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  • >>Steve Chabon: Here at the College Preparatory School in Oakland,

  • California, collaborative learning is one

  • of the most important ways our students learn and grow.

  • >>Harrison: In math we work in groups every day,

  • asking each other questions before we ask the teacher.

  • >>Maya: In English, we lead our own round table discussions

  • to deepen our understanding of the books we read.

  • >>David Markus: College Prep is one of the top private high schools

  • in the country and a terrific model for collaborative learning.

  • The good news, their practices are both replicable and affordable.

  • Take a look at what they do for their students.

  • It may change what you decide to do for yours.

  • >>Monique DeVane: College Prep School is a fifty-two-year-old school.

  • It was founded by two women who had a strong vision of a place

  • where academics could really thrive.

  • >>The collaborative teaching and learning

  • that we do here is really distinctive.

  • Individual work can be a great way to master content,

  • but what the group work empowers and kind of

  • enables is a student's cultivation of a certain resilience.

  • How do you look to your neighbor as a resource,

  • how do you test your own theories, how do you understand if you're

  • on the right track or the wrong track?

  • The sort of habits of mind

  • that actually are the underpinnings of deeper scholarship.

  • >>Betsy Thomas: We have forty-five- minute classes

  • and the math classes meet every day.

  • The kids come in and they go over the homework

  • in their groups by comparing answers.

  • >>Boy: I got the square root of B squared plus A squared.

  • >>Betsy: And then if they're having no resolution,

  • like a problem was too hard for everybody, that's the signal that says

  • that we need to talk about a problem or two as a class.

  • >>Aidan: The thing I like most about the group work is how easy it is

  • to get help if you're stuck on a problem.

  • I mean, you can just ask one of your group-mates to help you

  • and everybody's really ready to lend a hand.

  • >>Boy: That's these two lines

  • and then we do the slope formula from zero to there.

  • >>Betsy: All right, here comes classwork, thirty.

  • The ones I care most about are one and two.

  • >>Girl: And then it says, draw the segment from AB to CD,

  • so we just connect those points.

  • >>Betsy: We designed the classwork problems to be harder

  • than the homework problems.

  • The homework problems tend to be more straightforward

  • and the classwork problems are much meatier.

  • And so in order for them to actually accomplish them,

  • they have to talk to each other.

  • >>Ethan: For harder problems, usually our group will work together

  • and we can usually come to a solution, just by putting

  • like little pieces of it together.

  • >>I got negative B over C for one and two.

  • >>I don't think it's negative B over C because it's--

  • >>Yeah, but there's this--

  • >>Betsy: The best groups talk

  • about the problems before they take pencil to paper.

  • You really tell, their faces are directed towards each other.

  • They are, you know, looking at each other's papers,

  • and they're learning so much more.

  • They're learning how to be proactive, they're learning how

  • to depend on their peers.

  • >>Girl: Today you will work as a team of surveyors,

  • putting to use your knowledge of basic compass

  • and straight edge constructions.

  • Your only tools will be a length of rope and a piece of chalk.

  • >>Ethan: I feel like when we work outside together,

  • it just kind of brings our group together a little bit more.

  • >>Aidan: You needed someone to hold the rope and someone

  • to move the chalk, and so it was just like the next step

  • in collaboration was working together to make one big end result.

  • >>Julie Anderson: What I do in my classroom is I try to make the kids feel

  • as comfortable and as safe to be able to take the risks

  • that will create a good conversation.

  • On the first day of class with the ninth grade,

  • I start by asking the students, "What are the values implicit in sitting

  • around this large, wooden, oval table?"

  • And they come up with a list on their own.

  • First and foremost is respect, and also listening

  • to each other, being courteous.

  • Having the right geography of the classroom, it's really important.

  • I always make sure before we start class, "Can you all see each other?

  • Can you make eye contact with your classmates?"

  • And if you can't, I have them adjust their chairs so that they can.

  • I always tell the kids, "Check your ego at the door.

  • Be willing to take risks and just have fun and just throw out idea.

  • And you throw something else out and it's not fully formed,

  • that's great because somebody else can jump in and build on an idea."

  • Another sort of easy trick I have is to start with a kind

  • of a reflective moment, a moment of silence

  • or just a little moment of writing.

  • >>Remembering you want to have your feet firmly planted on the floor.

  • Then the next thing you want to do is focus on the breath.

  • Aah. How was that.

  • >>You know, it only takes a couple minutes, but just having that moment

  • to let out the anxiety is great,

  • because it really can improve their concentration for the class,

  • so that they're able to have that kind of engaged conversation.

  • >>And if you guys need a little bit of extra--

  • >>What's important is to have a set of guidelines for the students.

  • >>In this conversation, we're going to have--

  • I'm going to have you guys write down the questions,

  • and then talk to each other about the conversation, about the book,

  • and I'm going to sort of step back and take notes.

  • And I'll do a little bit of guiding,

  • but you guys are going to talk to each other.

  • >>And there's three particular roles that students will fill.

  • One is the scribe role, where one student is taking notes

  • on the conversation, so that all the other students can be fully engaged

  • in the conversation that's happening.

  • Another role is a little map

  • where one student is monitoring who's speaking when

  • and they draw these sort of diagrams so that there's a visual map

  • of how the conversation is going.

  • >>The other thing I just want to point out since I'm showing these

  • to you is, would you say this is a good conversation?

  • >>Yes.

  • >>How about that?

  • >>No.

  • >>Julie: And then the third role is the moderator role.

  • >>Hannah: So I was the moderator and it was my job to make sure

  • that we didn't stay on one topic for too long or move too quickly.

  • It was also my job to make sure that everybody talked.

  • >>Okay, I think we should hear from someone who hasn't talked yet.

  • >>Boy: Thea, Caroline, Noah, Max.

  • >>Boy: Well, Athena's making him seem godlike, so I think he's just

  • like taking a gamble at establishing--

  • >>Hannah: When we're having a conversation, you really feel

  • like you're part of the conversation and not like, oh, you're sitting

  • in the back of class and you can't actually see the person

  • who's talking.

  • And also, it's a great way for people to exchange ideas back and forth

  • and sort of have everyone contribute.

  • >>Girl: Who do you think is the modern equivalent to Odysseus?

  • >>Boy: Tebow.

  • >>Julie: In addition to setting

  • up the conversation the first time around,

  • at the end of each Harkness discussion,

  • to sort of take a few minutes to sort of check in with the students

  • and ask, "Well, how did we do?"

  • >>How did you do?

  • How do you think that went?

  • >>Hannah: I liked that.

  • >>Girl: I mean, I feel like I learned a lot more when we discuss things

  • and we get deeper into it, so.

  • >>Julie: Great, Eli, how does it look?

  • >>And I like to keep those maps so that we can kind

  • of chart the progress in terms of Harkness discussions.

  • >>And those who talked not so much, right, maybe step in a little bit,

  • and if other people can help them,

  • because it really is a group effort, right?

  • Some people just need a little bit more help

  • and a little bit of space to do it.

  • So next time we do it, let's be mindful of that, but I think overall,

  • you guys did a really terrific job.

  • >>Teaching in this discussion-based way is really the most challenging

  • but also the most exciting form of teaching I know.

  • It never gets old, and honestly,

  • I feel like I still have a lot to learn about it.

  • >>Monique: I think the special sauce at College Prep is really

  • about the kind of community values that kids find when they come here.

  • They think they're coming for a first rate academic preparation,

  • and that certainly is the centerpiece of what we're doing,

  • but what I think makes us special and distinct is actually this culture

  • of respecting the individual, of celebrating the small victories,

  • of kind of enthusiastically embracing all parts of the learning experience.

>>Steve Chabon: Here at the College Preparatory School in Oakland,

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Collaborative Learning Builds Deeper Understanding

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    Why Why posted on 2013/03/29
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