Even though class size doesn’t impact well organized student collaboration lessons. This lesson is only dependent on its’ design and the classroom management skills of the teacher. Not to worry, there isn’t another professional development class to score or even another degree. If your classroom has an atmosphere of respect and student curiosity, you can easily achieve this lesson type successfully.

Group learning is collaboration and this setting promotes critical thinking too. Learning, the transfer of information, is accomplished in student collaboration because students do learn from each other – they have told me so repeatedly and I have seen the positive learning results. A classroom with relevant collaboration can be described with these characteristics: 1) equitable groups of students, 2) teachers as facilitators, 3) knowledge shared (back and forth) between students and teacher, and 4) shared responsibility of the classroom between teacher and students.

One important goal of education is putting students on a track to being lifelong learners. This type of lesson does just that because students are building their skills of asking appropriate questions, gathering meaningful information, efficiently and creatively sorting through information, using logic to derive information, and reaching reliable and trustworthy conclusions based on their information. These skills are very useful in the world for careers and to live fully.

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Albert Einstein

The student collaboration activity can be short (two minutes) or an extended period of time. The key aspect is students must have clearly defined task(s) to accomplish in their work together. There are the five elements of relevant student collaboration. The group work has to be set up by the teacher so that these elements are included as tasks. To get started, I put one or more questions on the board that the groups would study during their work.

1. Asking questions: used to drive the efforts of learning objective.

2. Collecting data: using discussion, labs, and other student activities to collect meaningful information.

3. Analysis: students examining data, influences, and other factors.

4. Synthesis: manipulating materials to demonstrate model(s) of understanding.

5. Conclusion: explanation justified by evaluating and reviewing data while including time for reflection.

Instead of assigning students to get a conclusion, I directed them to put together an educated guess based on their work together to satisfy the question(s) on the board.

“Participants formulate new concepts based on modifying and redefining their current concepts and by adding new concepts.” (Dewey, 1910)

“Students successful in learning exercise metacognition by articulating their own ideas, comparing and contrast ideas with others, and provide reasons to accept/deny a point of view. In effect, they are in control of their own learning.” (American Psychological Association, 1993)

“Dynamic learning environments are created by learners exercising their threshold of knowledge as they use their understanding in a variety of contexts and receive feedback.” (Bransford et al., 1999)

Teacher Characteristics to Induce Critical Thinking

· Am I asking questions to drive my lesson? If not, I need to do so.

· Write down the ten questions I’ll use today to steer class discussions.

· What is the student activity today where students use investigation to examine connections (details, relationships, reasons) to uncover the concept of ______.

· Be organized, not getting ready. Students have short attention spans – don’t lose them because you’re not ready. · How many students did I inspire today?

· What are two informal assessments today that will help me understand student comprehension?

· Master teachers teach academic studies while also instilling social responsibility.

· Find my comfort zone and then push that limit every day. How do I expect students to get out of their comfort zone when I don’t get out of mine?

· Have a plan and work that plan. Make adjustments as necessary.

· My plan must not have more than 15 minutes of me lecturing or presenting today.

· What opportunity am I providing for students to reflect on their work?

· What effort am I making to keep my teaching methods up to date with current learning research?

References American Psychological Association and Midcontinent regional Education Laboratory. (1993). Learner-Centered Psychological Principals: Guidelines for School redesign and Reform. Denver: regional Education Laboratory.

Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L. & Cocking, R., (Eds). (1999) How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Press Academy.

Dewey, John. 1910. How We Think. Lexington, MA: DC Heath