I am currently a big fan of students working in partnerships. I am finding many advantages of cooperative work in my computer lab. My fourth graders are currently working on Google drawings which illustrate and explain how to play a variety of sports.
Some important social skills are used when students work with a partner. They get practice in using listening and speaking skills. Students use negotiation skills as they decide which facts, images and other resources to include in their projects.
They get the benefit of being exposed to another person's thoughts and
opinions. If conflict occurs, students learn how to deal with it.
In my classes, students have a wide range of abilities. I have students with learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, autism and limited English. Partnerships give all learners a teammate to help them read, write, translate, process, remember, and stay focused on the learning.
Too often, individuals get stuck and I cannot always be available to help
them right when they need it. In partner work, each learner has one more
possible source of assistance.
I believe teachers sometimes avoid partner work for a variety of
reasons. Obviously, there is a gamut of possible problems when students
work in partnerships. There must be thoughtful decision-making by the
teacher if collaborative learning is to be successful. Setting the stage
for success includes realistic expectations and the promotion of
student responsibility. Giving students some choice of partners along with the positive expectations of working with others can be valuable.