JiTT R2D2 Collaborative Learning Differentiated Instructions

Collaborative Learning

contributed by Quah Lee Hwang

Collaborative learning is an umbrella term for a variety of educational approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers together. Although students generally work together in groups on a face-to-face basis, with the rapid expansion and availability of communication and information technologies, this can also be done at a distance.

Some Important Principles behind the Pedagogy:

  • Learning is an active constructive process – students are not simply taking in new information or ideas. They are creating something new with the information and ideas. Such acts of intellectual processing and constructing meaning or even creating something new are crucial to learning.
  • Learning depends on rich contexts – collaborative learning activities immerse students in challenging tasks or questions. It frequently begins with problems for which students must marshal pertinent facts and ideas and become immediate practitioners. Such rich contexts challenge students to practise and develop higher order reasoning and problem-solving skills.
  • Learning is inherently social – it produces intellectual synergy of many minds coming to bear on a problem and the social stimulation of mutual engagement in a common endeavour. This mutual exploration, meaning-making and feedback often leads to better understanding on the part of the students and to the creation of new understandings for all of us.

Web 2.0 technologies are designed to support collaboration. Video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs and location-aware or mobile devices are all convenient tools that can be used to design activities or assignments well suited for collaborative learning. These include
  • Case studies
  • Discussions
  • Student-moderated discussions
  • Debates
  • Collaborative writing
  • Collaborative presentation
  • Games
  • Demonstrations

Collaborative learning promotes
  • Involvement – it is both socially and intellectually involving as it invites students to build closer connections to other students, their class, their subject and their learning.
  • Cooperation and teamwork – in collaborative endeavours, students encounter differences and must grapple with recognizing and working with it.
  • Civic responsibility – collaborative learning encourages students to acquire an active voice in shaping their ideas and values and a sensitive ear in hearing others. Dialogue, deliberation and consensus-building out of differences are strong threads in the fabric of collaborative learning and in civic life as well.

In collaborative learning, the classroom is no longer solo teacher and individual students – it becomes more an interdependent community. Learning collaboratively demands responsibility, persistence and sensitivity but the result can be a community of learners in which everyone is welcome to join, participate and grow.