Joint Productive Activity


Teacher and Students Producing Together Facilitate learning through joint productive activity among teacher and students.

Learning occurs most effectively when experts and novices work together for a common product or goal, and are therefore motivated to assist one another. “Providing assistance” is the general definition of teaching; thus, joint productive activity (JPA) maximizes teaching and learning. Working together allows conversation, which teaches language, meaning, and values in the context of immediate issues. Teaching and learning through “joint productive activity” is cross-cultural, typically human, and probably “hard-wired.” This kind of “mentoring” and “learning in action” is characteristic of parents with very young children; of pre-school, graduate school, adult learning, school-to-work and service learning, on-the-job training — of all education, except the common K-12 tradition. In schools, there is ordinarily little joint activity from which common experiences emerge, and therefore no common context that allows students to develop common systems of understanding with the teacher and with one another. Joint activity between teacher and students helps create such a common context of experience within the school itself. This is especially important when the teacher and the students are not of the same background.

Joint activity and discourse allow the highest level of academic achievement: using formal, “schooled,” or “scientific” ideas to solve practical, real world problems. The constant connection of schooled concepts and everyday concepts is basic to the process by which mature schooled thinkers understand the world. These joint activities should be shared by both students and teachers. Only when the teacher also shares the experiences can the kind of discourse take place that builds basic schooled competencies.

Indicators of Joint Productive Activity

The teacher:

  • designs instructional activities requiring student collaboration to accomplish a joint product.
  • matches the demands of the joint productive activity to the time available for accomplishing them.
  • arranges classroom seating to accommodate students’ individual and group needs to communicate and work jointly.
  • participates with students in joint productive activity.
  • organizes students in a variety of groupings, such as by friendship, mixed academic ability, language, project, or interests, to promote interaction.
  • plans with students how to work in groups and move from one activity to another, such as from large group introduction to small group activity, for clean-up, dismissal, and the like.
  • manages student and teacher access to materials and technology to facilitate joint productive activity.
  • monitors and supports student collaboration in positive ways.