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Increased focus on student collaboration

In Wendi Straub’s zoology class at Idaho Falls High school students team up to figure out the answers to problems at a series of stations around the classroom.
Straub said she has designed each of these experiments to encourage the students to put their heads together to figure them out. She said that there are great benefits to this kind of frequent collaboration.

“In the classroom we find that students benefit from explaining or out loud thinking to one another,” Straub said.

According to Straub this kind of experience where students learn from each other in small groups is something they really enjoy.

“We challenge each other,” Idaho Falls High School student Leanna Highsmith said. ” ‘I think it’s this, No no, I think it’s this.’ We debate about it and come up with a completely different answer.”

Sydney Blake, another student in the class said that one of the reasons that she feels it works so well is that there are multiple people working with you.

“I think it’s good to have more than one mind so you can double-check each other,” Blake a said.

A few blocks away from Idaho Falls High School at Compass Academy it’s all about collaboration and they do a lot of it. In Mary Towler’s math class students work in a little larger groups to figure out if two triangles are congruent. Then they have to get up in front of the whole class to explain their group’s answer.

“They can discuss it and they can verbalize it and they can talk about the different concepts,” Towler said. “They’re really getting to understand it at a lot deeper level than trying to work independently.”

The sixth-grade classes at Ethel Boyes use collaboration extensively. Students sit in groups of three called triads. They recently discussed an essay on Greek mythology and worked together to answer thought-provoking questions from the teacher.

“They are learning to agree with each other, to help each other and guide each other to one collective answer,” teacher Morgan Hammon said.

Parents can contribute as well. Straub even suggested some ideas on how.

“Facilitate study groups – snacks are always a draw. Give up the dining room table so kids can really sit down and quiz another and test one another and really probe each other’s learning. That’s really super useful.”

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