Asking students to work in complete isolation

Sitting alone

Joe Bower said:

I would never ask students to complete anything that is worth doing in complete isolation from their peers, parents, books, or the Internet. I’ve worked hard to encourage my students to see collaboration as a critical characteristic of learning.

Alfie Kohn reminds us that, “I want to see what you can do not what your neighbour can do” is really just code for “I want to see what you can do artificially deprived of the skills and help of the people around you. Rather than seeing how much more you can accomplish in a well-functioning team that’s more authentic like real life.”

In the real world, there simply aren’t that many times you are expected to solve a problem or perform a task in complete isolation – and even if you were, it would be awfully archaic to refuse you the opportunity to reach out for the help you needed to get the task done.


Image credit: Sitting Alone, naraekim0801

One Response to “Asking students to work in complete isolation”

  1. Thanks for this reminder! Unfortunately, working in isolation is alive and well in schools. Testing situations are a perfect example. Wouldn’t it be much better to dismantle the mystery around testing and have kids work together to solve a problem or respond to an open-ended question about what they’re learning? Ah, but if we did this, how are we going to determine what each individual student learned? If we did this how will I be able to compare my students to your students? But, if we did this, how much learning, that is not measurable, can we anticipate for students? Lots of rhetorical questions that often create risky situations for teachers willing to change how teaching and learning happens in the classroom.

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