Topic 3: Sharing is caring - a space for collaboration to flourish
As part of our weekly meetup tasks, we have been using tools that in my mind, expect a sense of sharing and listening:
The Circle - allowing each person to provide feedback using a tool to show that all eyes and ears should be on this person.
The Wicked Question game - Starting with a question, and only using questions to develop that question further (collaboratively, through sharing).
We have used a Circle concept to "pass the mouthpiece" in a way for each of us to have a say and to also be heard.
The concept of hearing and listening is one I often have with my niece and nephew; explaining how the connotation behind each word becomes very significant when we are expecting a specific outcome.
For one, despite the words being used as synonyms they are very different in reality. The act of hearing is passive, while listening is active. The Wicked Question game tasks allowed us to show this difference because we needed to be active participants in listening in order to provide meaningful feedback in response to our colleagues.
************ (Covid illness gap) ************
What I found very interesting is that the concepts of listening and being heard were very important before me getting ill, and I was in the zone with wanting to focus specifically on this, but spending time (ill and vulnerable) made me focus on the task in a whole different light, and it made me realise that while listening and being listened to were important, there was something even more important in the collaboration process that I needed to focus on, and that was in trust and emotional wellbeing.
************ (Covid illness gap) ************
That being said, I must say that I was incredibly excited about this topic and then slap-bang in the middle of it, I contracted Covid for the first time (having successfully dodged it for 2 years). In fact, it left me very weak and struggling to just do everyday things (like finish this post for instance) but what it did show me is that our PBL group are good collaborators who find ways to include even their 'sickest' member. I think that this is what we forget about at times, that when we collaborate, or create opportunities for collaboration - that the tasks and content are almost inconsequential because it is the learning through collaboration that really means the most.
What do I mean by this?
Well, it's easy to read a document on collaboration and have some form of understanding but what did we really LEARN from this encounter? We learned about the concept of collaboration through reading but did we experience collaboration? No! Therein lies the real opportunity for learning - experiencing the learning as we engage with it. As sick as I was, I was never going to let my group down and found a way to still ensure that I made it to the "Collective Story Harvesting" meeting that I had stated I would take ownership of (and I am glad that I did). What an incredible experience to have 8 people focused on my experiences of collaboration [going well and awry], and to have multiple viewpoints based around that listening experience. It felt empowering to be heard, but even more empowering to know that each of us could take something away from the experience because we trust each other with what we have to offer.
I must admit to being very emotional throughout the experience, and I recall feeling safe enough to be emotional because the space had been created for me to trust in my peers/ colleagues. I think that this too is important to remember - that collaboration is not just developing an opportunity for people to work together - but to create a safe space to enhance the overall members emotionally and mentally as well - especially in a world that is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.
As the World Economic Forum states in their New Vision for Education agenda (2016), "To thrive in the 21st century, students need more than traditional academic learning. They must be adept at collaboration, communication and problem-solving, which are some of the skills developed through social and emotional learning."
Furthermore, in relation to collaboration within the SEL curriculum, it is noted:
"Fostering collaboration is another example of a targeted strategy: in this case, key methods include building empathy and tolerance for others and working in groups. For instance, collaboration is particularly effective when it requires students to solve problems and work effectively with others, communicate with a group and manage resources (such as time) to achieve a shared goal." (Source)
"Research has indicated that collaboration improves students’ sense of community and even leads to better academic outcomes, such as the ability to think critically and to learn through self-reflection." (Source)
Throughout the learning journey provided in the ONL opportunity, we have been afforded the opportunity to develop these spaces for collaboration - however, we were not forced, but guided, into the processes with care and consideration. The initial 2-3 weeks were spent learning and understanding each other, and how we 'tick' so to speak ... and it made it a lot easier to learn how to empathise with each other, to listen to each other and to take responsibility for our individual contributions for our team who we knew, understood, and cared for. I think that we (as a group) have truly benefited in wonderful ways - and I almost want to say, 'without trying' but this would be a farce. We definitely each contributed to the feeling of safety which was initiated by our group facilitator early on. this is not something that happens once off, as it is essentially developing and maintaining relationships over time, within specific environments and contexts - and learning not only about ourselves, but the people within them.
I honestly feel that having come through this, I am a lot more blessed than I was at the beginning and I hope that through all this collaboration we maintain contact far into the future as I believe that we have so many things to learn from each other (and who knows, maybe even co-research to publish).
Till the next topic!