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Contemplating Collaboration

by Aviva Dunsiger

It all starts with a story. A teacher walks into a classroom during her prep coverage. She sees a student go over and talk to a group of other students. Then the student comes back to his table, sits down, and shows his group members his work. They all start copying down the answers. The teacher says, “Are you cheating?” One of the students responds with, “No we’re ‘collaborating.’” (He even makes the quotation signs with his hands and emphasizes the word, collaborating.)

It’s been over a week since I’ve heard this story, but it still has me thinking. As teachers, we regularly hear about the importance of collaboration. I constantly watch my students collaborate in all subject areas. They sit and talk to each other. They share ideas. They build on the ideas of their peers, and figure out new ways to share their learning. Collaboration makes all students more actively involved in the learning process. I want all of my students to realize the power of collaboration.

Reflecting on this story though, I begin to wonder how collaboration is defined in different classrooms. Students may be working in groups, but does that mean that they’re collaborating? They may be sharing ideas, but what’s the difference between giving answers and learning together? When I think of collaboration, I envision the meaningful dialogue and co-creation of work that I regularly see in the classroom. Just because this is my vision though, does this mean that it’s right?


What does collaboration mean to you? How do you support collaboration in the classroom?


AvivaAviva Dunsiger taught Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2 for 11 years before moving to Grade 6 this year. She’s passionate about using technology in the classroom to support student learning, and she’s presented on this topic numerous times both online and offline.

She enjoys maintaining her blog, Living Avivaloca: My Many Musings on Life and Learning. Aviva’s reflective writing about her professional practice inspires communication between educators, administrators and parents.


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