Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Learning Through Collaboration: Joint Construction

(Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes)  

As a pedagogical coach I help teachers work through classroom issues that may arise. A senior Biology teacher approached me and said “My students suck at <insert task here>. What can I try?”

In the task students needed to investigate a contemporary example of how science interacts with society with a focus on one or more of the aspects of science as a human endeavour (also known as a SHE task) such as Communication, Collaboration, Development, Influence, Application and Limitation. Early in my career, I came across the Teaching and Learning Cycle while undertaking a course “ESL in the Mainstream” that focused on supporting ESL (English as a Second Language) students in mainstream classrooms. The model scaffolds students in unfamiliar genres. To unpack the SHE task I suggested that they use the think aloud strategy in the modelling phase, followed by joint construction which then flows into independent construction. Research by Caplan (2017) showed that in using joint construction a “significant benefit was found … in genre completion and the number of different descriptive adjectives used.” 


The teaching and learning cycle can be encapsulated in the saying “I do, we do, you do”. Starting with direct instruction of teaching content and concepts, this flows into task modelling and deconstruction. The next step is joint construct where students work collaboratively supporting each other, followed by independent construction.

Modelling and Deconstruction

By using a similar task to the set task, the teacher outlines how they will tackle the various aspects of the task, constructing an exemplar outline on the board. The teacher uses the think aloud procedure whereby they describe their cognitive actions, the strategies they employ and the rationale behind their choices. This models the task so the students feel confident for the next step.

Joint Construction

The class then tackles a similar task - various chunks of the task are given to groups of students. I usually use a collaborative google presentation so student groups can assemble their notes addressing their “chunk” of the task. I usually set a time constraint, e.g. 20 minutes, after which the groups present their slide to the rest of the class. I encourage students to create a class ethic of collaboration.

Independent Instruction

Through the think aloud procedure they have internalised the cognitive processes that are required to do the task. In the joint construction, they have tried it for themselves, discussed with their peers, and given and received feedback. Additionally, they have critiqued their classmates' work and made judgments of how their work has met the requirements of the task. The students now have the confidence and skills to tackle a task independently. 

The Outcome

The teacher reported back this approach was successful the students were more confident and the quality of their work and submission rates improved.

Caplan, N. (2017) The contributions of Joint Construction to intermediate-level ELS students' independent writing: a mixed-methods analysis, Available at: (Accessed: 11 March 2023).

No comments:

Post a Comment