Module 1: What Does Effective Collaboration Look Like?


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Research on collaborative learning has shown that, when done well, it can promote cooperation and improve academic achievement for a broad range of learners in K-12 classrooms (Barkley, Cross, & Major 2014). Computer science (CS) education is often highly collaborative because of the focus on creativity and finding solutions to ambiguous or ill- defined problems. (CTRL)

By engaging students in collaborative learning within CS education, the following behaviors are promoted among students:

  • Maximize interactions so that students reach their desired learning goals.
  • Promote opportunities for interdependence where each member’s efforts are valued.
  • Provide explicit supports and strategies to encourage individual accountability.
  • Set up the classroom environment to be conducive to student interactions.
  • Model and encourage interpersonal and social group skills for students with varying communication and collaboration strengths and challenges.
  • Facilitate group processing to reflect on the collaboration as well as the CS education content. (CTRL)

Challenges with Collaboration

  • Many students consistently ask their peers for help, leaving them stuck in the disempowering role of constant help seeker.
  • Some students with and without disabilities want to collaborate with their peers but lack the understanding of how to engage in productive discourse (such as effective help-seeking), leading them to either avoid collaboration or become overly frustrated.
  • Students who seek help from or collaborate with others lack the knowledge of how to do so effectively, leading to continued frustration.
  • Often, student collaboration veers off topic or becomes unproductive. (CTRL)

Why implement collaboration in the first place?

Watch the video to gain a basic understanding of collaboration in a classroom setting. Though this video is in the context of an English class, it represents the ways in which collaborative practices can lead to deeper understanding of content specific concepts in any content area.

What does effective collaboration look like?

Reflect on the video above:

  • Describe how the method(s) described in the video might represent effective collaboration.
  • Why do you think this is the case?

Distinguish between good and bad collaboration.

1. Watch the video above to see yet another example of effective collaboration in a classroom.

2. Read this article on pair programming.

3. Read this article about groupwork:

  • What are some ways pair programming can be an effective strategy for implementing collaboration in a computer science class?
  • What are some ways pair programming can prove to be ineffective?
  • What about groupwork in general?
  • Think about what ineffective collaboration in a computer science class may look like. Can you come up with some examples, whether from personal experience, observation or other experiences?

Connecting this to computer science.

In your Google Doc journal, answer the following prompt:

  • Using what you have learned from the videos and associated texts in this module, how do you think you could apply these activities, strategies and ideas to your computer science classes? Though you will plan more thoroughly in later modules, this questions seeks to allow you to briefly reflect on the content provided in this module and begin to think about its application to a computer science classroom setting.


Barkley, E. F., Cross, K. P., & Major, C. H. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Israel, M., Wherfel, Q., Pearson, J., Shehab, S., & Tapia, T. (2015). Empowering K-12 students with disabilities to learn computational thinking and computer programming. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 48(1), 45-53.

Park, M., & Lash, T. (2014). The Collaborative Discussion Framework. Champaign Unit 4 School District.

Next Steps

Continue to: Module 2: Development of Lessons Which Include Collaboration