An update on our pilot project to support collaborative problem-solving in schools.
The good news is, yes! At least that’s what the evidence from our first feedback session tells us.
For those of you who don’t know, Nesta recently started a pilot with Harris School in Battersea, to find out whether transcriptions can help support teachers to implement better collaborative problem-solving (CPS) in the classroom.
Despite finding it harder than expected to slot the 15-minute recordings into their working weeks, teachers found the transcripts and accompanying analysis really useful.
We invited teachers to think about what they might change when setting up their next CPS activity.
One teacher found one of his pairings were not working particularly well together; for the next week he is going to trial placing another student into the group, who he feels may be able to offer more support.
One teacher felt that although the student feedback was that the task she set was challenging, she wanted to see how they would fare without relying on their study notes, which she’d allowed them to use.
One maths teacher felt that setting longer multi-content problems may help stimulate more collaborative discussion.
Potential problems and concerns
Some teachers were unsure how much progress students made with the problems during collaborative discussion, a potential pitfall considering the amount of lesson content teachers are expected to cover.
There was some concern when setting group problem-solving tasks that more able students may work out the answer really quickly, giving it away to other group members before they had a chance to work it through themselves. Therefore tasks had be carefully chosen to ensure they were not too easy and groups of students chosen carefully.
When coding the transcripts we looked for certain utterances from students, such as the number of questions asked, explanations offered and suggestions made. Though teachers found this useful, there was not a simple correlation between these numbers and the quality of the discussion. For example, if a student asks a lot of questions, it could mean they lack understanding or confidence. However, sometimes students used questions to deepen their understanding and elicit suggestions from other group members.
This has given us a lot of food for thought when it comes to some of the challenges and considerations around facilitating effective collaborative problem-solving in the classroom. We can’t wait for our next feedback session to find out how the teachers get on when setting their next CPS tasks, and to hear more of their reflections.