Collaborative learning is one of the teaching approaches where students work in groups so as to understand a concept, create a product or solve a problem. Unlike individual learning, students engage with one another to ask for information, evaluate their ideas and monitor their work together. Collaborative learning is, therefore, an accurate term that caters for educational approaches encompassing joint scholarly effort between students, or students and teachers together. Despite working together, each is responsible for and accountable to each other. Collaborative learning can take the form of face to face communication or use computer platforms (chat-room or online forums). Collaborative teaching and learning create an environment where members aggressively cooperate by sharing experiences and take on different roles. The main tasks that students work on in collaborative learning are; collaborative writing, group projects, problem-solving, discussions, study groups, and other activities. You may be asking yourself, what are benefits of cooperative and collaborative learning? There are several advantages of collaborative learning. We can categorize them as to be of social, academic or psychological advantage.
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Benefits of collaborative teaching and learning for students are:
Collaborative learning involves clear stipulation of an educational task with instructions that require students to discuss the work so as to come up with solutions to the problem. During the discussion, they are encouraged to listen attentively to the comments group members make. They also contribute to the sharing and can re-evaluate their views and come to conclusions. Though at times, group discussion may fall under the control of the loudest individual, students have to be systematic by giving each a chance to speak out; they also stipulate a time limit to minimize dominance. The fact that students must provide answers to the task at hand calls for active participation in researching the project at hand and examining every possible answer so as to arrive to make the right solution to make the desired conclusion, thus improving an individual's problem-solving skills.
An active collaborative learning requires an instructor to view teaching as a method of developing and increasing students' capacity to learn as their role is to transmit information while facilitating the learning process. It includes creating and handling meaningful learning experiences that stimulate students to think through actual and existent problems. Through collaborative learning, we expect students to clarify ideas, views, and opinions through their discussion forums before making a conclusion. It, therefore, nurtures the improvement of critical thinking skills via interpretation of ideas, and assessment of other student's thoughts and views.
One of the collaborative learning advantages involves the use of different strategies such as Jigsaw technique which involves separating a task into subtasks. The jigsaw technique is a system of designing classroom activities in a way that students rely on each other to accomplish the tasks. It involves students forming groups, and each group handles part of the job so that at the end they all create a complete activity just like a jigsaw puzzle. Use of Jigsaw strategy provides students with the chance to enthusiastically help each other shape understanding as the instructor assigns them to groups that require varying skill.
To efficiently handle the task, students from different groups have to meet to exchange ideas and opinions amongst themselves. This kind of teamwork allows students to be experts in their allocated subject areas. At the end students then go back to their class and teach others.
Collaborative learning requires you to be a good decision maker. It is evident in group-works where you have to be able to and willing to take a difficult task or assignment and break it down so that you can find the solution. To be a good self-manager you will have to be a good problem solver, able to think through challenging tasks, study problems, examine and scrutinize solutions. Self-management skills are those individual attributes that help you feel and be more dynamic and productive in the office. With self-management competencies, you can interconnect and interact professionally and competently with your colleagues, managers, and even clienteles. They also help you make good decisions and improve time management.
Collaborative learning is dependent on the effectiveness of the group for the students to attend and accomplish their assignments. The entire group discussion relies on strong communication skills (sending information, receiving feedback, and sharing it with the whole class). You also have to comment (orally and in writing) when looking for ideas. You can achieve success within a group; students need to be able to communicate both on intellectual and emotional levels by explaining their thoughts, expressing their feelings openly but positively, listening prudently to others, asking questions and clarifications on other students opinion and telling how others feel through their nonverbal communication. With collaborative learning, one can reflect on the actions and exchanges of the group and encourage others to do well as members share their thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
For collaborative learning to work, students must work together in their groups. When students spend their time together working, they learn how to relate with one another. They also make friendship by getting to know each other, thus boosting group morale and performance. It means that they can laugh or cry together. When people are friends, they form symbiotic and trusting relationships which give the team members a sense of belonging. Usually, before or after a group discussion, members engage in casual conversation which fosters the development of interpersonal relationships
During a collaborative learning session, students not only work on academic assignments but also get to develop their social skills and learn together which improves their relationships with others in the class. Being able to become accustom collaborative learning into your teaching plan successfully. will allow your students engage and involve themselves more actively in the learning process rather than be passive students. It gives them a chance to learn their strengths and weaknesses as they work in groups . as they interact more with their peers, they acquire new ways of handling problems. Collaborative learning not only enhances the l learning process but also makes students happy.