Three Strategies for Creating a Collaborative Classroom Culture

Students raisng hands

Collaboration is a skill teachers should instil in their students early on. When kids can work well with others, they are far more likely to achieve academic success because they get to exercise cognitive and social skills.

Teaching collaboration, however, has lots of challenges. And that is because it carries a lot of virtues with it, including commitment, humility and responsibility — all of which take years to develop. There are many ways to plant the seeds of the collaborative skill and attitude in students. Here are some tactics to follow.

Set up the classroom for success

The physical environment of the classroom can either promote or discourage collaboration. Most teachers use the four-corner desk arrangement. In this setup, kids arrange their desks in such a way that they form a bigger table of some sorts, where a student fills each corner. With this arrangement, pupils can see each other eye-to-eye, converse and work together easily, and communicate non-verbally. This helps in building rapport among students, which is a critical element in collaboration.

Now, to make this four-corner desk arrangement work, you would need flexible educational furniture and enough space, so you could reconfigure layouts easily now and then.

Another way you can set up the classroom better is to dedicate a space for maximum collaboration. Some teachers assign a ‘community zone’, placing bean bags and other comfortable furniture, as well as art supplies, so kids will be compelled to make crafts alongside other students.

Teach them to listen and ask good questions

Students with teacher sitting down

At its core, collaboration is a communication skill. And communication is all about taking turns, listening and speaking. One good way to teach them to listen is to have them repeat what one student has said. This challenges them to listen to their classmates intently and consider others’ insights. Another way is to have the ‘Three, Then Me’ rule, in which children would have to listen to three students first before they speak.

In terms of speaking, what you want to instil in children is the art of asking good questions. Kids can experience a more meaningful collaboration when they challenge their own or others’ ideas by probing. So, teach them types of questions: open-ended, closed-ended, leading and rhetorical, among others. These questions will make collaboration more productive for students.

Know the rules of groupings

When grouping children, you have to consider a lot of things that would shape the quality of their interactions with each other. One would be the size of groups. Too many members might result in some freeloading. Too few members and the workload may be too much to bear.

It is an art to find that sweet spot in group sizing. Another consideration is the roles. Groups must have clear goals and responsibilities agreed by the students. Otherwise, there might be missed expectations that would affect collaboration.

The ability to work with others is a trait that each of your students must learn even at a young age. Take note of these strategies to create a collaborative class.