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Why collaborative learning is important to the 21st century learner

Collaborative learning is an educational approach to teaching and learning that involves groups of students working together to solve a problem, complete a task, or create a product. / File.

Education experts believe that skills such as decision making, flexibility and problem-solving are best developed in schools, and that the earlier this is done, the better.

On many occasions, they say such vital skills are needed in the labour market nowadays, and that these skills play a major role when it comes to shaping a learner’s life. 


Alphonse Uworwabayeho, a lecturer of mathematics at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, says general learning plays a big role, especially when nurturing skills.


One of the methods of learning that can ensure such skills, he says, is collaborative learning.


According to him, collaborative learning is referred to as a method of active learning that relies on the principle of two or more students working together towards a common goal, be it in the classroom or outside.

Why is it important?

Uworwabayeho says when students are taken through collaborative learning in schools, it’s easy for them to make progress with others.

He says such learners become accountable to one another, they also learn to better understand and anticipate difference, recognise it in themselves and others, and use it to their advantage.

He points out that this method ensures that students’ roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, but at the same time, open for negotiation, therefore, bringing a strong sense of accountability.

“With proper use, competition is an effective means of developing student’s collaborative skills. It can be particularly effective with teams and can help to develop entrepreneurship and leadership while in school, or after,” he says.

However, Uworwabayeho notes that with this kind of learning, students need to be monitored all the time, just to ensure they are developing the right skills the right way. 

Aminadhad Niyonshuti, an English teacher at Apaper Complex School in Kicukiro, says collaborative learning helps students build their social-emotional learning skills.

These skills, he says, are useful when it comes to developing communicative abilities, working as part of a collaborative team, which promotes joint discussion, interaction and problem-solving.

Niyonshuti adds that in the case where a teacher encourages students to use project-based learning, it’s helpful because it can shape a learner’s future.

“This is by engaging them in authentic work, exploring real-world issues and working with their colleagues to come up with a solution for something,” he says. 

Niyonshuti says that this way of learning also helps students be more creative.

He says that when given these basic materials and tasked to find a way to practice, it’s easy to work together and come up with innovative ideas that move away from completing a worksheet or textbook activity, or doing something that is already created online.

Their collaboration, Niyonshuti says, leads to the design of a new, meaningful way to review the material, and it is also something that can be shared with their colleagues and other classes as well. 

Aime Prince Lionel Murara, the deputy national coordinator in charge of operations and partnership in Education for Nations and Humanitarian Africa (ENHA), says collaboration method of learning promotes positive feedback, during and after learning.

He says students can give feedback to their colleagues on a regular basis.

“Providing and soliciting feedback is an important component of a collaborative classroom. When students see the work of their classmates, they can exchange views,” he says.

Murara further points out that collaborative learning makes students with different backgrounds, race, or upbringing, work together with the aim of achieving certain goals.

He says that this brings them together in a setting that maybe would have not been possible if it were not for collaborative learning.

In order to solve a project’s given problem, Murara says learners need to communicate, among other things.

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