M.J. Myers

Queen's University (CANADA)
In Canada, the perspective changed from working independently to collaborating in education. In industry, teams that work collaboratively often access greater resources, recognition and rewards when facing competition for finite resources.

The reported study deals with preparing future teachers to implement collaboration while they are learning about it themselves based on theoretical tenets and practical applications. Activities devised were of a three tier action-oriented nature requiring task completion, and based on the backdrop of collaboration, similar to cooperation but taking it to a higher level with active participation of all the members. In this case, we explored a collaborative annotated vocabulary task, including drawing pictures and contributing names and expressions in writing where relevant.

Collaboration requires awareness, motivation, self-synchronization, participation, mediation, reciprocity, reflection and engagement, then the question of how to increase collaboration among student participants required serious pondering when having to deliver this, through on-line courses, especially given that some learners have only basic access to technological means. So, instructors had to bridge the gaps both theoretically and practically.

The methodology was qualitative (Creswell & Poth, 2018), using interaction analysis (Gardner, 2019). We also looked at affinity spaces (Gee, 2005) and communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998). The basic question examined was, how is collaboration achieved with this group of university students? After explaining underlying theoretical concepts and grouping students, a second language collaborative task was designed around vocabulary building and learning useful associated expressions. Observational and procedural notes were taken during the process, while the instructor devised a collaborative activity going through the stages of group building, seeking resources, building-in reinforcement stages and during the actual collaboration through break-up rooms of selected participants during on-line work and use of the chat feature as well as page share applications. We observed and analyzed group activity.

Among key findings we uncovered the sharing of work-spaces, however if obvious during in-class teaching, break-up rooms did not provide full scope. Students found it difficult to give up control to other people. They did not like being vulnerable, thankfully no grade was attached to the completed task. They found out when it hurt to give in and when to back down. Another issue was the inherent messiness of collaboration. There was also an issue when students lacked self-regulation (Bandura, 1997) and tended to complain about inclusion. Overall great ideas were generated although through some tension; this made participants take more notice and it hopefully added to their learning. Other findings will be discussed including the messiness of collaboration.