By Carly Muetterties

March 2, 2015


C3 Instructional Shifts – Shift 2:  Cultivate and Nurture Collaborative Civic Spaces

When I was a student, there were few things that inspired as much anxiety in me than two little words: “group work.”  These words are pretty regularly used in just about any classroom, my own included.  So, when students look at me, sadness in their eyes, lips curled in disgust, I tell them that I understand their pain.  I, too, was the student who would end up doing most of the work. My standard response to complaints has become: “life is group work.”

When I was reviewing the second instructional shift, Cultivate and Nurture Collaborative Civic Spaces, I thought about how I have been approaching group assignments.  The C3 Framework integrates collaborative work throughout the dimensions.  Though education is pretty individualized, the Framework promotes student cooperation.

The more you think about it, the more it makes sense that this should be fostered in social studies.   Collaboration is more than just group work – it’s the idea that as citizens, we are a part of the larger body politic, not isolated beings.  Though we might not agree with those around us, we nonetheless learn from them.  Interacting with others, learning about others, helps develop our own thinking.   It’s about working with people we may not like, who we agree and disagree with, so as to better understand what we think and why we think it.

So, let’s redefine “group work” for students.  I think a key aspect of this shift is not just that we should make students work together, but that we find opportunities for them to learn from each other.  Cultivate their understanding of themselves within a larger society, of the community and in your school/classroom.

These civic virtues should also apply to overall functioning of the classroom.  Teachers don’t always have to rule through a benevolent dictatorship.  Look for opportunities to promote democratic practices within the classroom.  Turn your classroom into a civic space where students can practice civic participation.  Let them feel empowered by your class rather than like passive passengers.


Share your ideas!  Have you tried any activities that fostered group learning?  Or, have you used democratic principles in your classroom?  Tweet or Facebook C3 with our community.