It’s amazing what a good day toward the end of the week can do for an intern. I’m able to look at everything in my teaching with a positive light. And even with the things that I know I need to work on or fix, I look at critically but with hope. One such thing area of focus for me that I’ve started thinking about lately is holding individual accountability in collaborative learning.
Students are the ones that drive our classrooms. Even in the most teacher-centered classrooms, a teacher should be adapting his or her lesson plans to suit the needs of students. In an English classroom like mine, though, there is a push to have students work together – to collaborate – in order to deepen and complicate their understanding of a text. To do this, I’ve been asking my students to work together on a class wiki page. There, they’re able to edit pages, as a group, and post comments, as an individual, on given topics or studies of our text. And for the most part, these wikis have been successful. I think back to a wiki page that a group worked on this past week that went above and beyond my expectations in answering the “how they know something” and “why it’s important” questions on the group wiki. It was a fine example students’ potential in the English classroom and a key addition to their class’ collaborative and ever-growing wiki space. It truly was a great thing to see.
I have no doubt in my mind that students are capable of doing anything a teacher asks, so long as they’re encouraged and pushed to meet those expectations. But this great example of a group wiki page was the result of a group. How do I know every student got something out of the collaboration? How do I hold every student accountable in group work?
Those – and other similar questions – are the types of questions that I started to grapple with this past week. Wikis, for the most part, are done in groups. What strategies exist for me to hold individual students accountable for what the put into the wiki? For the example I mentioned above, I gave every student 7 or 8 minutes to individually look through their notes and readings about a specific topic. That way, whenever they met up with their group a few minutes later, they had something to bring to the table – literally. And in examining all of the wikis across all of the groups and periods, I noticed that they were the best to date, which suggests this strategy might be successful in the future.
But it still doesn’t answer my original question about teaching practices to hold individual accountable in groups.
And I’m afraid I don’t have the answer for it right now.