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Collaboration: A Skill for 21st Century Learners - December 2019

Collaboration: A Skill for 21st Century Learners - December 2019

Almost every school is responding to calls to reinvent education to better prepare students for a global society and a rapidly changing economy. We have to start with the “why”.

We need passionate, creative problem-solvers to address the challenges of the future. Knowing this, how can we realize our vision to be the premier educational experience in delivering a real-world, forward-thinking program for the global leaders of tomorrow?

In the West Bloomfield School District, we recognize that in order for our students to be successful in the new global economy, we need to help them be so much more than a test score. We also recognize that no two children are the same, nor should they be. We strive to help our students come to their own “a-ha” moments in ways that support each one as a whole person while also fostering the skills and qualities that are important to their futures.

Ultimately, what is needed to align our teaching and learning with our district’s mission and vision is to paint a portrait of a West Bloomfield graduate, which identifies the dispositions and skills our graduates should possess. Our Portrait of a Graduate empowers our community of learners and educators to be innovative and to make decisions that help the district to build upon its tradition,
mission, and vision.

This fall, we developed a student self-assessment and an educator assessment around Collaborator by asking the following questions, why assess collaboration and why is collaboration important?

According to Reference.com, the answer to that question is: “In collaboration, there is an increase in the understanding of diverse perspectives with the development of higher-level thinking as one of the important results. The coordinated efforts of many can accomplish more than the efforts of one or a few separately. Collaborative learning and group work engages deeper learning, social skills, contextual understanding and levels of activity. Oral communication and self-management is fostered with collaboration. Collaborative learning also fosters responsibility, self-esteem and retention in students.”

Adding to this is Corey Moseley’s article, “7 reasons why collaboration
is important” which lists the following benefits to learning how to
collaborate effectively:

  1. It helps us problem-solve
  2. Collaboration brings people (and organizations) closer together
  3. Collaboration helps people learn from each other
  4. It opens up new channels for communication
  5. Collaboration boosts morale across your organization
  6. It leads to higher retention rates by creating a cooperative atmosphere important to people
  7. Collaboration makes us more efficient workers

In the West Bloomfield School District, students are collaborating when they work in pairs or groups to discuss an issue, solve a problem, and/ or create a product; students are collaborating skillfully when they resolve controversy and conflict through negotiation. We are asking students from kindergarten through
12th grade to think about their skills as a collaborator, assess themselves on
a set of criteria and identify how they might grow their capacity. Teachers
will meet with each student, review their self-assessment and provide feedback to them. This process also models collaboration, communication, contribution and critical thinking. We are excited to implement our collaborator feedback cycle and look forward to sharing our students’ growth with parents, staff and the West Bloomfield community.

As we encourage each student to work collaboratively it is important to keep in mind what Julius Dobos noted in the article, “Collaboration and Teamwork in the Creative Industry”: Working as a team is like a puzzle; every member has a unique shape that becomes a part of the big picture. Being able to experience the role of each and every puzzle piece...helps each individual realize his/her own role and that role’s importance in the entire project.

As our students refine their collaborative skills, they will become more confident, productive and happier individuals able to contribute positively to their learning and to the betterment of their local and global communities.