Collaboration in Education?

It occured to me today to do some research into what the public education system is doing to better educate children to be more collaborative.  Surprisingly – then again perhaps not – I found next to nothing!  There are a plethora of initiatives and papers written on fostering collaboration amongst departments and teachers but distrubingly little on educating students in this area.

The education system is highly individualistic.  You are rewarded for standing out, for being an exceptional individual and for personal achievment.  I’m not for a moment claiming that these are negative traits or that students shouldn’t be rewarded for their personal abilities, I only argue that there should also be some incentive to collaborate with fellow students as well.

I think we will all agree that group projects were a dreaded proposition in school.  You were assigned a group, assigned a topic and told to go to it and the entire group regardless of who did what was given the same grade.  The individualized point based system does not offer any incentive to collaborate in this situation- especially for the overachiever in the group who inevitably does everything.  As we have discussed in past posts, for collaboration to be effective (at any age) there are conditions that need to be met to make it work, you can’t just throw an assignment at a group and say collaborate – poof!   It just doesn’t happen that way.

Perhaps we could avoid our current situation of needing to ‘teach’ our organizational leaders how to collaborate in an increasingly ‘flat’ world if the education system was designed to reward collaborative behaviour in addition to individual achievment.

I would welcome any comments or insights you have on this topic.