Strategies to Support Peer Collaboration

Research has shown that collaborative learning can promote cooperation and improve academic achievement for a broad range of learners in K-12 classrooms (Barkley, Cross, & Major 2014, cited by Lash, T., Jeong, G., Wherfel, Q., & Israel, M. (2017). Activities that involve learning to code and coding to learn and create, offer opportunities to develop important teamwork skills that prepare learners for further learning, work, and life.

Instructional Goals

  1. Design activities for learners to develop and use collaboration skills to achieve shared learning goals.
  2. Provide opportunities for collaboration and interaction where all efforts are valued.
  3. Encourage interpersonal and social group skills for learners with varying communication and collaboration strengths and challenges.

Instructional Strategies

Create a collaborative classroom environment

  • Prepare to be flexible

    • Design lessons/instructions and arrange the classroom layout to easy allow movement from the whole group to small groups to individual one-on-one interaction
  • Consider the physical arrangement of the classroom

    • Will learners work at tables, desks, on the floor?
    • Can learners move around the room?
    • Consider learners who may not be able to move around easily, sit on the floor or change positions
  • Openly display Tips Sheets, checklists, vocabulary for easy reference during activities

Explicitly teach and model collaboration

  • Teach and use collaborative language to support learners in asking for and offering help (Refer to Collaborative Discussion Framework)
  • Use and display Tip Sheets to support collaboration (e.g. Giving Feedback, We Collaborate)

Remind learners to use collaborative strategies and language

  • Use prompts to invite engagement with others

    • "Let's listen to your friend’s ideas.”
    • "Try to help each other, before you ask me for help.”
  • Refer to Tips Sheets and other tools to use as a reference or for self-monitoring (see Strategies to Support Collaborative Discussion Framework)

Explore and practice different models of group work and collaboration

  • Consider using combinations of less structured and more structured groupings and models (e.g. pairs, groups of 3 or 4, use of timers, assigned roles)
  • Consider cross-age groupings (Coding Buddies) to promote peer tutoring opportunities
  • Consider the strengths and needs of individual learners when grouping learners.
  • Monitor to ensure all learners are actively involved

Adapted with permission from:

Lash, T., Jeong, G., Wherfel, Q., & Israel, M. (2017). Helpful strategies for peer collaboration during K-12 computer science instruction. Project TACTIC: Teaching All Computational Thinking through Inclusion and Collaboration. Retrieved from of Illinois, Creative Technology Research Lab website: https://CTRL.education.illinois.edu/TACTICal/Collaboration