26 February 2012

On Collaboration

An article in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald caught my attention because it was discussing how technology continues to change work patterns. The article arrived at the following conclusion:
“Because complex design and supply chains favour cross-disciplinary collaboration, employers want people with "employability skills". That means being able to work in teams, solve complex problems, manage large projects from start to finish and negotiate intercultural relationships.”

It reminded me that careers of the future will require both collaborative and cooperative skills and educators need to provide students with learning opportunities to develop these skills.

Some educational theorists delineate a difference between cooperative and collaborative learning.  Dillenbourg (1999a) defined the distinction roughly as follows:
In cooperation, partners split the work, solve sub-tasks individually and then assemble the partial results into the final output. In collaboration, partners do the work ‘together.’
Workplaces require both types of skills, sometimes whilst working on the same projects. Students are frequently assigned group work, for example when a research task is divided and individuals report back on their findings, combining their knowledge. This is generally seen as cooperative learning. 

True collaboration occurs largely through interactions among students as they work towards group cognition. Students actually learn by the process of communicating, raising questions about knowledge, teaching each other, and arriving at shared resolutions. 

This process is not only required by jobs of the future but by the job we teachers hold today. Time for greater collaboration between and among ourselves would be of substantial benefit.

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