The power of connection has been discussed, documented, researched, and written about many times. According to Katie Stiles from Psych Central, “Connection is when two or more people interact with each other and each person feels valued, seen, and heard. There’s no judgment, and you feel stronger and nourished after engaging with them”(2021).
In top examples of PBL, that connection can be seen through student engagement via peer collaboration, feedback cycles, and public presentation (PBLWorks, 2021). Today, let’s explore connection through collaboration.
Aaron Eisberg, in his post “Why Collaboration is More than ‘Group Work'”, asserts that co-creation, or the building upon each others’ ideas, is the foundation of quality collaboration in PBLs (2018). In your role as teacher or learner (or both!), you have almost certainly participated groups where an unequal balance existed. Someone always seems to shoulder the majority of the work and then feels as though they earned the grade for everyone.
When we think about collaboration that achieves team-oriented goals, a few important features stand out. One is a strong sense of interdependence among the team. They rely on each other for more than a leader who delegates tasks. Interactions are a second important feature of collaborative teams. Conversation moves beyond congenial chit-chat (How are you?) to deeper collegial conversation ( What do you believe about. . ?) A final feature (although there are many more) is adaptability. Randy Nelson, in “Learning and Working in the Collaborative Age”, notes that adaptability is a feature of collaboration that helps groups solve real problems (2008).
Collaboration isn’t pre-programmed into students–or adults! As teachers, we must make a concerted effort to build in strategies that develop habits of mind and practices that promote deep collaboration. Students will take that 40-year learning with them far beyond the class they are taking with us.
Eisberg, A. (2018, July 11). Why collaboration is more than group work. PBLWorks. https://www.pblworks.org/blog-posts
Nelson, R. (2008, September 8). Randy Nelson on learning and working in the collaborative age [Video]. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/video/randy-nelson-learning-and-working-collaborative-age
PBLWorks. (2021). Project based learning handbook for elementary school.
Stiles, K. (2021, November 14). Human connection: Why it’s important. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-importance-of-connection#what-is-it