Module 2: Development of Lessons Which Include Collaboration


Return to Hamza Mini-Course Intro Page

Strategies for encouraging peer collaboration in computer science

1. Create a classroom environment conducive to collaboration.

  • Consider the arrangement of the classroom, how students are seated, and classroom rules in regards to where and how students work. For example, desks placed in rows inhibit movement necessary for productive discourse with anyone other than immediate peers. Additionally, students' “seats” do not have to be permanent. They can move based on activity and collaborative preference.
  • Place anchor charts with “rules and roles” of collaboration in prominent places.

2. Explicitly teach and model collaboration (Initially, collaboration may be a distinct learning goal and not just a means to an end).

  • Encourage collaborative dialogue that provides students with language to assist them in seeking and giving help.
  • Model this language and the productive interplay between peers (e.g., effective ways of asking for help and giving support in ways that promote independence). This is essential in assisting students with disabilities to articulate a problem and receive aid constructively.
  • Teach specific language and prompts to use as part of this process. Students often benefit from helper language, such as sentence stems, that enable them with linguistic tools to unpack a problem as they search for its solution with a peer.

3. Explore different models of collaboration to best meet the needs of all students.

  • Implement different collaborative models. Some students work better in less structured help-seeking/supportive collaborative models. Others work better with more structured, assigned roles. If using assigned roles, be sure to vary the roles regularly so that students are not repeatedly performing the same task.
  • For instance, if utilizing pair programming, a timer can be used to signal students in the dyad to switch at regular intervals from working as the driver or navigator.
  • Consider the individual strengths and needs of students when assigning collaborative tasks, and monitor to make sure the student is involved and contributing.
  • Evaluate how individual work can be balanced with collaborative problem solving to meet the needs of students resistant to collaboration.

4. Remind students to use the collaboration strategies introduced in class and offer feedback on the use of those strategies.

  • Use priming phrases, such as, “remember that your friends are helpers too!” or “Please ask for help from a friend before coming to me.” These initial reminders are sometimes necessary to help students see opportunities for collaboration.
  • Prompt students to use previously taught strategies such as “Remember to use the Collaboration Discussion Framework” (Lash & Park, 2014).

5. Utilize anchor charts and other aids to help scaffold collaborative behaviors.

  • Display anchor charts with prompts and helper language prominently and reference these aides when modeling the collaborative process.
  • Integrate checklists for individual roles into assignments or give them to students to use as a reference or self-monitoring strategy. Checklists also keep students moving forward in meeting all goals for the lesson.

6. Empower and encourage situations where students independently begin and maintain effective collaboration through specific feedback and praise.

  • Encourage students to share their CS experiences. These conversations can spark ideas or result in further productive conversation and innovation.

7. Consider engaging your students in cross-age collaborations or peer tutoring.

  • Cross-grade collaborations, often referred to as buddy classes, have long been used as a type of peer tutoring for reading, allowing older students to work with and model for younger students (Newell, 1996).
  • Encourage opportunities for students to reinforce their own learning while engaging in the development of supportive relationships with individuals possessing diverse perspectives, skills, and personalities. The personal nature of these partnerships can result in a high degree of engagement.
  • Consider student strengths, and needs when forming dyads. (CTRL)

Research collaborative activities and strategies for use

1. Above are a handful of strategies you can utilize in your computer science classes to promote collaboration. After reading them, do your own research and generate a list of strategies and/or activities you can do in your computer science classes to allow students to effectively participate in collaboration for positive outcomes. Create this list in your Google Doc journal.

2. This is a sample lesson plan for an AP Computer Science class:

  • Open the above linked lesson plan and read it.
  • Go to File>Make a Copy>Name it whatever you'd like.
  • The lesson plan does not explicitly contain any collaborative activities and or exercises for students. Your task is to copy the lesson plan and use it as a template to modify and add collaboration into this lesson.
  • Use the list of strategies above or any you found from research to incorporate effective collaboration into the example lesson.


Next Steps

Continue to: Module 3: Implementation of Collaborative Activities