In real life, working together, and learning from each other, mentoring and being mentored, are important skills for success. In contrast to many traditional schools, collaborating, and the inherent learning that occurs when children work with each other, are built into each day. For example, a child who wants to work on a science project that requires multiple participants needs to recruit peers to work with her, ensure that all three people are free at a given time, and that the materials are available. If she micro-manages her peers, or isn’t respectful, or doesn’t follow-up on her commitments, she may find it harder to get a team together the next time—a learning opportunity that is amplified during a one-on-one meeting with a teacher, who asks her to reflect on what happened, and to role-play better ways to speak to her friends.
Children also learn to mentor—and to ask for help and coaching. Teachers often encourage children to ask peers for help, or to approach more experienced or older children for help when a teacher is in a lesson or otherwise busy. More advanced students often enjoy teaching lessons to less experienced ones, or editing their work—and in the process solidify their own learning. Children present their research to their peers—and learn from their peers’ presentations. Presenting their work motivates children to learn deeply, while peer questions push further understanding, and the practice of speaking to a group hones communication skills.