Teachers Explore New Options To Increase Student Interaction Encouraging collaboration among students in a time of virtual education

According to the Journal of Effective Teaching “Working collaboratively with others is extremely important in building problem solving and teamwork skills and is proven to help students retain information better.” However, because of virtual schooling, group work poses more of a challenge for teachers to incorporate into online lessons. Photo credit: São Paulo

With all Clark County schools being closed for almost 200 days now, most assignments have been strictly individual. However, with the start of the second quarter, collaborative assignments are being incorporated as a way of increasing student interaction. 

According to NEA (National Education Association), “Collaborative learning has been shown to develop higher-level thinking skills in students and boost their confidence and self-esteem.” Teachers are trying out unique ways of keeping social interaction in their lessons through the use of breakout rooms, assigning group tasks, and much more.

“Although they are very time-consuming and take a lot of planning beforehand, small group meetings have proven the most effective way of student communication for me,” English 10 teacher Virgine Guillemette said. “The most recent group-assignment in class involved students discussing a short film that we watched and completing an analysis worksheet together.”

While Guillemette is still experimenting with new ways to get students to interact more with one another, she hopes to maintain the positive and connected nature of her class.

“I’m used to running my classrooms with a lot of collaborative work and working in groups,” Guilmette said “Checking in with partners and bouncing ideas off of each other is something that is extremely important for students and is a big part of my classroom culture.” 

While it may be easier for previous Southwest students to adjust to virtual learning, freshmen are having a harder time adapting to high school. Algebra I teacher Kristin Landau is catering her lessons to this situation.

“In September I first started to send my students randomly to different breakout rooms in order to encourage conversation,” Landau said. “Because most students spend so much time in a room by themselves not talking to anyone, I wanted them to feel free to talk to each other.”

Most of Landau’s students have never met in person and in order for her students to get to know each other better, Landau strategically grouped the new students so they can help each other and work efficiently. 

“A couple of weeks ago I did program area groups where I assigned my students specifically to breakout rooms where they were just working with other people in their program area,” Landau said. “My students answered math-based questions related to their career choice. I think that these groups were easier for students to connect with because they all had something in common.”

Along with all the countless reasons to assign collaborative assignments, students are actually enjoying working with their peers.

“I really like group assignments and think that they are fun during online school because I get to meet new people,” sophomore Alison Flores said.

With the help of teachers, students are finding new ways to connect with their peers and work with others to solve problems.  

“Human beings are social creatures and we need to connect. Learning only happens when there is an emotional connection to what you are being taught,” Guillemette said. “Using collaborative work, especially now, helps us build those connections for a more effective learning experience.”

Do you like collaborative assignments?