ALL case study: Collaborative problem solving

[SOUND] [TEACHER’S VOICE] We’re going to
start the assessment. So what we’ll do in a minute
is you’re going to log on and the computer is going to pair you
with somebody else in the room. Remembering that what we’re doing
is assessing your collaboration and your problem solving. So your thinking and
the way you work with somebody else. So most of the students do
find it quite challenging. Not necessarily because
the tasks are hard, but because the tasks are asking
them to do something different. They’re asking them to work with
somebody else in a different way. Often what we’ll assess is what they know,
rather than how they perhaps work with somebody else in terms of collaboration,
but also in terms of how they think. It’s an online assessment tool, and they
pair up with another student in the class. And that’s, usually we try and
do that randomly so that the students don’t know
who they’re working with. And once they do that, they get online and they start working through
a task that’s been set up.>>Students are really engaged with
the tools when they go into the classroom. They don’t see them as
your typical assessment. They present almost like games.>>An example of that might be that they
have to look at how deliveries are made across an area or they might
look at how plants grow based on different light settings and
different temperatures.>>One person had control of the light
exposure, one had control of the heat. If you weren’t careful, you could kill
the plant, which is pretty fun actually.>>When you’re communicating
with your partner, it happens through a chat box which
is along the bottom of the screens. The computer tracks all of their
discussion and their movements, and looks at how they
interact with each other. Who’s the more dominant partner? Who isn’t? Who initiates the conversation? Who leads the movements on the screen? And also how they share resources. So one of the most fundamental things
that the students have to realise is, their screen isn’t necessarily
the same as their partner’s screen. And so they actually have to be
able to collaborate to do that.>>We know that industry and
schools are looking for ways in which to assess and teach this. And prior to this project, there wasn’t
any clear cut way for them to do that. It’s really a merger of collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills, and
decision making as well. And so we looked at the literature of
those five skills, and from that emerged a definition within of itself, so it’s not
just a merger of those five skills but an actual skill within and of itself.>>One of the school’s main aims is
to equip students with skills for the 21st century. So whilst we recognise that
it’s very important for them to have content area knowledge,
it’s also important for them to be able to engage in
a very changing workforce.>>Very few projects and tasks that are going on
are solely within one office. They are often collaborations between
other companies or other countries.>>So the test is used across, predominantly, Year 7, so all of our Year 7 students undertake
the test at the start of the year. And then at the end of the year again, so we can assess their growth
across the curriculum. The computer tells me who’s saying what
and who’s clicking, because we’re looking at how you’re working together,
and how you solve that problem. Their data goes through the system, and
we get a report back which tells us their level of collaboration in terms
of their social skills, and then their level of cognition in
terms of their problem solving. And we can use that to inform
what we do in the classroom. Is that you typing?>>Yeah and they haven’t replied,
they’re antisocial.>>Well data is very important
to good teaching because it really moves the theory
into the practice. With the example of our tasks,
teachers find it very, very difficult to actually assess
collaborative problem solving. Offline by themselves in the classroom – if you can imagine one single
teacher trying to assess every student in the classroom, while they’re working in groups, how they’re interacting with every
single other student in the group – it soon becomes an impossible task
even for the best of our teachers. And so the tool provides that baseline
measure the teachers can work with, so that they can have some estimate of
where their student lies on the scale.>>What I’ve learned is that sometimes
collaborative problem solving skills develop quite naturally in students. Some students will come in with
quite strong skills already, and perhaps that’s a product
of the school they’ve been to, perhaps that’s a product
of their own ability. But that there are a range of students
across every school that actually need explicit teaching in these areas to
actually be able to function effectively in a group, to understand how they
actually engage with a problem, and how to support them to
improve those areas.>>I always preferred to work individually
so when I’m faced with something like this it’s very, very different
to what I’m used to doing, but that’s the main difference is that
you just can’t do it all yourself, you have to give responsibility
to other people. And let them help you out.>>And so it’s really interesting for
the students to be able to start to understand their thinking process and
what that actually means for them, so they’re quite positive about
undertaking the assessment. It’s quite interesting and
exciting for them and they’re quite interested to see what
the results are, and then how they can actually use that information
later on when they’re learning.>>I think the testing has
helped my communication skills. I’m used to talking to people
to figure out a puzzle, but on the internet it’s
slightly different because the words can’t be
interpreted with tone, and so you kind of got to think about
the base way, I guess, to communicate.>>I think it’s a really valuable tool for
other schools to use. Partly because it provides data
that we don’t necessarily have at the moment, in terms of our curriculum,
and, particularly at a teacher level, what you’re doing outside of the content
that you’re delivering to students, how you’re developing them as a whole
person in terms of their skills and their own abilities, is
a really useful thing. So it’s something that is really valuable
for schools and for individual teachers in terms of improving their practice and
the outcomes that we give to students. [MUSIC]

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