Education today looks different than it did thirty years ago, and with technology moving ahead at lightning speeds and our world becoming more global, one skill is emerging as the key to the future: Collaboration. Clarion School is leading progressive teaching practice workshops in its weekly professional development sessions to foster collaboration for teachers and parents as part of its preparing students for the future.
No one knows exactly what colleges will teach, what offices will look like, or which fields will have the most career opportunities, but one think that is certain is that those who are most able to collaborate will be valued in any academic and professional environment. Working with others is important for many reasons, and the core skills involved are ones that can be practiced as early as preschool. Teamwork leads to more sophisticated learning, a respect for diversity and heightened communication skills, not to mention it creates more memorable learning experiences.
When children work in groups, they often come up with ideas that they would not imagine on their own. Facilitated by teachers, even very young children can brainstorm ideas and then build sophisticated projects around a central concept. They use the ideas of other students to inspire their own thinking, and they problem-solve together. When children are working together towards a common goal rather than competing against one another, they see themselves as part of a group and have a better sense of community.
When we see schools, companies and other institutions emphasizing diversity, it is not simply because it is a trendy thing to do. It turns out that people who have opportunities to collaborate with others who are different from them develop a stronger sense of empathy and are more open-minded in their approach to learning. They also learn different ways to do things that can benefit them in future collaborative environments. In the classroom, children who work collaboratively learn early on that there are many ways to learn and that everyone has areas of strength. Working with others builds their sense of self and makes them more compassionate towards others.
As students move through school, it becomes increasingly important that they become strong communicators, both in writing and in speaking. Collaboration helps them develop this skill early on. Children have to explain their thinking to classmates and practice listening to others. They have to synthesize information, come up with plans, delegate responsibilities and work together at every step of the process. Learning to communicate in a group, even if it takes a great deal of teacher scaffolding in early years, means that children can grow to be thoughtful, flexible, confident collaborators.
Lastly, beyond the benefits of these skills, collaboration is usually quite enjoyable. When children are having fun, they engage more actively in the task at hand, and they remember the experience. Social interactions motivate children, and motivated children learn better. While we cannot predict the future, we know that a collaborative future is a bright one.
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