Collaborative learning in Kokkola, Finland

BACKGROUND

Our school is part of NPDL program (New Pedagogies for Deep Learning). There are six core skills (collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, citizenship and character).
We will have one skill about two to three months. During spring semester 2019 we try collaborative learning with our 7th to 8th grade students. We have two classes of 7th grades and two classes of 8th grade. (We have new building and upper grades have grown year by year and next year it’ll have all the classes from pre school to 9th grade).

It’s difficult to make bigger combinations/ bigger multi subject themes in 7th, 8th and 9th  grades because of the timetable problems and the fact that every subject has its’ own teacher. The idea is to practice one 21st century skills/ deep learning skill in every subject at the same time. One skill at one time which they need in the future when they enter to work life.

We began with self regulation and collaboration. The groups need to learn to work together, help each other and learn to take responsibility of each other. Working collaboratively is more or less familiar from lower grades. There groups works only shorter amount of time, like one theme work, one week and then groups change. Now students will work with the same group and group members the whole spring semester. If we see insurmountable difficulties between group members we will mix and change the groups. In smaller difficulties we try to help the group get over the problems and continue working together.

Students will be in these groups in lessons where and when it’s possible. For example the groups in Home economy and Physique classes are smaller and maybe not all the group members aren’t in the same class.

PLANNING/ BEGINING THE EXPERIMENT

Students made learning style test. We got data how they would like to work and what affects to their learning. Based on this information we divided students three to four persons groups. There are about five to seven groups in each class.

Students were involved in planning process as much as possible.They studied and opened the concepts “learning to learn” and “self-regulation”. They learned what those mean, how does it look like when they work using those skills.

Classes defined five-step scale which describes collaborative learning. First step describes when learning doesn’t show any evidence of collaborative learning. The fifth step describes when learning shows great amount of collaborative learning. The other steps are somewhere between these two extremes.

Every step describes how the group should start working, how much do they need help from teacher, how well they collaborate and are they able to finish their works and presentations.

Every group made their own poster where can be seen their “name”, “photos” of each group member, table where teachers mark the progress of the group from deep learning skill and table where the group has set their own personal goals

Teachers observe the groups during lessons. When they think the group has done well, the group has been well self regulated he/she writes date and name to the table as a recommendation. When the group has received five recommendation, they receive badges as a mark of progress.

In the beginning it’s easier to achieve marks but when the group proceed to deeper level it’s harder to get the marks.

 

The other table is for their own concrete personal goals. Teacher will check these goals here and there. For example they have agreed that they won’t be late from the lessons or they will make sure everybody marks their homework clearly.

WHAT DO STUDENTS AND TEACHERS BENEFIT FROM THIS?

Students point of view
Students learn to know other students (not the best friend). They learn skills they need in the future. They learn empathy and learn to take responsibility from other people too. They get help and support from their own group.

Teachers point of view
It’s timesaving for teachers. Pair and group works are quicker to start. Students who have same kind of learning style are close and it’s easy to anticipate who needs more help. During lessons there is better working flow and peace because they don’t sit next to their best friend.

FEEDBACK IN THE MIDDLE OF EXPERIMENT

There’s as much positive than negative feedback. The most of the negative feedback is that students would like to work with their best friends, not with “random” fellow. Some said they would prefer working alone. Some said that few of group members don’t work as much the other would like them to work.

The positive feedback was very encouraging. Many said they have made new friends, they have learned to take responsible of others and they need to work harder because they are responsible of each other. One comment felt really nice: “I learn skills I need in the future.”

 

 

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