The 3 R’s of Collaboration

17 February 2014

One of the reasons I love Google Docs is that Google Docs easily creates a secure environment for collaboration to take place.

3 R's of Collaboration

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But here is the problem:

When I was teaching full time, one of my frustrations was that when I issued the students a group task, usually only one student would do all the work and the other students would ‘collaborate’ [insert generally be distracted].

It didn’t matter if I was using a piece of cardboard, or a piece of software, the outcome was generally the same.

When I saw a Google Doc for the first time I was sold! To be able to see my students writing at the same time was such a great help to my classroom management efforts; and this was before revision history was added (click that link to see how to use revision history in the classroom).

But here is what I discovered:

Working together in a Document isn’t necessarily collaborating

Just because we are writing in the same space, doesn’t mean we are working together to produce a better document.

So over time I developed my 3 R’s, that every student must follow whenever they are working in a group setting, regardless of the medium.

My 3 R’s of collaboration are:


This might seem obvious, but the basic foundation of collaboration is that you are aware of what the other group members are contributing.  Often students can hand in a group task and have no real understanding of what the other members have learnt and contributed.


It isn’t enough that each of the students just read each others work, but they also need to reflect on what has been done.

When reflecting they need to be asking themselves…

  1. Do I understand what they have written?
  2. Can I add any value to this (a link, rewording, a different point of view etc)


Contribute to the overall project by adding value to what they have read and reflected on.

There must be evidence of the students doing all 3 of these R’s otherwise true collaboration hasn’t taken place.

You can easily track the 3 R’s via revision history and tracking comments between students.  I’ll show you how I use commenting to track collaboration in my next post.

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