I talk about building a good base for conceptual understanding and how that can be done using a collaborative approach. Participants in my group last week were not comfortable doing that and I had to keep reminding them to collaborate, share, and learn from each other. By the end of our day together, most of the participants began to grasp the benefits of collaborative learning – both on a personal level for themselves and for their students. Together we set some classroom goals and brainstormed a structure for quality collaborative learning that they could implement with their students when they got back to the classroom. I suggested that after they share this vision with students, they might also share goals and parameters with their students to set them up for success. Here are some examples:
- Students must actively participate in the learning.
- Students are learners and learners sometimes teach.
- Students must respect every member of their team while working together.
- All contributions are valued and celebrated.
- Students are responsible for sharing experiences and knowledge.
- Students are making an investment in their own learning.
I was happy that the participant asked me to lend some professional insight, help, and advice. My workshop was in a rural part of the country, and it may not be often that rural educators have hands-on professional learning. When they do, it is wonderful to see them taking advantage of it. I have always loved the opportunity to help teachers learn and grow, and this was yet another opportunity. My continued wish for teachers is that they challenge themselves to continually grow and make positive changes in their classroom practices. We do impact the future of today’s young citizens. Why not learn and grow to be better at what we do?