If you google “skills employers are looking for”, you will find collaboration on every list. Fortunately, not only does the FISD Portrait of a Graduate identify collaboration as an essential skill, the FISD Strategic Plan also specifically addresses collaboration. FISD is identifying and equipping at least one space at every campus that will promote collaboration among students. The way a space looks and functions impacts student learning.
The way the world works and communicates is very different than it was years ago; it only makes sense that the standard learning space in schools reflects that change. Many students now enjoy and prefer active learning, meaning they are more likely to have positive learning experiences when they are contributing to and participating in their learning. Collaborative spaces may include large tables for groups of students to sit around comfortably, chairs that roll, seating areas that are more comfortable or even different types of lighting.
Dr. Wade, FISD Assistant Superintendent says that furniture, lighting, sights and sounds can all affect the way students interact in a learning environment. “Students find value in connections with others, whether in person or virtually. Creating spaces that foster exploration, collaboration, connections, and discussion will help our students grow the skills that employers are looking for and ultimately give students the tools to be successful in careers and in college,” explained Wade.
Joe LeBouff, FHS Social Studies Teacher, is finding the new collaborative space in the FHS library helps him meet the needs of all his students more effectively. “The new space provides a semi-private area where students can truly collaborate with one another without worrying about distractions. By allowing a smaller group of more mature students to work in the collaborative space, the teacher can then focus his/her attention on the students that may need a little more direction and guidance,” shared LeBouff.
Collaborative spaces aren’t limited to libraries, though. They can be incorporated in classrooms and even outdoor areas. The key is providing flexibility for the learners. For example, designing a classroom where students can go from listening to one speaker (traditional lecture or demonstration), to working in groups (projects or activities), to working independently (reading, writing, or research).
Dr. Bays, FISD Superintendent, is excited that not only is FISD working to create spaces that help teachers engage students in their own learning, FISD is also growing a skill that is sought after in the workforce. Bays said, “In order to prepare our students for a prosperous life, we have to teach them the ways of the workforce. Collaboration is a key skill employers look for and our kids are practicing that skill every day in our classrooms.”