(Katya on the importance of fostering a sense of community in the classroom.)
I don’t know about you, but my school experience was a fairly individualistic one. Grades were always a reflection on your ability and your knowledge, and there is a lot of value in giving children a sense of responsibility about their own success. However, I am supremely glad to have gone to a University that encourages teamwork. It’s a skill I needed to develop, and I feel like it has been crucial to my development in the last few years.
Steve Wheeler talks about the ways online groups work together, and why a social aspect is key in getting children to participate in online learning exercises. It’s a very interesting read, as well as the articles he links, because they underline a truth which is one of the foundations of DoodleMaths (and indeed, many of the recent posts on this blog.)
Namely, that play supports and enhances learning.
Playing with friends and teamwork have quite a bit in common. In fact, the only difference is the context in which the words are being used – “play” implies a seemingly pointless activity, while “teamwork” is something that you usually do in the office, if that. However, both activities involve more than one person engaging in an activity to achieve a common goal, and in both cases, there are certain group dynamics at hand.
As we grow older, we start hearing words like “leader” and “mediator”, and businesses spend thousands of pounds on getting their employees trained to work better together; when we’re kids, though, we’re bossy, or meek, or come up with ideas that work for everyone, and those things come about more or less organically.
So why don’t we take advantage of naturally arising group dynamics and have kids work together more in class projects? Why not nurture good practices about working together as a team? Perhaps you can find students that are more advanced in your subject and have them help out their friends? Or maybe have students work on exercises in small groups to encourage knowledge sharing? Not only does this take away the edge of competition (and have some feel bad about not ‘getting it’ straight off the bat,) you are creating an opportunity to help your students build effective relationships beyond simple friendship. And if you need any more proof, check out this article about where the value of a school lies.
Try it out – who knows, 15 years from now, you might be saving your students’ employers a lot of money on training.