“Students will engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions on topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.” From K-5 Common Core State Standards for Literacy
I recently read this while involved in an early morning grade-level meeting. Afterwards I was observing in several of our classrooms and began to think back to when I was in school.
Schooling has changed greatly…for the better! Most of my schooling was spent at a desk in a row (toward the back of my class since we often sat in alphabetical order). The teacher stood or sat in the front of the room at all times and we sat in our desks at all times.
I learned to line myself up carefully with the student in front of me to essentially disappear when teachers asked questions. Makeup work was easy to get because all you needed was the textbook and stack of worksheets missed. I have no memory of discussing content or learning with other students. I have few memories of doing this with teachers. I have no memory of a teacher writing and sharing his/her learning.
All of the above things about school have (or should have) changed. Much of the work we do in today’s world requires communication and teaming with others to accomplish a task. In my work I rarely sit at a desk for extended periods of time. I rarely work alone but work with others to get things done. I rarely have a “worksheet” or form to fill out but often use writing to clarify my thinking or communicate with others. I rarely refer to a “textbook” but often refer to professional journals, websites, blogs and e-books to gather information. I often use technology to collaborate with educators, community members, and policy makers.
Facilitating collaborative learning is challenging, but our teachers are making great efforts to do this. It requires deep planning and thought. It’s much easier to just dispense information but young people (and older people, too) have little patience for constant lecture.
We are about to step into 2013 and a world filled with change and challenge. If we focus on instruction that helps our children work together, they will have the tools to improve our world. If we retreat from the requirements of Common Core State Standards and their emphasis on teaching collaboratively, we will leave our children a legacy of decline.