Collaborative Learning

Summary of reform: the focus of Collaborative Learning is on mutual student exploration and application of material not simply the teacher's presentation. There is a shift away from teacher centered or lecture centered pedagogy, sometimes humorously referred to as ‘sage on the stage’ pedagogy. This reform consciously tries to construct opportunities for student involvement through teamwork, discussion, out of classroom study groups, and active engagement with course materials. Students must be empowered to make many of the choices, especially since collaborative learning addresses the way authority is distributed; it implies that the teacher relinquish authority to some degree to enable students to negotiate tasks and learn in a mutually supportive peer environment. Other possibilities could include having students collaborate syllabus, peer teaching, writing groups, discussion groups, team research projects and experiential education. Collaboration blurs the boundaries between teaching and research as knowledge is seen to be co-created in the classroom; collaboration means that knowledge is created not transferred, and locates that knowledge production process in the group rather than in the individual.

Level of institutionalization: Collaborative Learning requires minimal institutional support. Individual instructors have tended to initiate this change from within their classroom. Several people have suggested that institutionalization would be helpful, especially within large classes (collaboration does not depend on class size. Institutional cultures typically remained unchanged.

Outcomes: Community which is seen as essential for learning especially among the learning styles of women; interdependence in increasingly collaborative world and for sustaining a democracy, improves student retention, complexity of thinking increases, acceptance of different ideas, motivation for learning and connection among students.

Description of assessment: Studies have been conducted to illustrate the effectiveness of collaborative learning but few institutions or states are assessing how collaborative learning impacts student outcomes. Problem is we don't know why and how they occur. Also since not institutionalized, assessment is classroom by classroom if done.

Resistances: Students may be resistant to giving up their traditional, passive role as a sponge-like absorber of information, instead having to work autonomously and sometimes competitively. Faculty may be resistant to relinquishing control and allowing students to negotiate assignments and challenge understandings may be perceived as unacceptably threatening to faculty authority.

Evolution/History: This evolves out of several different traditions including 1960's innovation such as cluster colleges, free schools and interdisciplinary programs that stressed that learning occurs among people not between people and things. Out of social constructivism and new ways that knowledge is assumed to be developed. Ted Newcomb's work on influence of peers on student's learning; learning is illustrated to be a social process. Also evolved out of Belenky et al's work on women's relational way of knowing. Also evolves out of critical pedagogies challenge to teacher authority.


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 Link to suggested readings: Articles on Collaborative Learning



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