NPDL Collaboration

Unpacking Collaboration in the Classroom

Use this excerpt from the 21CLD, Australian Implementation Toolkit with your staff to discuss what collaboration looks like in the classroom.

Informal collaboration - Learners collaborate informally when they help each other’s learning, or when one seeks learning assistance or information from another to benefit their learning. As teachers we can use these opportunities to scaffold learner's understandings, reflections, and collaborative skills. At times, informal collaboration may be a part of more formal collaboration, for example, a learner might informally seek information online to fulfil their individual role and task responsibilities as part of a team project. The immediate goal, however, is to help their individual learning.
Do learners collaborate informally?
Yes No

Pairs of learners give each other feedback on their individual learning work

Small groups brainstorms inquiry topic; each learner selects one to explore

A learner uses Skype to interview an expert to assist their research

Learners do their work alone, and submit to teacher for feedback

Learners individually brainstorm inquiry topics and select one to explore

A learner searches the internet for research information
Shared responsibility for a joint outcome or product - Learners have shared responsibility when they work together to develop a common or joint outcome, producty, design, response or decision. This gives them a reason and a shared purpose for working together. Shared responsibility is more ethan simply helping each other; learners must collectively own the work and be mutuially responsible for its outcome.
Is this shared responsibility for a joint outcome or product?
Yes No

Partners co-develop a letter to go to their local member of Parliament, raising a concern that is affecting their school.They review their writing together, each suggesting changes to improve it before the final letter is signed by both and sent.

Partners conduct a lab experiment together, with shared responsibility for carrying out the lab experiment; they must decide who will do what, and produce a joint report. Each pertner must be able to explain their results and how they were obtained.

Learners individually write letters to their local member of Parliament, raising a concern that is affecting their school. They seek feedback to improve their individual letter before signing and sending their letter.

Learners conduct and write a report on their lab experiment individually, with a partner they can seek assistance from if they need help.
Substantive decision making - It is one thing to have or be given shared responsibility, and quite another to be actively engaged in working out and making decisions about what that looks like in practice. Learning and collaboration are both strengethened considerably when learners must make their substantive decisions and resolve impriotant issues that will guide their work together. Substantive decisions are decisions that shape the goals, content, process, outcome or product of learner's work.
Is this substantive decision making?
Yes No

Partners investigate a given topic; they clarify their shared goals and decide together on the most important aspects to investigate to best achieve these goals. They justify their decisions in their final performance of understanding. This is a content decision that shapes both their investigation and joint outcome.

Partners decide what their presentation will include and look like for a particular audience and context. This is a fundamental design decsion that will affect the nature of their overall product.

Partners investigate a given topic; they choose which aspect they willeach research based ont heir personal favourites. This content decision does not chape or guide the proocess or outcome of their work together.

Partners consider and decide on layout, colour scheme and slide transitions for their presentation. Decisions about surface features are not considered substantive decsions that fundamentally affect product design.
Interdependent learning work - Learning work is interdependent when all learners must participate equitably in order for the team to succeed. Too often, a group of learners may have shared responsibility for an outcome, but in practice the decisiobns made result in one or two learners doing most of the work for the team, or the work is not divided equitably and fairly.
Is learners work interdependent?
Yes No
Team members each research a differnet internal system of frogs (e.g. circulation, organs, digestion…) They then work together to dissect a frog and write a lab report about the dissection, identifying frog parts and the systems to which they belong. Students must rely on each other s work in order to successfully identify what they see during the dissection and write a joint lab report. Team members work together to research the internal systems of frogs but each learner conducts their own dissection and writes their own lab report. Leaners work together on the research component, but they do not need each other to complete their work.

Excerpt from 21CLD, Australian Implementation Toolkit, Microsoft, 2013

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