Collaboration: Facilitating and Assessing the 21st Century Skills in Education


Welcome to a series of posts dedicated to 21st skills and assessment. In this post, I wish to elaborate on collaboration. It seems educators and industry are all talking about the importance of student collaboration, but how are we facilitating and assessing this skill . I want to provide you some great reasons, ways, and resources to make this happen in your classroom, school, or district. Most of all, I want to thank you for being one of those 30,000+ visitors a month and over 14,000 subscribers. Also, remember that I can come to your conference or school district and provide engaging, authentic, practical, and purposeful professional development . See booking info and please contact me anytime at (  Last, please take a moment to subscribe by email or RSS and also give me a follow on Twitter at mjgormans.  I promise you will find some great information coming your way this school year…So Sign Up Now and please pass this on with a retweet!   – Mike Gorman (

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Collaboration: Facilitating and Assessing the 21st Century Skills in Education

I believe that collaboration is a major key to learning. I feel that learning in the group is so much more powerful and productive then learning in isolation.  To hear students talk with each other as they cite important learning standards is exciting to see.  What are some reasons to see our students collaborate? Let me begin:

Ten Reason For Student Collaboration in the classroom

  1. Allows for important meta-cognition that has the power to promote understanding.
  2. Provides an avenue for teacher to listen and assess learning.
  3. Opens a window to visible thinking for both students and teachers.
  4. Allows students to unlock learning using multiple interpretation and explanation.
  5. Provides access to a vital success skills, important in future careers.
  6. Allows for the development of active listening and thoughtful interaction.
  7. Promotes empathy and understanding while supporting work in diverse groups.
  8. Teaches self-regulation and proper social interaction.
  9. Facilitates the art of persuasion and promotes positive and productive discourse.
  10. Guides and builds powerful skills that promotes inquiry and problem solving

While I am excited by collaboration in the classroom I am often greeted by educators that remind me that their students do not know how to collaborate. I often ask if their students have ever been taught to collaborate. So many times as educators, we are so bound by the standards, we forget the importance of building a collaborative culture. Great student collaboration does not just happen. It must be built and continuously facilitated. Let’s take a look at how, we as educators, can do this.

Ten Ways to Facilitate Student Collaboration in the Classroom and School

  1. Teach students how to collaborate. (This might include a fishbowl or providing indicators on a rubric, or a good video clip.)
  2. Provide time for students to collaborate. (Scaffold the collaboration if needed by bringing in questions and idea at various times.)
  3. Provide students with a collaboration rubric. (Have them look at the rubric before collaborating, and once again when they are finished)
  4. Make assessment of collaboration an ongoing effort. (While the teacher can assess, have students assess themselves. Self assessment can be powerful)
  5. Concentrate on specific indicators in a rubric. (There are various indicators such as; provides thoughts, gives feedback, etc. Concentrate on just one indicator while doing a lesson. There can even be an exit ticket reflection)
  6. Integrate the idea of Collaboration in any lesson. ( Do not teach this skill in isolation. How does is work with a lesson, stem activity, project built, etc. What does collaboration look like in the online or blended environment?)
  7. Post a Collaboration Poster in the room. (This poster could be a copy of a rubric or even a list of “I Can Statements”. Point it out before collaborating.
  8. Make Collaboration part of your formative assessment . (Move around the room, talk to groups and students, stop the whole group to make adjustments.)
  9. Point out Collaboration found in the content standards. (Be aware that content standards often have words like; discuss, come to agreement, debate,  and explain. Collaboration has always been part of the standards.
  10. Plan for a school wide emphasis. (A culture that build collaboration is usually bigger then one classroom. Develop school-wide vocabulary, posters, and initiatives.)

I have been mentioning rubrics and assessment tools through out this post. To me, these are essential in building that culture of collaboration in the classroom. I want to provide you with some great resources that will give your some powerful tools to assess the skill of Collaboration.  Keep in mind that students can also self assess and journal using prompts from a Collaboration Rubric.

Three Resources to Help with Assessment of Collaboration

PBLWorks – The number one place for PBL in the world is at PBLWorks. You may know it as the BUCK Institute or BIE. I am fortunate to be part of their National Faculty which is probably why I rank it as number one. I encourage you to visit their site for everything PBL.  This link brings you to the resource area where you will discover some amazing  rubrics to facilitate Collaboration. You will find rubrics for grade bands K-2, 3-5, and 6-12. This really is a great place to start. You will need to sign up to be a member of PBLWorks. This is a wonderful idea, after-all it is free!

Microsoft Innovative Learning – This  website contains some powerful rubrics for assessing the 21st Century skills. The link will bring you to a PDF file with  Collaboration rubrics you can use tomorrow for any grade level. Check out this two page document defining the 4 C’s and a movie giving you even more of an explanation.

New Tech School – This amazing PBL group of schools provide some wonderful Collaboration Rubrics in their free area. These are sure to get you off and started.

Collaboration “I Can Statements”

As you can see, I believe that collaboration is key to PBL, STEM, and Deeper Learning. It improves Communication and Critical Thinking, while promoting Creativity.  I believe every student should have these following “I Can Statements” as part of their learning experience. Feel free to copy and use in your classroom. Perhaps this is a great starting place as you promote collaborative and powerful learning culture!

I can share equal responsibility in a group
I can value opinions of others
I can work with others in a positive manner
I can compromise with individuals and the entire group
I can use active listening
I can practice empathy
I can take time to think about what others saying
I can work with a group to determine best tools, resources, and methods
I can work independently inside and outside the group
I can value the various strengths, skills, and abilities of all group members

Thank you for joining me and I hope you found this information something you can use in your school and useful to share with other educators.  As always, I invite you to follow me on twitter (mjgormans). Please give this post a retweet and pass it on to someone who will benefit. To ensure you do not miss a future valuable post or other resource covering PBL, Digital Curriculum, STEM, 21st-century learning, and technology integration please sign up for 21centuryedtech by email or RSS. Have a great week… enjoy the Websites! – Mike (

Booking Info – It is time to think about your school or conference needs.   Are you looking for a practical and affordable professional development workshop for your school or conference? In fact, I have a STEM is a Verb Session and Workshop I can bring to your location. I have traveled the country delivering PD relating to technology integration, PBL, STEM, Digital Literacy, and the 4 C’s. I have delivered hundreds of workshops and presentations. Check out my Booking Page.  Please contact me soon if you have an interest. While I am booked through March of 2020, I do have some dates open starting in April of 2020! Look for contact information at the Booking Site.


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