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How important is collaboration in the future-focused classroom?

We’ve all heard of how rapidly things are changing, how many of today’s jobs will be automated, how many jobs for the next generation are not existent yet and how globalisation is influencing economic growth and social structures. I heard this all a decade ago and I am still hearing it now. So what does this mean for today’s future-focused classroom? An important part of future-focused learning is for teachers to be researchers of their own practice and develop evidence-based practices that best suit their community of contemporary learners.

I currently teach Year 6 in a completely open-plan learning environment at a school that promotes inquiry-based teaching. After researching the effectiveness of both, I recognised that neither of these influences reached John Hattie’s threshold for interventions that have a high positive impact on student achievement. However, peer tutoring, cooperative vs. individual and small group learning are all placed above the ‘hinge point’ for what works best in education today. Using this evidence and the knowledge that we would be studying music through history, I developed the 'Collaborative Inquiry into Music' task.

Students formed groups of 4 or 5, in accordance with the research indicating that students may encounter problems with management, fair workload distribution and establishing working relationships if the groups were any larger. To improve the success of this venture, students utilised their knowledge of Kath Murdoch’s Learning Assets, especially how to be effective collaborators, which they have been learning about and practising this year.

Students started the task by discussing and researching what popular music looked and sounded like across the decades (1950s-now). This led to creating their own band, album cover, tour poster, original song with lyrics and finally a music video using a green screen. For groups who didn’t have a member who knew how to play an instrument, they created songs using GarageBand.

Observing 70 students, in a completely open-plan learning environment, collaborate to produce weekly tasks has been one of the highlights of my career. In my opinion, the most incredible aspect of this process has been the peer tutoring that has taken place. Seeing students take on a variety of roles and share their skills in art, technology and music (I can’t play an instrument to save my life and peer tutoring allowed for many to learn skills in this area) with one another based on their individual strengths has been inspiring.

Many workplaces are currently moving towards hot-desking, which evidence suggests requires a high level of trust which can be developed through collaboration. This creates the subsequent need for employees to work with a variety of people to complete a variety of tasks. That makes it more important than ever that teachers use evidence-based practices that allow for collaboration to not only maximise the quality learning opportunities available to students but to also give them the skills to navigate the ever changing modern landscape.

Jason Goodwin. Lifelong learner.

Jason Goodwin

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