Collaborative Learning – a student view

This week I had two boys paired together to work on a maths/science collaborative task. The task involved a short experiment measuring the cooling of water and then some follow up activities.

These two boys have been Learning Partners all year and the task was certainly within their ability, so it was a surprise when on Wednesday, one of the boys came to me to say the other wasn’t working and he was doing all the work. From my opinion the boys had been working well together, although this news task was cognitively more demanding than previous tasks.

I sat the two boys down and had a conversation. They shared their frustration and I asked them to work on a table close to me. They lasted 3 minutes before one boy walked off. I tried once more to get the boys working together, and while the second effort lasted long, the result was pretty much the same.

The situation made me wonder – Do students actually like collaborative learning? I supposed a similar question is does anyone like collaborative learning?

The stark reality is that we expect our students to collaborate at the drop of a hat with whoever their partner is. But quality collaboration takes scaffolding. It doesn’t happen by placing students together and giving them an engaging task.

Quality collaboration takes scaffolding. It doesn’t happen by placing students together and giving them an engaging task.

In fairness to the boys I have been asking my class to complete a weekly collaborative task. It is fair to say that most have been struggling. So this week I asked my students for their opinions. I asked three questions;
Why do we do collaborative learning?
What should it look like?
What should it sound like?

Below are their answers and a scaffolding plan for our collaborative learning as we move forward.