Competitive Regurgitators vs. Collaborative Innovators

A kid named Jamal was helping me set up a room for panelists. He kept asking specific questions about how I wanted it done. I finally said, “What do you think?” He paused, seemed taken aback and said, “No one has ever asked me that before”. Jamal was a senior in high school.

Sir Ken Robinson argues that schools kill creativity. The Foundation for Critical Thinking uses the analogy that we teach in a “mother robin” fashion by mentally chewing up everything for our students and putting it into their intellectual beaks to swallow.

Meanwhile, global challenges will require a level of collaboration and innovation unlike anything we’ve experienced. Many teachers we’ve worked with are very uncomfortable with group grades or measurements of students’ participation in a group project. Many compromise and say, “Ok, but after the project grade I will give them a multiple choice test just so I can be sure that each student has learned the material (read: remember what I told them to remember).”

How would school be different if we intentionally moved away from fostering competitive regurgitation to collaborative innovation?


Categories: Our Vision

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3 replies

  1. I like the idea of collaborative models mostly because that is far more similar to what most professions demand of its workers.
    I think it can be done (at least for now) in conjunction with typical assessment. My civics co-teacher is doing at least one cooperative pairing for each standard. It’s going exceptionally well. Of her six classes, my co-teacher reports that our class (which has students with disabilities, English Language learners, and typical learners altogether) works best under the cooperative model. I too have been so impressed with what they can create and how the content is absorbed.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Hannah. Good to hear a real live example of what the research supports: most students learn better in groups. Ken Robinson’s video (we posted yesterday) says “collaboration is the stuff of growth” and ed researcher Robert Marzono has meta-analysis to support its incredible effect size on learning outcomes (we love The Art and Science of Teaching by Marzano).


  1. What the World Needs Now… « Education to Save the World

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