Reflection on collaborative work prompted by cleaning the toilet bowl …

Yup, I do my best thinking whilst I’m doing a mundane job – not that I want to in any way detract from people who take pride in their work as toilet cleaners, it does indeed take talent to master the perfect shine – and tonight is no exception. Hubby and I are doing a clean of the house before we head off to New Zealand with the boys for a couple of weeks. I’m assuming this is a pretty normal practice, cleaning the house you’re not going to live in for two weeks, or are we just batty? Either way, cleaning the toilet whilst Lee did the vacuuming prompted a reflection on team work.

Do you regularly incorporate team-work or collaborative learning into your teaching program? How often would students be expected to work cooperatively with one or more of their peers in your class? Do you actively encourage students to work with peers who are not considered ‘friends’ or with people who have a vastly different skill set?

The truth is that group work is often resisted by students when it is first introduced for a number of reasons. The main one would be the fear that their own success may be adversely impacted upon by members of their group. Students often don’t trust themselves to be able to stay on task when working with friends. They worry that not everyone will contribute equally to the project or task. Underlying these concerns is the awareness that success in school is a number. Success is measured by that number or percentage doled out by the teacher. Success is not marked by personal growth. It’s a shame that this is the case and that our students understand perfectly well how the ‘system’ of achievement in school works.

Working with my husband to clean the house tonight made me realise that working together to achieve a common goal forced us to unconsciously plan (he had to vacuum the spare room whilst I cleaned the ensuite, then he’d vacuum our bedroom and I’d move to the main bathroom), negotiate (vacuuming is less gross than toilets, but you have to do more rooms) and to chunk a large project (a clean house) into smaller, manageable tasks divided between the group members.

I hope my analogy hasn’t put you off your dinner – but I hope is HAS helped you to see how group work/collaborative learning enables our students to develop so many more real-world skills than independent work ever can.

So – how often do you include group work in your teaching program and is it there just for the sake of it, or do you include it in a meaningful way that ensures students are being assessed on their growth as young thinking citizens, and not just a finished product?

These guys worked together to create a human pyramid - awesome 😉

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3 thoughts on “Reflection on collaborative work prompted by cleaning the toilet bowl …

  1. Impressive work Bianca. This is a really fine example of the power of blogging in education. If I had a hat on I’d be tipping to you. Your students are lucky to have you!

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