Research supports what we probably already knew about student collaboration: It’s integral to learning. We know that collaboration helps students build their interpersonal and social and emotional skills. We know that students don’t learn facts in a vacuum; social learning helps them build a more meaningful understanding of the world.
Everyone loves collaboration. But simply bring up group work and… that’s a different conversation. Group work is one of the most common types of student collaboration. It’s also complicated and messy, and never quite works out as well as we’d like. Some students feel like they’re doing most of the work. Others feel left out. Motivation wanes. Assignments get cobbled together, and nobody feels like they have real ownership of the work.
Or worse yet: Nobody feels a strong sense of ownership of the learning.
Collaborative group work is complex and messy by nature—it’s supposed to be that way. Working through that complexity is part of what we want students to experience. But if we really want to promote and model positive collaboration, it’s worth taking a second look at how we structure and assign group work to our students.