Listening is a Key Practice in Collaborative Learning Environments
When students use the learning strategies of listening and sharing with others, their collaboration leads to problem solving and completed tasks. Better yet, effective collaborative learning environments can alleviate a student’s frustration and “allow group learning to surpass what would be possible by a single student.”
This kind of socially interactive learning requires students to reflect on their understanding of a concept so they can communicate with others as well as understand another’s point of view. If you’ve ever worked with a group of nine and ten year olds, you’ll know that group learning isn’t always easy, nor effective. There are several factors regarding how to leverage listening and sharing and optimize collaboration.
Students benefit from learning in a group when there is something concrete, a visual anchor, in which all learners can give their attention. We see this happen every day in Montessori classrooms as guides give lessons moving a material that all eyes are on. As an Upper Elementary guide, I remember demonstrating an art lesson and was so wrapped up in my own expression, that my students became entranced with attention.
Communication skills such as listening and speaking can be taught! For our youngest learners, being guided by adults that model respectful listening and thoughtful speech is far more powerful to their absorbent minds than direct teaching. For our second plane learners (6-12 years), listening skills such as focusing on what is being said, rather than thinking of your reply, is a lifelong tool that is applicable in social and learning realms.
Listening and Sharing Practices Catapult Learning
Collaborative practices engage students more deeply in the activity and magnify their own learning in turn. These kinds of practices are promoted through the very structure of the Montessori Method: mixed-age classrooms.
Over a century ago, Dr. Montessori identified a series of developmental stages children go through as they grow, and she configured her classrooms in 3-year age ranges based on them.
These natural groupings sequence a child’s experience from being a neophyte to being an expert, a cycle that is repeated several times in the course of their education. By organizing classes in this way, older students have leadership opportunities through helping slightly younger children while younger ones lean on role models that can guide them to mastery. This system takes advantage of the fact that younger children naturally look up to older children and want to be like them, which makes the learning process easier.
Another noticeable outcome of mixed-age group collaboration is that individual student’s strengths in learning are emphasized and difficulties are shored up by the group.
Montessori observed the natural dynamics of child social interactions, and devised some elements of her approach to leverage them for learning. Montessori guides employ and model these strategies of listening and sharing all the time; however, based on this evidence, sometimes a more explicit expectation that Montessori students practice these techniques with each other may in fact enhance their learning.
Quick Tips for Listening and Sharing
Sharing new ideas and giving constructive feedback are two more elements that increase effective collaboration.
- Guide your second and third plane students to give feedback with a “Praise, Polish, Praise” format or “2 Likes and a Wish” framework. Modeling the use of specific nuances that are noticed as being effective and a clear yet kind idea for improvement, moves learners forward and gives them the tools to more accurately assess their own work and the work of others.
- Establish group norms such as a simple “rules of engagement” for every project and observe where students would benefit from social scaffolding. Personal accountability is a necessary component for group collaboration.
- Insure the group task is worthy of collaboration increasing student’s interdependence.
Listening and sharing surge synergy between learners. What strategies would you add to our list of quick tips?
– By Tammy Oesting
Our ABCs of Learning: Montessori Edition is inspired by the work of authors Daniel L. Schwartz, Jessica Tsang and Kristen Blair, Professors of Education at Stanford University’s book The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use which was reviewed on our Great Titles for Educators web page.