Is Teaching Collaboration The Catch-22 Of Education?

I just read the Forbes article and would be interested in different feedback. Read the Forbes article here >

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Look at where we are with society and our contrivances. We have come a long way in the last one hundred or so years. This was all done under the old educational system and old fashioned idealisms. Often very little focus on collaboration in schools. What we recieved, was a foundation of education that gave us the information and ideas to be able to work effectively in groups once we were in the workplace. Working in groups both socially and in the workplace comes naturally to us as we are social beings and have been so for thousands of years. Even chimpanzees and gorillas are social beings functioning in a socially collaborative setting. We don't really need schools to teach us how to work collaboratively, we need them to provide students with a strong foundation of education.

Nice article.Here's the question that pops into my head: What is the content that is the focus of the cheating?  It seems to me there are two different (way more but for simplicity sake I stick with two) areas of learning- facts and application.  If we are testing (and the article mentions Regents exams that do this) simple retention of facts, then cheating is easy to identify. However, some would argue "who cares?" because the content of these standardized exams is often pretty irrelevant anyway once the students hit the real world.

The application questions, ideally, would ask for integrating ideas into something new (or at least new to the student).  It seems collaboration is desired there.  In Why School?, Will Richardson suggests that we need to include collaboration in assessment.

 "...let's make sure that at least some of the questions we ask our students on assessments require them to tap into the vast storehouses of information that reside online as well as the networks of people who can help them sort out the answers."

Development of networks of people that students not only can, but should turn to to help them learn and grow is an important part of modern education.  Yes, students can gets facts form others, but can they synthesize them into a variety of topics?  

Interesting topic to explore.

Nice answer. I like the idea of discovery or collaborative learning. It is applicable in some situations, but given the curriculum, we don't have the time to make it a major focus or mode of learning. Sometimes the most efficient way of learning the basics is a good old fashioned lesson from a creative and knowledgeable teacher. I know in my continuing studies that the net is invaluable because I do not have access to local resources, but a good lesson from a pro really means a lot.



I have to correct what I said in my last entry for this thread. I have just learned that studies have shown that working collaboratively is no more, or even less efficient than working individually as the answers typically come from the most knowledgeable or creative person in the group. Brainstorming sessions both in the educational system and in the business world are more often than letting individuals come up with ideas individually. Once the ideas are formed, an anonymous peer grading system is an effective way to decide which idea is the best.

In order for collaboration to be effective, each member of the group must have a good foundation of knowledge about the subject at hand. The member with the most knowledge will typically present the most applicable ideas, and the members with the least knowledge will generally ride along with the group. I just read a study a couple of weeks ago that brainstorming sessions are no more effective than the individuals working alone. I think of it this way: if a company  is guided by collaboration, and the members of the team have little knowledge, the benefit is limited to the strongest member of the group. If we recognize the strength of the strongest member and let them lead the team, but recognize potentially meaningful input from others, it will be as effective and probably more effiecient, as there is a general direction provided by the more knowledgeable members.


It still comes down to students having a base knowledge to draw upon. Collaboration or working as a team comes naturally to us, given our social ancestry. Just look at the Bonobo Apes and other creatures that live in social groups. They don't have to be taught the benefits of teamwork. It's in their, and our genes. Of course we will always have people who would prefer to work autonomously and have a hard time functioning in groups, but they also have their place or role. Introverts still have meaningful contributions to society and businesses. Society has come a long way in the past without cognitively thinking about groupwork or collaboration. It just came naturally.


The internet is the largest collaborative think tank around, and it happens naturally, without people being forced to or taught how to collaborate. Just look at this forum.


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