In a recent groundbreaking evaluation of collaboration, PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) collected some results about problem-solving as reported by this BBC article.
High achievement students are better at problem-solving due to two well-developed skills: understanding the problem and the ability to reason for complex issues. The top 10 problem-solving countries were Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Macao, New Zealand and Australia.
Details about collaboration
But collaboratively working together does involve additional or different skills. Boys tended to solve problems better than girls when working individually. In every country, when collaboration was the problem-solving environment, girls did better. This is a stunning result that should change the face of teaching. After all, the workplace requires that people solve problems together.
Since girls value relationships, they are more apt to value what others are saying. Boys on the other hand are more pragmatic, as they assess collaboration for how it can benefit them by helping them be more effective or efficient. Interestingly all disadvantaged students see teamwork as positive. They believe that teams make better decisions than individuals.
Teachers can make a difference.
In classes, in which there is significant interaction already, such as through student discussion and proving their ideas, collaboration is more highly regarded. And where teachers develop positive relationships with students, this is an indicator that collaboration is likely to be successful.
How to improve collaboration skills
The quality of collaboration can be improved through a variety of strategies, some school related and others beyond the school borders - details published here...
What does this mean?
In many school systems teachers are now required to evaluate a variety of learning skills, including collaboration. Since the evaluation is tied to the report card, the expectation is that teachers are now setting up situations for students to practice collaboration and providing insights into how to be more collaborative.