In the working world, jobs are becoming more interactive and team-based.
The goal of collaborative projects is to help students learn how to function in these modern work environments. In many of these courses, students perform research or solve problems as a team, allowing them to learn the skills necessary to work together in an efficient and productive manner. With these practices, students learn how to share tasks, engage with each other, and benefit from others’ viewpoints and backgrounds.
These programs may include learning groups, team assignments, and structured group projects that span entire semesters.
Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.
— Brian Tracy (Author, Speaker, CEO Brian Tracy International)
Examples of Collaborative Assignments and Projects
- Organized Study Groups: Faculty may assign students to study groups at the beginning of the semester, requiring these smaller groups to get together to work through broad questions and report back to the class, as well as collaborate on exam preparation.
- Team-Based Research Projects: In these projects, students work together as a team to devise a research question and then conduct experiments or collect data, compile their results, and give presentations.
- Service Learning Assignments: In these outside projects, students work together in a volunteer capacity to provide a service to the community. Some of these projects may be academic in nature, such as assisting a nonprofit with content for a website or researching for a community-based program.
- Research with Shared Data Sets: In methodology classes and other research courses, faculty may provide a dataset or other existing large body of research and have students work together to formulate questions and test hypotheses.
What Can Students Expect?
For students used to solo academic work, collaborative projects pose new challenges. Working together on a project, students will get to know their peers, develop leadership and communication strategies, and learn how to work on a team. They may experience issues that come from lack of organization and leadership, and must learn to overcome these challenges as they complete the project. The hands-on, real-life aspect of the work involved makes collaborative projects invaluable experiences. Furthermore, by sharing the workload, students often can achieve far more meaningful research results and gain more insight into the material than they could have done alone.
How Does Collaboration Improve Student Outcomes?
By working cooperatively together on a team, students develop strong communication and leadership skills and learn how to listen and work together effectively. They also sharpen their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Appreciation for diversity is heightened as students work together with people of different ages, culture, and academic ability.When successful, students discover ways to identify each of their skills and how to best benefit from what each person brings to the team.
Ultimately, by working cooperatively on projects, students get to know each other, learn how to communicate and hold each other accountable, and become more vested in the outcome of the course. Because many collaborative projects require more in-depth investigation of an issue, students may also develop a greater mastery of the subject and retain that information long after the course itself has concluded.
How Schools Implement Collaborative Assignments
Rhode Island College, Providence, RI
At Rhode Island College, the Emerging Leaders Program provides students with a number of collaborative academic workshops. The workshops center around themes such as ‘Personality and Self-Awareness,’ ‘Intercultural Communication,’ and ‘Wellness and Balance,’ and teach students how to work and learn together. From these workshops, students emerge with new understandings of cultural differences and the importance of social responsibility. They also gain communication and leadership skills, and the skills to perform professionally as a team.
Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, MO
The Missouri University of Science and Technology requires courses to follow the Learning Enhancement Across All Disciplines (LEAD) model, which promotes collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, active learning, team-building and communication, respect for diversity, and timeliness for producing quality work.