Finishing school projects, organising parties, working in the corporates, running a business, or managing a house: every task involves the mixing of different people, perspectives, and approaches, making collaboration an important 21st-century skill. How do we teach our kids to collaborate with people from different walks of life and make the world a better place? As they say, early training builds a strong foundation; this post is set to address why collaborative classrooms are important for children…

From re-engineering the definition of ‘learning’ to creating a thought-provoking curriculum, school education had experienced a drastic change in the last few years. Modern-day educators stress on a thinking curriculum with the vision to raise successful thought leaders for a better tomorrow. As promising as it may seem, how do we define the ‘success’ of our children in an unimaginable future?

Trends suggest, most of the socially, personally, or professionally successful people share some common traits. They are empathetic thinkers, knowledgeable problem-solvers, and self-determined strategic. Also, they’re skilled workers, excellent collaborators, and influential communicators. The bigger question is, how do we raise our children with these qualities?

Have you heard of the age-old debate around nature vs. nurture? Nature is about the capacities that every human being is born with, while nurture is about the capacities that we can build through conditioning of the mind and exposure to appropriate stimuli. A successful future results from nurturing, which involves successful learning, skilling, and conditioning in the initial years of development.

This is where collaborative classrooms play a crucial role. They involve the interaction of the learner, teacher, learning material, and context—in short, the collaboration of different elements.

Why Is Collaboration Inside Classrooms Important?

Citing a study conducted by U-M ISR in his write-up, venerable American author Dr. David Rock stated that the current batch migrating from colleges to workplaces isn’t prepared for work-related challenges; probably because they have unilateral thinking and are less empathetic and impervious to different perspectives, than their senior counterparts. TED speaker and NYT bestselling author Sir Ken Robinson, believes our children are being ‘educated out of their collaborative habits’ making them vulnerable to future challenges, which is why, we need to set the basics right, working from the grassroots to the top.

Why do classrooms need to be prepared for collaborative opportunities? It’s because, in a classroom, students not only occupy the same physical space but also share similar intellectual experiences, thought process, abilities and academic goals.

Collaborative classrooms ensure in-depth knowledge, collation, and excellence, leaving enough scope to quench a child’s natural curiosity through discussions, question-answers, and training of their mind to think. Teachers engage students in relevant real-world tasks from kindergarten through senior school; and build skills along the way, using their prior experiences. This necessitates frequent dialogues and interactions for thinking, acting, problem-solving, decision-making, and skill development, in a group, to create a meaningful learning experience, for everyone.

How Children Benefit From Collaborative Classrooms?

Shared Knowledge & Authority Among Teachers And Students

Traditionally, group projects involve a teacher handing out the topics, and students collecting and collating information to complete the task. The downside of this traditional assignment system is, if the topics are too simple or straightforward, then students have no reason to collaborate. They can easily finish their tasks independently without entering into deeper research and conversation.

Contrary to this, in a collaborative classroom, the teacher nurtures curiosity by inviting students to provide topics that capture different interests and goals. In turn, each of the students gets the opportunity to research, contribute relevant knowledge and experiences, and combine their viewpoints to collectively finish an assignment.

They share their personal experiences, especially problem areas and weaker points, brainstorm together and test theories to deliver the final solution. Collective work strengthens team spirit, sparks innovation and ensures a deeper, life-long learning.

Stretching Expertise Beyond The Classrooms

Each of the students, with their experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives, enriches classroom learning, in their own way. They need to understand each other’s perspective in different environments and circumstances to stretch learning beyond the classrooms.

Some ten years back, student participation in performing arts and team sports, was confined to showcasing skills and winning games. Now, it focuses on learning from one-another and growing collectively as a team.

For instance, an incredible dancer can brush her peers’ moves during rehearsals. A good orator can propose or defend his/her team’s common vision. A simple game of treasure hunt requires friends to solve clues together. Thus, kids eventually learn to adapt, practice, negotiate, reason, and argue constructively, building essential life-skills through teamwork.

Building A Strong Value System

Why do we take our children on play dates? Is it just because they could get along with others? Team play is more than that! When children interact in a free environment, whether classrooms or playgrounds, they start projecting their conscious/ unconscious experiences, values and beliefs. They share their feelings and learn to view things in a different life.

Free group play has a positive effect on a child. It not only builds social and emotional skills, but also teaches them about competition, sportsmanship and fair play. Therefore, collaboration through different mediums (formal, informal) is extremely crucial for the development of mindset and beliefs—things that they will be carrying with themselves for the rest of their lives.

As an African proverb says— “It takes a village to raise a child,” one could imagine, “It would take a community to raise a student.” We, parents, teachers and schools included, should work as a community to gear our children for the unimaginable challenges of the future, and collaborative classrooms is the first step towards this go. Keeping our heads together, we can maximise learning, taking the collaboration originated inside classrooms, through homes, to future offices.

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