Introduction

Collaborative learning is the “educational approach of using groups to enhance learning through working together. Groups of two or more learners work together to solve problems, complete tasks, or learn new concepts” (Valamis). There are many benefits to collaborative learning, which include preparing students for real life situations, promoting student engagement in learning activities, and increasing student responsibility. Collaborative learning activities are structured so students are responsible for deciding on how the work will be done. Essentially, every students’ success depends on the success of their group members! All group work comes with its challenges, but at the end of the day, learning to work collaboratively with others can only benefit students in their future endeavors!

Resources

There are many different resources available online for teaching students with collaborative learning. The materials below will give you everything you need to implement this teaching strategy into your classroom.

Lesson Plans

  1. Collaborative Learning: Edutopia has a collection of resources for educators who are looking to teach with collaborative learning in their classrooms. Educators will be able to utilize materials which were created with the intent of helping them design activities to help develop collaboration skills. From engaging students in learning activities to maximizing peer-to-peer learning, the topics of these articles are essential to educators who are seeking a bit of guidance on how to begin implementing this type of learning into their classroom curriculums.
  2. Teamwork Lesson for Learning to Work Together (6th Grade): This lesson plan on teamwork calls for sixth grade students to work together with the goals of defining the word “teamwork,” brainstorming 3+ words that teamwork means to them, and developing three or four positive guidelines for working in a group together. Additionally, there are five lesson plans (Pumpkin Circuit Learning Centers, Learning the Days of the Week, Apple Exploration! Learning Centers, Alphabet Learning Centers, Spring Potted Plants – Learning About Plant Growth) at the bottom of this page for educators to use as they see fit in the classroom!
  3. Examples of Collaborative Learning/Group Work Activities: Cornell University provides a few examples of collaborative learning or group work activities. These activities, each which are accompanied by an explanation, include Stump Your Partner, Think-Pair-Share/Write-Pair-Share, Catch-Up, Fishbowl Debate, Case Study, Team-Based Learning, and Group Problem-Solving. Educators can use the explanations of these strategies and their curriculum content to make collaborative learning group work activities for their classrooms!

Articles

  1. Deeper Learning – A Collaborative Classroom Is Key: Edutopia provides a brief article on the importance of a collaborative classroom to deeper learning. The author recommends several steps for supporting students in deep and meaningful collaboration, such as establishing group agreements, teaching students how to listen, teaching students the art of asking good questions, teaching students how to negotiate, and modeling what educators expect in the classroom.
  2. Building Trust in Collaborative Learning Groups: Education World republished an excerpt from Susan Church’s and Margaret Swain’s From Literature Circles to Blogs: Activities for engaging professional learning communities on building trust in collaborative learning groups. The excerpt contains ten brief activities “to help ease the transition from the workday to collaborative group learning.” These rapport-building activities include Word of the Day, Finish the Sentence, and others which are designed to help students get into a positive mindset for learning.
  3. Collaborative Learning in the Classroom: This article on collaborative learning in the classroom addresses classroom set-up, in-class group work, and challenges related to group work. According to the author, effective group work takes effort and time from educators but is worthwhile. Included in this article are a few resources for in-class collaborative learning from the University of Waterloo, including explanations of informal activities, problem-based tasks, case studies, and student-made group quizzes!

Informational Sites

  1. What is Collaborative Learning?: This guide from Valamis will help both students and educators better understand collaborative learning. Provided is the definition of collaborative learning, the difference between collaborative vs. cooperative learning, the benefits of collaborative learning, examples of collaborative learning activities, and collaborative learning theories and research/articles.
  2. What’s Collaborative Learning?: teAchnology provides a brief description of collaborative learning and explains why it is such a great opportunity for everyone involved. From this overview, educators will gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that can come along with collaboration, the variance in collaborative learning lesson plans depending on the goals, etc.
  3. Collaborative Learning: Cornell University offers an overview of collaborative learning. This resource will prove useful to educators who are looking for advice on how to get started with implementing collaborative learning into the classroom curriculum, as it includes considerations for using this type of learning and tips for beginning to use this instructional strategy.

Conclusion

Teaching with collaborative learning is a very important job because when implemented successfully, this instructional strategy can change how effectively students learn in the classroom. The terms collaborative learning and cooperative learning are often used interchangeably, but the two teaching strategies are very different. In cooperative learning activities, students are given specific roles they are responsible for in order for group success to occur. On the other hand, in collaborative learning activities, it is up to the students themselves to decide how they want to approach the task at hand, whether that means assigning roles or working together to complete the assignment.

Additional Resources

  1. 20 Collaborative Learning Tips And Strategies For Teachers: TeachThought has put together a list of 20 collaborative learning tips and strategies for educators. Tips include creating a pre-test and post-test, focusing on enhancing problem-solving and critical thinking skills, keeping in mind the diversity of groups, and more!
  2. Collaborative Learning Techniques: Bates College provides a document explaining collaborative learning as a whole and specific learning techniques, such as Think/Write, Pair, Share, Round Table, Jigsaw, and Concept Mapping. The information here will not only give educators strategies to use in the classroom, but it will also help them understand the difference between competitive and collaborative learning, which is extremely important when trying to promote teamwork!