I'm re-thinking the collaboration tasks we often set up in class. Have I been doing it all wrong? I'm inspired by Susan Cain's book “Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.” It has raised questions about how I expect students to perform and express themselves in class. Consider these quotes and how I interpret them for teaching.
Offer students a choice in how they express themselves -verbally in a group or in an online forum.
- “When the less vocal people put out ideas, those ideas were discarded…because of the conviction with which the more vocal people suggested their ideas.”
- Introverts “welcome a chance to communicate digitally.”
Form groups thoughtfully. Make sure there is a healthy balance of introverts and extroverts in the pairing or group. Think about what kind of leadership the task requires and change who plays the leader accordingly.
- “…introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions.”
- “…extroverted leaders are better at getting results from more passive workers.”
Some tasks are better performed alone. Does the student need to concentrate on improving a weak area? Is creativity and inventiveness required of the task? Collaboration can kill creativity.
- “Deliberate practice is best conducted alone for several reasons. It takes intense concentration and other people can be distracting. It requires deep motivation, often self-generated. But most important, it involves working on the task that's most challenging to you personally.”
- “We're so impressed by the power of online collaboration that we've come to overvalue all group work at the expense of solo thought. We fail to realise that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude all its own. Instead we assume that the success of online collaborations will be replicated in the face-to-face world.”
Group brainstorming is a failure. Build students self- confidence in trusting their own instincts to tick the right answer or make a different suggestion.
“…groups are like mind-altering substances. If the group thinks the answer is A, you're much more likely to believe that A is correct, too.” …even if A is incorrect.