This page was originally authored by Gioia Breda and Yvonne Dawydiak (2008). This page has been edited by Claudia Jack (March, 2010)
The value and applications of collaborative learning are important to consider in the design of educational environments due to the changing face of schooling and the workplace.
Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
~Vince Lombardi (1913-1970), football coach for the NFL
The key to the learning processes are the interactions among learners and the collaboration in learning that results from these interactions.
~Palloff and Pratt (2003)
What is Collaborative learning?
Collaborative learning is an instructional method that encourages learning through peer collaboration as students work towards a common goal becoming responsible for one another's learning as well as their own. Thus, the success of one student helps other students to be successful (Gokhale, 1995). It has characteristics which are focused on group processes. In contrast, individualized instruction supports students working at their own level and at their own rate to achieve a goal.It places emphasis on the roles of the individual as well as the individual within the group.
Collaborative Learning is similar to, yet distinct from, cooperative learning. In both models of learning, there is division of labour. The following are some differences (Dillenbourgh, Baker, Blaye & O'Malley, 1995).
- Mutual engagement of participants
- A coordinated effort to solve the problem
- Continuous shared conception of the problem
- Division of labour
- Individual responsibility for sections
- Coordination when assembling partial results
This distinction is crucial when developing effective collaborative learning environments. Many efforts to design instructional activities have not afforded true collaboration, thus weakening their efficacy. An example of characteristics of Collaborative Learning can be found at .
Justification for Collaborative Learning
Proponents suggest that social interaction increases motivation and interest in content while helping to maintain active learning over an extended period (Guthrie, 2001). Further, it promotes critical thinking among a group of learners, allowing students to share expertise and form a higher order understanding of a given topic. Through discussion, clarification of ideas and evaluation of others' ideas, learners are able to develop and share tacit knowledge, or knowledge that is embedded in individual experience (Gokhale, 1995; Paavola, Lipponen & Hakkarainen, 2004)
While explicit knowledge is easily conveyed, the development and sharing of tacit knowledge has long been a difficult area for traditional teaching and workshop methods. Discourse within a community of learners provides an opportunity to share and develop this knowledge. Collaboration allows for knowledge creation or innovation in schools and the workplace (Paavola et al, 2004).
The ability to evaluate information and make decisions as a team is critical in today's dynamic context. Individuals must collaborate creatively to tackle a variety of challenges including the constraints of time and space (Beldarrain, 2006). In response, technological advances have been made to facilitate such communication, allowing companies to restructure and place a greater emphasis on teamwork. This age of change is frequently termed "Post-Fordism".
Classroom & Design Considerations
Pedagogical goals and learning outcomes: Collaborative learning is more effective in enhancing critical-thinking, concept learning and problem solving while individual learning does an equally effective job of transmitting factual knowledge (Gokhale,1995).
Group size and selection: According to Rau and Heyl (1990), smaller groups (of three or fewer) contain less diversity and may lack divergent thinking styles and varied expertise that help to animate collective decision making. Conversely in larger groups it is difficult to ensure that all members participate. Modes of group selection include self-selection, random assignment or criterion-based assessment. Depending upon the group dynamic, the mode of selection may also affect the outcome.
Choice of strategy: Implementing the appropriate strategy plays a large part in the ability of learners to progress within a Knowledge- Building Community (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1994). Possible strategies include jigsaw learning and think-pair-share. [other useful methods include 
On-line modes of collaboration: The internet and a variety of Social Software, have provided opportunities for participation in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning Communities (CSCL's). Further, distance education has been transformed through the development and use of synchronous (real time - instant messaging & conference calls) and asynchronous (not in real time - wikis, discussion forums, blogs & google docs) on-line communication. Earlier on-line and distance learning courses did not afford this opportunity hence, learners were isolated. Isolation limits the ability to fully develop cognition.
Key tensions: Concerns raised by educators include increased noise level; classroom management issues; individual student accountability (Goldman, 1996). Of course, the development of social software and related technologies mitigate many of these concerns. Editing or creating a wiki page, for example, allows students to collaborate in an on-line environment and affords the instructor the ability to monitor individual student effort.
What's New in Collaborative Learning?
With the speed of advancements in technology, we are at a pivotal stage in the development of collaborative learning.
- Virtual Reality is the newest forums for collaboration including projects such as:
- Transformed Social Interaction at the Virtual Human Interaction Lab are investigating the efficacy of communication in collaborative virtual environments.http://vhil.stanford.edu/projects/ Wikis are also useful tools for promoting collaboration
- Tele-immersion allows geographically separated users to collaborate in real time in virtual environments
- Collaborative software helps people involved in a common task achieve their goals. Collaborative software is the basis for computer supported cooperative work. For example blogs
Collaborative learning is a useful strategy for enhancing learning using multiple modalities. This will cater for the diverse needs of the learners.
Student Teacher Applications (of CSCL)
 Emphasis on the roles of participants,characteristics and benefits of CL.
Cooperative Learning A synopsis.
Collaborative Learning: Stop Motion
A Stop Motion Artifact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDv4CbqDO9I (by Caitlin Langford, June 2015)
Collaborative Learning: Stop Motion Pt. 2
A Stop Motion Artifact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kuf9fkAYEiA&feature=youtu.be (by Justin Wu, January 2017)
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