I like solving problems together with other people. As
a consequence, I believe I try to make people feel socially and emotionally
connected to the process we ought to share. As pedagogue I would argue that problem-based
learning (PBL) as strategy is a highly structured way of achieving this. Not
only in allowing us to collaborate around defining and solving a common
problem, but also in shedding light on our social relationship in a group. Most
often the material outcome is at the forefront when we assess our achievements and we often do what we think will take us to an
end, however without real considerations whether the tools used are that well fitted. We are quite habitual, and as I like PBL I might for example think PBL helps solve many
educational problems, perhaps far more so than what is advisable.

The issue of our social relationship, discussed
sometimes as a group reflection, but rarely as an outcome itself, is without
doubt important to move this equation forward. An article in the Harvard
Business Review by Cross et.al (2016) discuss what they call Collaborative overload.
Their research concerns how collaborative cultures in organisations have a
tendency to become inefficient, unfair and badly monitored as they overload a
small group of knowledgeable, popular and service-oriented colleagues sharing
their personal resources in various collaborative problem-solving projects.
Some spend a lot of time helping
others to collaborate and goes by unseen as it is often forgotten to monitor (monitoring is not always a good thing) who does
what in a work process. It is taken for granted that participants engage
equally and add equal input as the material results are what is assessed in the end. As a
worst scenario the “real” problem solver is not credited at all, hence not merely an
issue of that some people are credited and should not.

We underestimate time
devoted towards collaboration and in a habitual fashion we see collaboration as
good without any real reflection on time consumed, but rather, as Steve
Wheeler does in his blog False
frontiers
, highlight space before time, in an otherwise really interesting
post on collaboration as a learning device.

So, then, how important is it to make our social
connectedness an issue of shared time, equal workload and appropriate credits
as to reach success in collaboration? Well, collaboration ought to be based on a group’s members
sharing of knowledge, information, experiences or whatever are necessary ingredients
for moving a problem-solving task forward. Often the timely input is far more important than the size of it, thus equal can be defined as equal engagement at times, and similarly, some input requires more preparation than other and might in pure size seem less. The assessment of equal workload is thus not simply measured by volume, but by its impact in the work process as such. This can only be reflected in and by the group.

It brings me to my final reflection in this post,
namely emotional connectedness. What we do is reflected in how we feel, and I guess vice versa. A group
with the onset to solve problems together, but a group where the social
contract of equal terms of collaboration feels skewed provokes a risk of triggering
emotional stress among its members and thus affect the learning process negatively. At
least that is my experience from being both well prepared and clearly unprepared, both hard working and less so, at
times.

Please also check the blog by Amanda Kinners on how skewed expectations may hamper collaboration in a group.