Universitas Kristen Indonesia
Collaboration is generally defined as an activity involving two or more people who effectively work together towards shared goals. Since it is defined as an activity, many people tend to take collaboration for granted. Some even see it simple and easy to actualize. However, by dissecting the definition, we will see that collaboration is complex for it includes three important parts: a team (two or more people), a process (working together), and a purpose (shared goals).
First of all, collaboration can take place only if two or more individuals work as a team. In the team, all of the members do not only use their knowledge, experience, and skills but complete each other. Working in that way, all the members can share their talent and find the most optimal solution to every problem. This will enable them to work more effectively and productively.
Secondly, collaboration is a process because it is governed by a set of norms and behaviors that maximize every member’s contribution to the attainment of the shared goals. To enable the members to contribute optimally, they need a collaborative agreement that defines roles, responsibilities, and work processes. The agreement can be seen as a contract that binds every member. To ensure that the collaboration will emerge no surprise, the contract needs to be discussed, agreed, and recorded at an early stage.
Finally, the collaboration will work when all team members have clear goals. To enable the team to work effectively, every member needs to understand what the goals are, how these goals are measured, and what the team should focus on. To ensure that all members are highly motivated to pursue the goals, they should have a sense of belonging. Therefore, every member should feel that he or she is accepted and connected to everyone in the team. This could be actualized by creating a culture in which all members trust each other so that they are not afraid to speak out and interact with each other.
To be an effective collaborator, an individual needs collaboration skills, including communication skills, emotional intelligence, and respect for diversity. Communication is very essential in collaboration because during the process every member needs to get his point across to others. Therefore, a collaborator should be good at listening, speaking, reading, and writing. He should also be keen on nonverbal communication and skillful in using ICT to share ideas.
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s emotions, apply emotions to tasks, recognize emotions in others, and react appropriately. A person with good emotional intelligence is resilient, empathic, curious, compassionate, not being offended easily, not taking criticism personally, and able to recognize and detach from strong emotions when needed.
Respect for diversity is highly necessary in today’s collaboration because we are now living in a global world. In such a world there is an increasing possibility to collaborate with people from different countries and cultures or even groups with conflicting views. According to Doyle (2018), respect for diversity in a collaborative environment comprises: sensitivity to ethnic and religious backgrounds, building and managing expectations, facilitating group discussion, eliciting viewpoints from all team members, agreeing on roles that capitalize on individual strengths, and building consensus
Collaboration skills are increasingly important in the present day’s work because the world of work in the 21st Century tends to increasingly lead to a team-based work environment (Dede, 2009). In contrast to most jobs in the 20th Century that demand individual performance, completion of work in the 21st Century requires teamwork. Foster-Fishman, et al, (2001) asserted that building a solid work team requires collaborative skills because this competency enables each member to unify their respective knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
Realizing the importance of collaborative skills, students are expected to hone them. Fortunately, it could be done through the implementation of the learning strategy called collaborative learning. This strategy is often implemented by assigning students to work in groups to complete a task or a project, or to solve a problem. In the group, students interact with each other so that they enrich each other’s ideas, improve their learning outcomes land develop their social interaction competencies. Various studies (Tran, 2014; Backer, Miller, & Timmer, 2018; Molla & Muche, 2018) reported that collaborative learning significantly increased students’ engagement, academic achievement, and knowledge retention. Since this strategy can effectively increase students’ learning achievement and develop their collaborative skills, it is highly recommended for teachers and students to often employ it.