A workshop on collaborative learning

So next week I will be presenting a workshop on designing collaborative learning activities, and now that our group has finished working on our SIGCSE papers (fingers crossed!) my attention has turned to preparing my materials for the workshop.

This is the first time that I have delivered such a broad workshop on this topic. Usually when I am talking about how to design these kinds of activities it is sessional staff within my area – so we are focussing on collaborative activities that support introductory programming within a very specific context. I already know in advance the kinds of classes that these activities will be used in, how large the groups will be, what the rooms will look like, what the learning objectives are, etc…

But in this case, it is completely open. Wow – a little scary! So today I started working on a framework for the workshop, starting to tie in various activities that we can use as demonstrators, and also getting materials on some of the more advanced activities that we won’t really be able to use as activities in the workshop itself, but can be demonstrated (i.e Piazza, IF-AT forms etc).

So far, I am thinking of adopting the following format:

  • Why we use collaborative learning activities (CLAs) (with a Think-Pair-Share activity to start us off)
  • How to design CLAs, covering the importance of learning objectives, understanding the purpose, setting the ground rules etc. (with an open discussion on learning objectives and purpose)
  • Examples of CLAs that you can use in small groups (T-P-S, swapping homeworks, convince your partner)
  • Examples of CLAs that you can use in large classes (where you aren’t breaking them into small groups) (IF-AT, votapedia, worked examples)
  • Group projects, and why they are different (i.e. more independent, more in control of your own self-regulation)
  • Examples of CLAs for online learning (Piazza, wikis)

I’m thinking of discussing some of the common issues, i.e. what causes collaborative learning to be unsuccessful throughout each of the example areas, but I might need a separate section as well. It would be useful to have some points on how to recognise some of the common group issues, such as disparate skill and metacognitive strategies, incompatible or competing perceptions of learning objective (i.e some students think the purpose is to demonstrate technical skill, while others think it is about metacognitive development), and cultural power imbalances. And then, once you have recognised them, how do you deal with them.. always the hard part.

I’m hoping that this structure will enable me to bring in enough theory as needed (and as appreciated by the group) within having to saturate them in it. I’m also hoping to include lots of actual, practical examples and tools that can be used, like the IF-AT forms from Team Based Learning, Votapedia as a cheap alternative to Clickers, and Piazza as a way of taking wiki-based development that step further.

Maybe too much – I’ll have to time it out, add some more activities for discussion and see how we go. I’ve only got two hours (absolute maximum), so I may have to skip somethings as I go along!


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