Collaborative Classrooms

By: Kaycee Butcher & Shea Mustian

Teacher facilitated peer collaboration allows students to be the primary focus of instruction while they learn through "doing". It allows learning to become a social construct instead of placing all of the burden on the teacher.

Questions for discussion:

  • With what types of collaboration are you already familiar (for example: think-pair-share, speed dating,etc.)?
  • What struggles have you encountered with trying to incorporate collaboration into your classroom?

How To Design Groups:

1. Start with thinking about your desired learning outcomes. Then, consider the methods you will require your students to use to get there and how you will evaluate them.

2. For shorter assignments, make sure that you give clear instructions, that students are aware of your expectations, and have a set plan for classroom management. For longer assignments, make sure that each step of the project is planned out and that you have frequent check-ins with your groups to ensure they are progressing appropriately. Often times, it is helpful to grade smaller pieces as you go for both student and teacher.

3. Sometimes, I let students pick their own groups but usually not. I like to give pre-assessments or have students rank themselves on abilities (like research skills, technology usage, etc.) in order to create the most functional groups.

4. Think about how you will make sure that students are productive. Will they get a daily participation grade? Will their group members grade them? Will they have a product due each day?

5. Consider what technology you can use to continue to push students to grow or to make their collaboration easier or more efficient. Making these projects seem real-world friendly is always a way to encourage and motivate students to see the value in the assignment.

What A Collaborative Classroom Looks Like

Collaboration Activities


What is it? Small groups of students work on different aspects of one problem, then present their findings in a logical sequence.

Good For? Allowing students to become “experts” in subtopics; giving students opportunities to learn from one another; letting students get up and moving about

How To? Break students into small groups. Each group is tasked with solving some aspect of one problem or prompt. After working on the assigned matter, each group takes turns explaining their piece of the puzzle. Note: if there is a large whiteboard, each group can have its own space to report their work.

Stump Your Partner

What is it? A way to quickly assess student understanding.

Good For? Use as an exit ticket at the end of your lesson & use responses to continue conversation the next day.

How To? Students take a minute to create a challenging question based on the lecture content up to that point. Students pose the question to the person sitting next to them.

To take this activity a step further, ask students to write down their questions and hand them in. These questions can be used to create tests or exams. They can also be reviewed to gauge student understanding.

Discussion Leaders

What is it? Prior to class, students prepare quotes, questions, and insights from the course readings in order to lead a discussion.

Good For? Allowing students to become “experts” in subtopics, motivating students to come to class prepared; receiving feedback on students’ reading comprehension; teaching students how to ask good questions; giving students opportunities to learn from one another

How To? Give students an idea of about how long they can expect to facilitate a discussion in class. Each student should prepare to lead a discussion by 1) preparing at least two quotes from the reading they want to discuss in more detail 2) preparing two questions for class discussion and 3) offer two implications for the course. The quotes students select could represent central points from the piece, aspects of the article they found confusing and want to discuss more, or provocative statements they’d like to hear others’ take on. Then during class, randomly select a student or two to lead discussion.

Collaboration Digital Tools