Do you own a kangaroo, too?
Ms. Jenkins has one. She keeps it over her desk, and attends to him ‘round the year. Unfortunately, the kangaroo hops a lot –demands her undivided attention. His name is curriculum. As it happens, many kids in the class demand her attention too. They are doing poorly, and need her. Unfortunately, she can’t. The kangaroo wouldn’t let her.
Is Ms. Jenkins alone? Do you know anyone who loves to keep a kangaroo over their desk?
This article is about collaborative learning. Let me caution you beforehand, collaborative learning is seen as grossly inefficient by many teachers, as many teachers have reported about a 50% reduction in the grounds they cover. (McManus, D.A., 1996)
However, research also suggests that collaborative learning brings positive results. Students develop deeper understanding of content, become constructively involved with the content, and they learn to stay on the task. It increases overall achievement too. As per Johnson and Johnson (1989), students working in cooperative groups do better on tests, especially with reasoning and critical thinking tasks.
Collaborative learning is not about telling students ‘as much as possible’.
The goal is to complement the development of analytic skills and critical thinking skills with social and cooperative skills. It is about increasing students’ ability to work with each other.
In a collaborative classroom students team together, and explore questions and create projects. They engage in multiple activities – they discuss lectures, work on group assignments, share their views, and create solutions.
Classrooms with clear objectives engage in multiple tasks that help improve their understanding of the concepts. Moreover, as students learn to work as a team, they share their strengths and nurture their weaknesses. They learn to deal with conflicts, develop interpersonal skills; and they learn to take ownership.
Benefits of Collaborative learning
What traits do ideal students possess? They are knowledgeable. They have excellent thinking skills. And, they can think strategically. However, that’s just intellectual development- Students need emotional, social and ethical skills too. Can a curriculum achieve that?
The secret of a successful classroom
Successful learning involves frequent interactions – between student, between teachers, and with the learning material. Collaboration and effective communication are the real secret. It is only through dialogue and interaction that learning gains live. In collaborative learning, groups discuss problems. Thus, they solve problems better than any individual can.
Another reason is that a dialogue encourages active participation. As students discuss and examine their perspectives, they gain knowledge and become thinkers.
“Children learn when they engage in activities and dialogues with others.”
SERC on its website list four reasons to encourage collaborative learning
Students who work in cooperative groups do better on tests, especially with regard to reasoning and critical thinking skills than those that do not.
Higher motivation and retention
Students learn to care about the class and the material and they are more personally engaged, and they become more active participants.
Higher number of projects per student
The project scope expands. Collaborative learning provides students the opportunity to engage in more substantial projects or a larger number of smaller projects than they could individually.
Better life skills
Students learn to work with each other. They learn to acknowledge each other, their individual differences. They also learn to relate with each other and resolve their conflicts.
You can read more at Why Use Cooperative Learning?
Here is another link that lists some forty-four more reasons to support collaborative learning.
As I wrote earlier, collaborative learning isn’t about teaching ‘as much as possible’. Its goal is to complement the development of analytic skills and critical thinking skills with social and cooperative skills. Communication and collaboration skills are critical to student success; and collaborative learning gives them the opportunity to discuss and examine different perspectives, and create a solution better than they individually would have.
What are your views regarding collaborative learning? Do share with us- We’d love to know.