Collaborative Activities and toolsAna Maria Menezes Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence
Building a Classroom communityYou will find that each of your classes carries its own dynamic and its own personality. Your responsibility as an instructor is to do what you can to create an environment in which the students can learn together. Research has shown that students learn best in a classroom where they feel free to express their ideas, they feel needed, and they feel comfortable with their peers.
A classroom community Learn students names and help them to learn each others names.Use an icebreaker on the first day in order to help students get to know each other.Welcome questions and continually thank students for asking them. If students seemhesitant to ask questions, try using the "Think-Pair-Share" activity or leave a littlemore wait time after asking if there are any questions.Welcome diversity and model tolerance in the classroom.Arrive early to class in order to chat with students and stay a couple of minutes afterclass to answer any individual questions they might have.Use group activities to help students feel more comfortable with each other.Create lessons that allow students to be active learners with their own contributions,not just empty receptacles that need to be filled.Ask for feedback on your teaching and do it often with various methods .
Collaborative ActivitiesCollaborative learning is the act of giving the responsibility of the learning to thestudents. Dont panic if you havent heard of collaborative learning before,youve probably done a collaborative learning activity in a class withoutknowing it. Its basically the instructional art of using groups and pairs ofstudents to fulfill a task/assignment. If done well, these activities can create avaluable source of motivation, critical thinking skills, and active learning whilethe students learn to manipulate classroom information into their own workingknowledge.
Think-pair ShareThis activity helps to relieve the anxiety and mentalblock of being called on to answer a question inclass. The rules are as follows:1. Ask an open-ended question or pose a problemto the students.2. Give the students a time limit in which they canponder the answer.3. Have them discuss their answer with someonesitting next to them.4. Call on different pairs to share their answers.
Group ProjectsThese are field-specific, but the following are a few pointers in order to carrygroup projects out successfully:1. Choose a project that will be challenging, yet not too difficult, for the students.It will succeed if it is interesting to the students-especially if it has direct relationto their own lives.2. Either assign each member a key role in the project or let them assume arole (e.g., one scribe, one data collector, one mathematician, onetheoretician…). This will help with grading issues and responsibility and it willalso help your groups to work as a team.3. Specify exactly what you expect of the students and the end product youanticipate.
Classroom ProblemsAfter presenting information to the class , problemsare given to the students.The students are paired or grouped, depending onthe activity.The basics of this type of activity are the same asthe group projects, but you might find that yourstudents are a little hesitant to break out of theircomfort zones and meet new people in the class.
Case-based LearningThis style of learning works with several different fields and types ofcoursework. It is often very successful at getting students engaged-especiallywhen they have received a great deal of abstract information that they need totranslate into real-life situations.1. Group the students .2. Give each group a situation that will require them to use the days subject ina creative or thoughtful way.For example, if youve been teaching about marketing strategies, give thestudents a specific product and have them use the information theyve learnedby setting up a "plan-of-attack" to market it(If you feel uncomfortable making up cases for your specific field, chances arethere is a book available with already-made cases. Check with yourdepartment).3. Time the students and have them share their results in the end.
Jigsaw ActivityThe basis of the activity is for each person to become an expert in a subject and then to teachthat information to their peers. It can be somewhat confusing to figure out how to group thestudents, but if you have the patience to try it, it can be an excellent resource when you need toconvey a lot of information in a small amount of time:1. Group students together and give each group a different resource sheet regarding an aspect ofthe subject. Number them adequately, for example, if you have three resource sheets, createthree groups in the class.2. Have the students read the information and take notes (if you have a specificworksheet/graphic organizer to help them organize the information, youll have more success withthis activity). They should become the "expert" on this topic.3. Number the students off again. The tricky part is numbering adequately. For example, if youhave 21 students and three resource sheets, the students will have to count off into groups ofseven (seven groups of three people).4. In the new groups, the "experts" will have to teach their peers about the information (again, it isbest for all participants to have a worksheet where they can take guided notes).5. In the end, evaluate what the students have understood about the subject