Collaborative Learning is an active process connecting existing knowledge and new knowledge. The process allows students to work together to share and construct new knowledge. It encourages students to process and synthesise rather than memorise and regurgitate existing knowledge.
Working in a collaborative group, allows students to be exposed to varied backgrounds, experiences and knowledge. In the social learning environment learning flourishes. The process also allows students to develop listening and communication skills. Students are encouraged to develop and defend their ideas and opinions. The process can encourage higher order thinking skills (TEEP, 2008).
A similar strategy described by Geoff Petty (2009) in his book Evidenced Based Teaching, A Practical Approach, is Cooperative Learning. Both methods have many similarities. Petty argues that these methods can raise achievement by at least a grade but states that we should use them because they improve students’ behaviour, self-esteem, and more crucial still, their attitudes to each other (pg 12). However, your students might not know how to work in an effective collaborative group. You may wish to explore with them what effective collaborative learning might look like, sound like and feel like?
Collaborative Learning is more than just group work. All students should be given a role within the task to ensure that all learners take an equal part in achieving the end goal. Collaborative learning should be challenging. Good collaborative learning allows the student group to develop essential social skills such as good communication, effective listening, co-operation, confidence building, respect for others etc.
Effective collaborative learning should be reviewed and evaluated. Students should be given the opportunity to review both what they have learnt during the task but also how they have operated as effective collaborative learners. This approach allows learners to develop essential skills and behaviours for success in employment.