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Why are our schools collaborating?
The project aims to teach everyone how to respect and value themselves and each other through key life skills of self esteem and inclusion. Extensive research into grouping, particularly collaborative and co-operative group work, widely documented across many studies shows the positive benefits of effective, successful group work for pupils – for example, pupils feel more liked, accepted and included than their peers in traditional classroom settings, and these feelings are extended to the development of positive cross-ethnic relationships and tolerance, significantly reducing anti social behaviour such as bullying. This is an area where many of our children could be susceptible. Co-operative learning is well recognised as a pedagogical practice that promotes learning, higher level thinking, pro social behaviour, and a greater understanding of children with diverse learning, social and adjustment needs. These have profound implications for individual learners, schools as well as the whole education system itself.
Furthermore, classroom studies that focus on the quality of children’s talk when seated in groups suggest that, although high level communication (i.e. exploratory and elaborated talk) is a necessity for promoting cognitive understanding, this type of talk is rarely found in the classroom. In the course of this project we will address this basic skill to bring about better oral communication skills, as well as training pupils to understand non verbal communication skills and cues.
Through helping each other to the develop materials and approaches appropriate to our specific educational settings, our project intends to provide the pedagogy and methods to promote the skills and attitudes in our children, that will allow them to grow into valued members in our society and that will enhance their ability to continue to gain knowledge in the full context of lifelong learning. There are very few roles at all in life that do not require group/team work skills. We believe that the skills that we aim to promote will have a positive effect leading initially to an improvement in classroom learning, behaviour and team work; later being carried through into the teen years and beyond. Throughout the project we aim to improve group work and social behaviour, through self awareness, social communication, peer support, problem solving and conflict resolution. This will be done by providing stimulating group work, independence, and creativity in learning. All the schools in the project are like minded and have shown in discussion that they have a sincere belief in the fundamental skills of collaborative and cooperative learning as an integral component of the basic infrastructure of any classroom environment and the platform on which, once firmly established, all curriculum subjects can ride. This includes promoting Active listening skills and random team work skills, and also includes being able to recognise and utilize the strengths of group members as well as supporting the team members who struggle with certain tasks. By consolidating our experiences it will enable us to deliver a programme which can become part of Pedagogical Best Practice and which will develop skills that will benefit all children in all settings and roles of society. With these important life skills under their belt for some of our children it will make the difference between becoming isolated and dysfunctional or becoming accepted and valued team players. In another light it teaches others to respond in a supportive and empathetic way to include and respect all people in the multicultural society we live and work in today. Working with a diverse selection of schools across Europe is a perfect way to practice this first hand, welcoming the opportunity to explore and celebrate both the diversity and yet universal aspects of our cultures.
The partner schools all work with children (3 – 16yrs) with a range of Special Needs, including physical disability, low IQ levels, Autism Spectrum, Dyslexia and AD(H)D, as well as children with emotional/social behavioural disorders and/or underprivileged homes). The pupils are integrated into mainstream school or in Special schools. Our project will develop collaborative and cooperative learning skills using a social relational approach for learning for those identified with SEN and also for ‘mainstream’ children, across a full range of abilities, age ranges and cultures. This will be done supporting the philosophy of inclusion where strengths support limitations in genuine team work.
Through developing materials and approaches, our project intends to deliver the pedagogy to promote the skills and attitudes whereby the pupils can better function as team players in our society. In the real world there is no employment that does not require an ability to work with other people. Our pupils need to be ready for this, having the aptitude to know the strengths that they bring to the team and acknowledge where they need support, thus increasing self-knowledge, self-value and self-esteem as well as tolerance of others. They will learn to work independently from their adults to become secure and trusting when working with peers. Importantly, by shared experiences and training we will find the best practice for developing challenging, co-operative or collaborative group work tasks. During the Project the children will learn to truly reinforce these skills by producing collaborative and cooperative inter-school team work projects, including teaching each other important phrases in their languages and sharing real life experiences about their countries, thus broadening their European horizons.