Many of our blog posts have focused on the need for collaboration and interaction. We encourage these learning behaviors because “when learners speak, listen, and collaborate with their peers, learners develop a better understand of the content.” (Willingham, 2009). To consolidate their understanding of the content, learners need opportunities to problem solve, discuss, negotiate, and think with their peers. (Lloyd, 2004)
What exactly is a learner interaction behavior? How can we make these learning behaviors more explicit? What do we mean when we say learning interaction or collaboration?
Here are six types of learner interaction behaviors educators can employ in their classrooms:
- Saturate: The unloading and sharing ideas. Saturation is a process for inspiration. It differs from traditional brainstorming in that the end goal is not quantity of ideas, but ENERGY to create or produce a product from the ideas. For example, an educator might design a learning experience where the group of learners researches a topic such as climate change. A saturation interaction following that research might be to unload as much information as they can about climate change, with the intention of creating a product that communicates what they have learned to their peers. This interaction is much more powerful than simply answering a worksheet to check for understanding. Materials to inspire saturation include: markers, sticky notes, photographs, sketches, and dry erase surfaces.
- Synthesize: The creation of clarity from complexity. Synthesize is about making sense of data and complex information. Synthesis requires open mindedness, reorganization, and flexibility, often asking learner to examine their mental models of an idea or experience and challenge them with new information. It is an exhaustive process that requires repeated creation and deconstruction of ideas and paradigms. This type of interaction is often the birthplace of innovation, and quickly creates ownership of content.
- Focus: The consideration of a single topic for a sustained period of time. This narrowing in is an especially essential thinking skill for learners who struggle with meta-cognition. For example, after a successful brainstorming session learners often struggle to evaluate any one idea with enough depth to write a successful essay. Focus requires intentionality and rehearsal.
- Flare: The generation of new ideas, concepts, and options. Similar to traditional brainstorming, flaring explicitly includes producing a large quantity of ideas around a specific topic. This type of learning interaction is especially useful in project-based or service learning activities, where learners are required to create a project that addresses a specific issue or problem. The goal is quantity generation of ideas, and judgment of ideas is postponed.
- Realize: The creation of a tangible product. This type of interaction requires learners to engage with their previous thinking and ideas to produce something relevant and tangible. Realization always requires two key things: storage for the work in progress and clear expectations and guidelines for the intended product.
- Reflection: The reconsideration of what has occurred. Although often reserved as a conclusion, reflection is a powerful learning interaction that can be used at many stages of the learning process. Andragogy states that learners who have a vast knowledge bank require more processing and reflection time to assimilate new information to existing schema, reorder and reorganize mental models, and determine the value and relevancy of content.
Which types of learner interactions are you orchestrating in your classroom? How might you employ these six learner interactions to reach instructional goals? How do these interactions align with your current teaching practices? How do they challenge those practices?
Lloyd, S. L. (2004). Using Comprehension Strategies as a Springboard for Student Talk. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 48, pp. 114-124.
Willingham, D. T. (2009). Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom.
Doorley, S. & Witthoft, S. (2012). Make Space, How to set the stage for Creative Collaboration.