Learning is a continuous process. One learns something every single day and there is no end to this as learning not only includes basic lessons or school/work topics, but also life skills or any new information. Thus, it needs to be ensured that learning can be done most efficiently. While in school, students undergo multiple learning methods in order to equip themselves for a better future. The school should be a place where one can be free with their ideas and discuss among their peers to understand multiple perspectives. It also helps them to be a better team player and cooperate with each other.
Collaborative Learning is a process akin to group work, however it includes an inclusive approach where students work together and enhance their knowledge. Groups are created for the purpose of learning and teaching from one another and they team up to complete tasks and study. Such an approach helps students as well as teachers to communicate better and to get a deeper understanding of the team.
There are different types of collaborative learning. Some strategies are:
This is one of the most common types of collaborative learning methods used. It is a technique which involves both individual thought process as well good communication with the group. This method involves individual thinking and the creation of ideas followed by sharing of the same among peers, considering the ideas and viewpoints, and finally, agreeing on a consensus. In this method, it is required that students act and take initiative rather than listening passively.
Informal collaborative learning groups
As indicated by the name, this method utilizes an informal approach to learning where groups are separated and assigned lessons. This approach allows for free-flow of ideas and thoughts as there is less lecture-based learning and teaching. The students are expected to read, and then discuss with their peers and help each other in understanding. This approach also helps in retaining more information on the material as the individuals learn mostly by themselves.
Formal collaborative learning groups
A formal group is monitored by the teacher where the groups are divided specifically to help the students and lessons are assigned along with allotted time limits. This approach involves more routine-based learning which proves as a motivation factor for most students. The students help each other to learn within the timeline, after which they are to consult with the teacher. This technique is used mostly for group project works that have specificities.
This method requires that students approach learning through tackling individual problems. As indicated, problem-based learning is where a particular problem is put forth for the students and they understand the same and try to find a solution together. This approach helps students in their daily lives as well, where they might have to coordinate with other individuals to tackle obstacles. This method also allows them the opportunity to think critically and take into consideration the possibility of multiple solutions for a single problem.
Collaborative base groups
A collaborative base group is created for a long-term purpose, i.e., a year, where different individuals are put together to work on multiple tasks that contribute towards a single project. Usually, such groups require individuals to work on their individual assignments first and then get together with the group to coordinate and discuss the bigger project. This method requires active involvement from all members. Among students, this ensures that every individual does a task and that there are no freeloaders within a group.
Jigsaw collaborative learning
This approach is suitable for larger projects, where the tasks can be divided and separated according to the abilities of the individuals and they are assigned a certain timeline to complete their task within their learning environment. In this method, the problem is broken down and assigned to multiple groups who are together in the same setting. As pointed out by the name, a jigsaw method involves breaking down the problem and putting it back together for a broader understanding by the students.
There are multiple pros and cons to any approach to learning. It works differently for different individuals. Thus, one must ensure what works for them personally and continue with the same.
The various benefits of Collaborative learning are discussed below:
- Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills — The learners grow and evolve through this approach as they discuss and cooperate with other individuals. The growth of the group works as a safe learning space for the individuals. This also helps with many of their personality skills.
- Promotion of student-faculty interaction — The method ensures good and healthy communication between the students and the faculty. Moreover, it also ensures that feedbacks and suggestions are taken into account and administered properly.
- Increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility — The students are able to learn and understand more of their lessons as they are putting in the effort rather than just sitting back and listening to lectures. The students are active participants who work along with the teachers and their peers to retain more of their lessons. This also increases their sense of responsibility towards themselves as well as their work.
- Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives — Above all, this approach helps the students to be more patient and tolerant towards multiple viewpoints. This increases their ability to listen and critically think about different perspectives. It also helps them to respond to problems, rather than react to them.
- Preparation for real-life social and employment situations — The best advantage of this method is that it prepares students for real-life situations and problems where they can put their methods to good use. It will also help them in their professional life as they will be better equipped to handle all such team problems and efficiently work towards a solution.
The various disadvantages of Collaborative learning are discussed below:
- People need to go at different speeds — Different individuals have different learning capabilities and talents. A combined learning experience could overwhelm students and pressurise them as well. Multiple people go at different speeds and understand problems differently. However, with a set timeline, this approach might hinder the safe space of students.
- Someone may try to take over the group — An individual with a stronger personality might overtake the thought process of the entire group. It is possible that one individual might sabotage the entire process without providing the meeker fellow mates to come forth with their ideas. This might become an obstacle for the group as this defeats the purpose of the process.
- Quiet people may not feel comfortable — People with an introverted personality might not prefer collaborative learning as they like to work individually rather than with a group. Introducing such a learning method might be forcing them into doing something they do not want to which might further become a hindrance for their learning process. It might negatively affect them as well.
- Sometimes people just don’t get along — Within a group, there is a possibility that there might be personalities that clash with each other. Certain individuals do not learn how to compromise which could jeopardize an entire group. This is a major downfall of collaborative learning.
- People may not pull their weight — People who say one thing and do the exact opposite are present everywhere. They might become a disadvantage for the group as they might try to freeload and put down the work of others as well. Such a person can bring down the morale of the entire group which would become an obstacle for the process.
Even though Collaborative Learning has not been incorporated into the system of many institutions, it is a good approach when the planning is done carefully. One needs to ensure that the needs of all individuals are being met and that no person feels left behind. However, when conducted successfully, collaborative learning can help in the growth of an individual as well. It also helps the learners understand multiple viewpoints and makes them prepared for real-life situations as well.
-By Mariya Joseph, SDF Batch 14, St Joseph, Banglore, Karnataka
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