George Lucas Educational Foundation

Structuring Collaboration for Student Success (Keys to PBL Series Part 3)

PBL provides a unique opportunity to help students practice critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. Learn how to optimize the environment for teamwork in your classroom. If you're new to project-based learning, watch our intro video here.
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Structuring Collaboration for Student Success (Keys to PBL Series Part 3) (Transcript)

Peggy: The teacher doesn’t just throw control to the students and say, "Let me know what you figure out." She really has to plan ahead of time, she has to figure out how to group the students so that they're the most productive. She has to scaffold their work, so she provides hints or clues or templates, worksheets is necessary, to kinda show them what they need to do first, what they might consider doing next. She has to teach them how to work together. Teamwork is not something that comes naturally, especially for younger students. They really need to learn how to do that.

Sheela: So we would have a anchor or a set of expectations about what kind of language would be used, what the roles and responsibilities are for each person in that group. And what are the processes for asking further questions or clarification?

Student: So you start with one trail mix and give out stickers. I'll do two trail mixes. Bryce does the questions and then you do the other things.

Student: I do the sticker charge thing.

Liza: So when students are working on projects in different groups, it's difficult to get to all of them at once, and they may really need you. So my first strategy for that is teaching a child how to use each other, teaching them how to talk to one another, and so here we call it accountable talk. So what are ways that you talk with each other when you disagree? How do you do that in a respectful manner, to continue to collaborate with each other and keep the project moving? Also, I do a lot of tabletop directions, if I have short directions that they need to get through or a checklist or an agenda, they have to get through so many things by the end of the day or the end of the week, instead of raising their hand and asking me and I have to run back and forth, it's right there in front of them.

Student: Oh, that makes sense.

Teacher: So what's this lake potentially used for?

Sheela: So it's really the art of facilitation. The teacher would not be at the front of the room directing instruction, but instead she is choreographing instruction. So she's like a conductor and she would go to all the different tables and groups to ensure that each group is working in harmony to achieve that goal at the end.

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5 Keys Video Series

See Edutopia's core strategies in action with our Five Keys video series. Take a deeper look at each strategy as we share the nuts and bolts of program implementation, give voice to examples from schools around the country, and illuminate the research behind the practices.

 Click here to watch "Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning." 

Learn more about the 5 Keys to Rigorous PBL: 

  • CORE STRATEGY PAGE: Project-Based Learning

    Use this roundup page to discover why project-based learning is a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge.

  • ARTICLE: Project-Based Learning Research Review

    Studies have proven that when implemented well, project-based learning (PBL) can increase retention of content and improve students' attitudes towards learning, among other benefits.

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