Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Collaboration first, cooperation second.
Just recently, I have understood the true difference between collaboration and cooperation. According to Dictionary.com collaboration and cooperation are defined as:
Collaboration - something created by working jointly with another or others.
Cooperation - an act or instance of working or acting together for a common purpose or benefit; joint action.
I attended an association instructor's training where we dug deeper into these words. If I wrote this blog a year ago, I would have written that these words are synonyms of each other. I would have continued with stories that, in my classes, students are truly collaborating with each other throughout their learning. I would have been lying.
Cooperation was, and still is, present in my teaching. I have my students sit in groups and always allow them to "act together for a common purpose". However, this is different than "creating [something] by working jointly with another". An example that can differentiate the terms would be an assembly line at a car factory. The workers are working together to finish a project (the car), however the workers are not sharing ideas, or working jointly with another to finish the task.
I have taken this point back to my class and now, I have my students truly collaborating with each other. Students must rely on the knowledge of each group member to solve a problem. One strategy I have implemented, to allow for true collaboration to occur, is if a student is not understanding a certain task, or is uncertain of a step, he/she must ask his/her group members for assistance. Once assistance is given, he/she must be able to explain the reasoning he/she was taught, before moving on in the problem. I truly have noticed a change in the dynamics of my classroom.
Before this change occurred, students preferred to work with others that share their same level of knowledge and calibre. If a weaker student was present in the group, they would leave the student behind, to watch from the "sidelines". Now, with true collaboration occurring, students embrace the weaker ones and truly assist them in their learning. No longer are students left behind, but instead picked up and helped along. Two amazing ideas are being created in my classes.
1) Most students are feeling a sense of ownership for their learning. They are not afraid to take chances, and are becoming more responsible for their knowledge.
2) Students are becoming teachers. When a group member is confused on a certain outcome, the group will stop and teach the idea to the other member.
I have now realized that if you have collaboration then you must have cooperation, however the converse may not necessarily be true. Knowing this, I put collaboration first and therefore am guaranteed to have cooperation.