What is Collaborative Learning?

The term “collaborative learning” can refer to any number of educational strategies in which groups of two or more students work together to achieve a shared outcome. These learning situations can also involve interaction with a professor, instructor or teacher.

The activities utilized in such collaborations vary across a wide spectrum. The key to this technique lies in ensuring that the students are actively involved in their own learning experience, rather than simply being passive receivers of information provided to them through lectures or other methods of the teacher.

Read on to learn more about this concepts and its benefits.

Background Information

This particular concept of learning through collaboration is based on a theory known as the zone of proximal development, developed by the psychologist Lev Vygotsky. This theory refers to the place in which a learner is able to understand something new, but only through assistance from others. The premise of this belief is that, through collaboration, individuals are able to gain access to further stages of development through interactions with others who may already be at that place.

Working collaboratively allows students to develop maturity they may be lacking in one particular area, leading to improved learning and understanding. This group dynamic promotes both critical thinking and information retention, as well as overall learning.

Collaborative Vs. Cooperative Learning

While they may seem similar and are often used interchangeably, the concepts of collaborative learning and cooperative learning do differ. The key difference is that, in cooperative learning, responsibility lies with the individuals as a group to achieve an outcome that is predetermined and satisfactory to all, while cooperative learning breaks down the tasks of a certain end goal into small parts each member takes responsibility for on an individual basis.

Another important distinction between the two concepts is with regard to the age of the learning participants. Cooperation occurs with younger students who are still developing the foundations of knowledge. Typically, collaboration is utilized at the post-secondary level of education to help college students move beyond the basic foundations of learning. In addition, cooperative learning is an educational philosophy, and learning through collaboration is considered a structure of interaction between learning participants.

Classroom Applications and Benefits

Through working together to learn new concepts, students gain an improved understanding of new material. The learning concepts at hand become personal, making them less abstract and facilitating concrete understanding. The discussions involved in learning groups, with the instructor and in the general classroom setting can instill the information in such a way that is is more easily retained. Rather than simply memorizing facts and figures for an exam, the newly gained thorough understanding remains in the memory of students for longer periods.

Collaboration is a method that is well-suited for use in other settings such as the workplace and within other types of organizations. Technology has come to play a role in creating innovative ways for groups to collaborate, as well. Collaborative learning is an effective educational method for facilitating knowledge and personal growth.

Related Reading: What is Blended Learning?