What is Collaborative Learning?

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Collaborative learning is an educational style that encourages learners to work in groups to complete tasks assigned to them. The idea of collaborative learning stems from the theory that the learning process is a social act that occurs when people come together in groups for discussions in order to come up with a solution. In this style of learning, learners are grouped together and allowed to discuss the task assigned to them, thus coming up with a solution by the end of a set period. This educational approach enshrines the idea that successful learning must encourage active participation of all group members. The social environment created through collaborative learning ensures that learners engage in conversations that lead to speeding up of the learning process.

Designing Collaborative Learning

The collaborative learning approach requires that the instructor comes up with a design of the learning process in a way that suits the needs of the class. Depending on the learning outcomes, a teacher must start by identifying how groups will be formed. For better results, it is advisable for the instructor to group the learners as opposed to allowing themselves to group themselves. The instructor can then group the learners in terms of their skills and abilities ensuring that all groups are balanced. In designing collaborative learning, the teacher may also allow learners to engage in ice breaking activities. This will ensure that group members are comfortable with each other before they start the learning activity. In designing collaborative learning activities, instructors can incorporate technology to ensure better results. The learning process should also be divided into small sections to ensure that employees stay focused. Evaluation of Collaborative Learning Since collaborative learning occurs in groups, it may be difficult to evaluate each employee. Therefore, it is important to find a suitable method of evaluating learners to ensure that each one gets the score they deserve. First, learners must be evaluated on their contribution to the group. It is important for the instructor to be in the vicinity when collaborative learning is taking place. This will ensure that they have a good view of what is happening and who is contributing what in the group activities. Secondly, instructors should create a grading rubric and provide it to the learners so they know what is expected of them. A rubric acts as a guiding factor when it comes to the evaluation of collaborating learning. Instructors should also evaluate the learners depending on the final product. As much as contribution to group activity is important, the final product is what matters. The instructor must evaluate the final product basing the grading on the rubric provided in the beginning. In addition, the instructor may also use the learning outcomes set at the beginning of the class for a better evaluation process. Another method of evaluating collaborative learning is through peer and self assessment. Allow employees to evaluate themselves and others in the class. This will help the instructor know how the groups are working together and what changes need to be made if any. Instructors should ensure that learners understand what is expected of them at the beginning. When learners know how there grades will be calculated, it is easier for them to meet expectations. Instructors should ensure that they provide scores both at the individual level and at the group level. This helps learners understand how they did individually and how well they performed in a group. Benefits of Collaborative Learning Collaborative learning comes with a host of benefits especially when implemented successfully. First, it helps in the development of critical thinking skills. When a learner is working on a task all alone, all they see is their point of view, which may be right or wrong. However, when learners come together in a group, employees experience different points of view, evaluate each one critically and come up with a conclusion. This is an important skill as it can be applied in all learning processes. Collaborative learning helps learners develop communication and self-expression skills. In a group setting, learners have to communicate their thoughts to their team mates in a clear and coherent manner. This helps build oral communication skills amongst the employees. Another benefit of collaborative learning is that it nurtures leadership skills in the learners. In collaborative learning, each employee gets a chance to be a group leader in the learning process. This helps grow leadership skills and prepares trainees for real life situations. Moreover, this helps in building self esteem as employees become more confident. The collaborative learning approach allows employees to interact with others on a constant basis thus improving social skills. By having different people express different opinions on certain subjects; learners are able to interact with people from different backgrounds. They also learn how to respect and tolerate others even when they have an opposing view on issues. Examples of Collaborative Learning There are many ways to incorporate collaborative learning in the classroom setting. Some of the approaches are simple and take just a few minutes while others are complicated and may take the whole semester. An example of a simple task is asking employees to develop a question at the end of the lesson and pose it to their partners for discussion. For a semester long project, an instructor can assign problems to groups and ask them to solve them by presenting a proposal at the end of the semester. Evaluation might occur at different times during the semester to ensure that all groups are on track with their projects. There are numerous ways that instructors can incorporate collaborative learning into their day to day class activities. The social nature of collaborative learning allows employees to evolve socially and emotionally. The benefits of this type of approach as explained above show that this is a method worth trying. By encouraging learners to work in groups, learning becomes a social and fun activity. Many employees are skeptical of the group setting at first. However, as soon as the team dynamic becomes clear, many learners begin to enjoy it. Instructors can choose how much they incorporate collaborative learning into their classroom activities but it is definitely a powerful learning approach.
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog