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What expert maths mastery practitioners think about collaboration in the classroom

Editor’s note: Transcript has been edited for clarity.

Classroom collaboration doesn’t have to be complicated. We gathered a group of expert practitioners to ask them why collaboration is a key part of learning. Here’s what they had to say.

Give learners an opportunity to step into their teacher’s shoes and share their knowledge with their peers. Collaboration builds important skills like listening, questioning and helping others. It gives children a voice in their classroom.

Create a collaborative culture in your classroom with these tips from expert practitioners.

How does collaboration support problem solving?

From Neil Le Feuvre, Headteacher at St Bridget’s C of E Primary School, Wirral:

“I think when you’re solving complex problems and you’re thinking about different solutions, the only way we solve it as adults, is through collaboration.”

So, obviously it’d be a natural way to create your own class in terms of collaboration and getting children to collaborate.

What should effective collaboration look like?

From Louise Freir, Specialist Leader in Education, Wimborne Teaching School, Wimborne:

“We always say that a quiet classroom is a suspicious classroom, and expect that the majority of the lesson to be talking.”

What do you keep in mind when teaching collaboration skills?

From Helen Hackett, Specialist Leader in Education:

“It’s about getting them to talk to each other.”

And to think not just about what they’re doing and what their understanding is, but to think about what another person’s understanding is, and try and share and come to some kind of collaborative understanding.

What advice would you give to someone trying to foster a collaborative classroom environment?


From Jo Sawyer, Maths — No Problem! Trainer:

“…and almost stepping back from being teachers and allowing the children to learn at that depth themselves.”

Allowing them to know what they want to explore and how to explore it. And not to be so precise with the instructions, or maybe just ‘do this and it will work’ — it’s allowing the children to explore a little bit more and discover that depth themselves.

How important is collaboration to the learning experience?


From Natasha Ho, Teacher at Byron Court Primary School, Wembley:

“There needs to be collaboration in order to create deep learning.”

Whether it be collaboration between the students and teachers — or the students together.

How does collaboration help learners who are struggling with mathematical concepts?

Helen Hackett, Specialist Leader in Education (continued):

“Mini teachers is something that we use in the classroom.”

Because sometimes children will say, “yes, I’ve got it, I know it.” But having to explain that to somebody else and show somebody else, especially someone who might be struggling a little bit, it makes them dig deeper in their own understanding to be able to break it down and explain it more clearly. And sometimes children understand better from a child explaining it, than they do from an adult explaining it.

What is one of the main benefits of collaboration?

From Rosie Ross, Teacher at St Bridget’s C of E Primary School, Wirral:

“I think that’s how you consolidate that learning.”

And I think you don’t really show true depth of something or true mastery of something until you’re able to explain it to somebody else.

Anything else to add?

Neil Le Feuvre, Headteacher at St Bridget’s C of E Primary School, Wirral (continued):

“That’s just the real essence of teaching — isn’t it?”

In terms of actually how you internalize your learning: you have to go over it, you have to be able to explain it to other people, and then when you’re explaining it to other people, quite frequently, you make new connections within yourself, which then adds to the mastery.