collaborative learning theory

December 18, 2014  |  Online Education | E-Learning  |  Share

Collaborative learning theory is the framework of education that emphasizes learning as an effort between multiple people working together, rather than a preordained authority figure, like a teacher, who has power over a learner. The collaborative learning model is a “horizontal” method of learning that puts everyone on the same plane, rather than a “vertical” approach where there is a hierarchy of participants in the learning process.

The origins of collaborative learning theory lie in psychology. The two primary researchers who laid the groundwork for collaborative learning are Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Those two men determined that learners need to be ready for the learning environment and that they do better when others around them are learning. Building on those ideas, later educators have found that encouraging students to collaborate and talk with each other was an effective way of improving learning. The next evolution of this idea was fully collaborative learning, where the teacher becomes more of a guide than an authority, and who is learning along with the students.

The best ways to implement collaborative learning depend on the specific goals of the learning endeavor. For example, some teachers might be comfortable with creating group projects and other assignments that force students to work together. This is a basic level of implementation that maintains the teacher’s authority, but also allows students to gain from collaborating.
A more advanced form of collaborative learning is the flipped classroom. In a flipped classroom, students and teachers work out problems and exercises together in the class, and the students learn from recorded lectures outside of class. This reverses the traditional timing of lectures and practice problems. It can lead to improved student learning through the collaborative environment- teachers work right alongside students in class, so that everyone can learn from each other at the same time.
Collaborative learning does not have to incorporate this kind of approach. Subjects like math and science that have a lot of scope for practice problems are well suited for flipped classrooms. Other subjects, like business, lend themselves well to group projects and other forms of student-to-student engagement. The context of the course determines how appropriate collaborate learning is.
On top of that, there are different types of classroom. Traditional classrooms have straightforward choices when it comes to collaborate learning. Online classes, like massively open online courses, tend to be collaborate by their very nature. They can use Internet resources like forums, discussions, and chats to facilitate collaboration in ways that traditional classrooms generally overlook.

It comes down to the style of the teacher as well. Some are just less comfortable with collaborative learning, while others find that it dovetails well with their approach. There is no good in trying to pursue a teaching technique when it is not a good fit, either for the subject or the teacher. In general, it is better to have a teaching regimen that the teacher likes to use, rather than one that might have some advantages in other contexts but conflicts with the way the teacher usually proceeds.
The benefits of collaborative learning techniques are significant. Having students build on one another’s knowledge is a way for them to test their learning in a new way. For example, when one student helps another one learn a particular concept, both of them benefit. The “teacher” needs to think about new ways to explain the material and new angles of consideration. The “learner” gets a deeper understanding of the topic through hearing it from a different perspective.

Aside from the benefits of learning, group work has other benefits. Group projects and group presentations test social skills for interacting with other students. It takes effort and work to bring together a group of people who do not know each other to accomplish a goal. They need to learn to work together, overcoming differences and making compromises to arrive at a finished product. That builds a lot of useful skills that are valuable beyond the material of the classes.

The benefits of collaborative learning allow students to help each other and use the unique talents of each student to contribute to everyone’s learning. It enables each student to get more out of a learning experience than they would if they were all working separately.

Spread the word...Share on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someonePrint this page

Comments are closed.