Published May 2010,February 2011.
One way to improve learners' team-working skills is to work in ways that encourage collaboration and sharing mathematical journeys in smaller and larger groups on a regular basis. To develop such an approach it makes sense to use the experiences of others and build on practices that have worked in other situations. Of course there is no perfect answer but using methodologies that have been
researched and have some rigour behind them can save a lot of time and reduce the risk. Such research on group working is discussed by Elizabeth Cohen in her book "Designing Groupwork" and utilised by colleagues currently working with Jo Boaler in the UK on Complex Instruction. There are many of what Jo Boaler might describe as 'group-worthy tasks' on the NRICH site. In fact it is hard to find a
list of problems that you would not describe as group-worthy if used in a particular way in the classroom.
Here we have gathered together a collection of short articles that outline the merits of collaborative work, together with examples of teachers' classroom practice.
Many schools who utilise the benefits of group work start by spending a significant amount of curriculum time using activities that offer opportunities to develop team-working skills, knowing that this will pay dividends in the long term. Such tasks are sometimes called skill-building tasks. The skills are group-working skills rather than mathematical skills. This article and the linked
resources take this idea and offer some skill-building tasks built around mathematical knowledge. The aim is to make the time spent on them feel less like risk taking because learners will be doing mathematics as they build skills of collaboration. In her book, Elizabeth Cohen lists a set of skills related to working collaboratively which the following is based upon:
These collaborative working skills can be developed through particular group activities. Below we offer six categories of team-building activities that can be used to place learners' focuses on a range of the different skills. Underpinning the tasks are some fundamental principles of developing interdependence and developing group and individual
Group accountability can be associated with all the task types but "Guess the rule" and "What am I?" have a particular focus on this aspect of accountability.
Each category of team-building task has particular rules asssociated with it. These rules are designed to draw out particular team-working skills. It is therefore very important to allow time at the end of each activity for discussing the task and the way teams and indiviudals worked together. If available an
observer may be used to focus attention on, and note, particular activities and behaviours.