“The world is changing and so must our instructional tools and approaches. Nelson Jackson submits: “I do not believe you can do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and be in business tomorrow.” Let us adopt collaborative learning for greater achievement.”
“My opinion, my conviction, gains immensely in strength and sureness the minute a second mind has adopted it,” said Novalis, a German author and philosopher. With precision, he eloquently yet simply captured the importance of fostering a collaborative learning culture.
Think about it this way: You can easily steer the ship on your own, but with a crew on board who are working together, you can get a lot more done faster and more efficiently. So does learning. Whether the goal is to increase student understanding of content, to build particular transferable skills, or some combination of the two, collaborative learning capitalizes on the benefits of peer-to-peer instruction.
Collaborative learning, otherwise also referred to as cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups to promote students working together to maximize their own and each other’s learning. It is characterized by positive interdependence, where students perceive that better performance by individuals produces better performance by the entire group. Whether formal or informal, it often involves specific instructor or teacher intervention to maximize student interaction and learning. It is infinitely adaptable, working in small and large classes and across disciplines.
A part from the obvious academic gains from this approach, it also allows celebration of diversity. Students learn to work with all types of people. During small-group interactions, they find many opportunities to reflect upon and reply to the diverse responses fellow learners bring to the questions raised. Small groups also allow students to add their perspectives to an issue based on their cultural differences. This exchange inevitably helps students to better understand other cultures and points of view.
Further still, collaborative learning also helps learners to accept and acknowledge individual differences. When questions are raised, different students will have a variety of responses. Each of these can help the group create a product that reflects a wide range of perspectives and is thus more complete and comprehensive.
Interpersonal development is another advantage of this approach. Students learn to relate to their peers and other learners as they work together in group enterprises. This can be especially helpful for students who have difficulty with social skills. They can benefit from structured interactions with others. Even the quiet passive ones are challenged to be actively involved in learning as each member has opportunities to contribute in small groups. Even better, students are apt to take more ownership of their material and to think critically about related issues when they work as a team.
This approach also offers more opportunities for personal feedback. Because there are more exchanges among students in small groups, your students receive more personal feedback about their ideas and responses. This feedback is often not possible in large-group instruction in which one or two students exchange ideas and the rest of the class listens.
However, it must be pointed out that cooperative-learning situations are not easy to set up. In most cases, particularly those in which people must work together on a problem, conflicts prevent learning. As a result, cooperative learning requires teaching students to work well with others by resolving these inevitable conflicts. It also needs a lot of creativity and time on the side of the teacher. Nevertheless, such setbacks should not obscure the greater benefits we stand to reap.
In conclusion, the world is changing and so must our instructional tools and approaches. Nelson Jackson submits: “I do not believe you can do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and be in business tomorrow.” Let us adopt collaborative learning for greater achievement.
The writer is a Language Consultant