Strategies to Promote Student Collaboration in a Distance Learning Environment (Reviews)

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The new question of the week is:

What specific strategies, lessons and tools have you used to encourage students to work collaboratively in a physical classroom, blended learning environment or socially distant distance?


This article is the latest in a collection of over 60 columns, videos and infographics providing support for teachers in distance education. You can see them all with the school closings and the coronavirus crisis.

I believe collaborative learning is at the heart of a successful distance learning environment.

‘Relationship’ (will what I’m asked to do bring me closer to others whom I respect and love) is a key element in creating the conditions for students’ intrinsic motivation (see Four Ways to ” help students feel intrinsically motivated to do Distance learning).

Using breakout rooms for students to work on presentations, videos, and slideshows, I think I’ve done a relatively decent job of encouraging student motivation (knocking wood, that’s the start of the story). ‘year !).

Discover the best online tools that students can collaboratively use to create projects to see some of the web tools that students are using in these efforts.

Today Jenifer Hitchcock shares her additional thoughts on student collaboration in this year’s school environment.

Student collaboration

Jenifer hitchcock teaches grade 12 AP government at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. She was a member of the iCivics Network of educators since 2017:

It takes the work of many hands to redevelop virtual spaces into places of courageous discussions about vulnerability, curiosity and mutual value. Here are some strategies that I have found effective in encouraging student collaboration in my virtual classroom:

  • Allow students to create their own standards. This exercise is based on identifying what students need from their peers and from me as a teacher. We will publish the standards. We will reflect on the standards. We will use standards to hold each other accountable. I also teach students how to discuss their emotional reaction in class. Social and emotional learning is critical here; students need to be able to identify what they are feeling, think about why they feel that way, and determine whether they want to stay at the intersection of learning and emotion. I love the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence Ruler Method as the basis of a common language.

  • Emphasize the student-to-student discussion that connects the individual to learning. I highly recommend several resources to refocus the virtual space on learning and student engagement:

– Use rituals emphasizing active listening, home discussions and affirmations to stimulate student engagement. Students should be seen as part of the community. Author and teacher Matthew Kay gives excellent advice on how to reorient the class around the person as a whole through daily activities like informal five-minute conversations which he calls “home conversation” about the lives of the students at the top of the class or take the time to complete each other as humans. This is important because it allows students to bring their culture and identity into the classroom in a way that does not trigger anxiety that kills learning. It also allows me to mold my own humanity and to be vulnerable.

– Offer a variety of engagements during large group discussions to enrich learning. Traditional large group instruction where I teach and then ask students to respond according to my schedule can cause anxiety for some students. It can also cause more vocal students to feel that their ability to engage quickly is being penalized. I try a variety of activities including small group discussions, station rotations, student choice in learning environments, dialogic teaching, C3teachers PBAs or Citizen Generation, game via iCivics and visible thought routines from places like Project Zero or agency by design to stimulate student engagement and build community. When I’m stuck, I can turn to resources like The Discussion Book where they say, i say to help with blocked conversations.

– Think about how routine practices can be punitive. We can agree that attendance and commitment are important for success. However, sometimes the way we encourage these student behaviors can be punitive. For example, asking students to turn on the cameras is much more difficult than it looks. I find myself distracted or embarrassed, the same goes for students. I’m thinking about ways to encourage behavior without penalizing it. For example, having students show us their pets, take a self-portrait from materials in their room, allow for casual free time conversation, or break the ice from games like Chat Pack.. I give children grace periods to prepare for synchronous and asynchronous assessments of learning. Students want to be successful, but once they feel they cannot be successful, any desire to be a part of the community is wasted.

  • Read the piece. The teachers are good at reading the room. Behaviors usually tell us that something is wrong, such as when a student is not engaged, is stiff during discussion, does not come to work, or attend class. I personally seek them out to ask if they are doing well, if there is anything I can do to help them be successful and to be a “warm seeker”. I have earned the students’ trust and continue to tell them that I believe in them. I show them what they need to get back on track and promise to help the student. I accept failure as a learning opportunity and challenge a student to grow. Sometimes we have to start this conversation because a student doesn’t feel comfortable confiding in anyone. Some key behaviors I’m looking for:

– I use emojis to assess students. When students aren’t using them consistently, I can go back with them (search a private chat to ask if everything is okay).

– I go to the different sub-committee rooms. Although cameras are not required, I am watching to see that the students are engaging.

– I ask the students to give me their opinion. There are intentional times to ask questions, I give three times the wait time.

– I ask the students “What are your questions?” Instead of “Do you have questions? The students always have questions, it is a question of finding them. They might be more comfortable writing them down in the chat instead of saying them out loud.

While difficult, learning in a virtual environment still allows educators to build intentional spaces for deep learning and vulnerable growth. As we trade office tables for breakout rooms and waiting time, the important work of community building and engagement can be done.

I know that more than ever my students need refuge spaces to unpack what they have learned, to find their voice, and to acquire knowledge and skills to engage with their peers and with their communities outside of the classroom. ‘school. I know they need to speak up more than ever, and I can offer a space to listen and be heard as an individual and as a large number. Instead of chairs and desks, we’ll be using bytes!

If you are looking for more support in online education and best practices. I encourage you to explore the free professional learning videos that iCivics created in partnership with Makematic, Adobe, Participer and ClickView. Videos offer smaller strategies for online pedagogy, online program design, and building virtual classroom communities.

Thanks to Jenifer for her contribution!

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question that will be answered in a future post. You can send me one at [email protected]. When you send it tell me if I can use your real name if it is selected or if you would prefer to remain anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Education Week has published a collection of articles from this blog, along with new material, in eBook form. It’s called Questions and Answers on Classroom Management: Expert Strategies for Teaching..

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This year’s most popular Q&A posts

Race and racism in schools

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Student motivation and socio-emotional learning

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