What is Collaborative learning? Simple. It is an educational approach to teaching that groups people together to solve a problem, develop a product, or work on a project. This type of learning focuses on communication within a group of people to distribute ideas and come up with a solution or finish a task. In order to learn efficiently, peers must communicate within the group. In other words, in order to learn, you must talk. Collaborative learning can be seen all around you. In businesses all around the world and classrooms across the states, we see groups of people busy working together as a unit. It is practically impossible to try and tackle some jobs that require multiple actions or steps, all in 24-hours. That is why we see multiple people for example, working on a severely ill patient. The initial doctor may not be able to think of every possibility, but two doctors have a better chance when applying collaborative learning methods.
Below I will be discussing many benefits of collaborative learning.
Adopting and Enhancing New Skills
Often assignments or projects assigned to a group of people brings out new skills that are frequently overlooked or not highlighted. Many collaborative learning-based lessons offer a more challenging obstacle that take multiple steps or stages to complete. With that being said, time management is a very important skill to practice and master. Because time is limited, it is important to properly distribute workload and set time frames, which is perfect for learning how to develop self-management skills. When people think of skills generating from collaborative learning, it is closely linked to building communication skills. And that’s because it is one of the most essential skills everyone will need and use on a day-to-day basis. Think about it, practically every job you can think of requires talking. There is nothing wrong with a little extra practice, communicating with what needs to be done and being comfortable enough to speak in front of a group of people. Just like experience from a job, classroom projects are a terrific way to get better at new skills needed to advance in your career or reach personal growth goals!
Better Student Retention
There is no question on whether CL increases student understanding and memory retention. Though sometimes being in a group setting can cause distractions, retention benefits nearly outweigh potential problems. Multiple people, means multiple brains that can simplify content that may be confusing. Everyone has their own trick to remembering content, and those tricks can be transferred into a group. Some students can remember specific content because it links with personal stories from other peers. Along with peer interaction, CL lessons are very hands on oriented and are a fantastic way for tactile learners to get a better grasp on material, literally.
Out of the Box Thinking
One of the best things about collaborative learning is the ability to complete a project in a variety of ways. The thought process of completing typical lessons (worksheets and practice problems) is very straight forward and considered to be a “here is how it is done” way of thinking. Given a group project places opportunity to further expand into higher levels of critical thinking, otherwise not typically found in traditional learning formats. Students can learn how to discuss different solutions or plans of action that may seem unfamiliar to their typical regimen. The challenges faced result in an innovative way of thinking; researching, evaluating, and discussing possible ideas is a trial and error process, but you must fall before you learn how to walk.
You never know if you’re sitting next to the next Bill Gates, but if you are, it’s probably a clever idea to get on their good side. Group setting projects, many times, lead to outside opportunities. Even if that means being picked to work on another assignment together later down the road. Each setting and opportunity is different, as well as each group pairing. One of the hardest part of CL is adapting and forming relationships with your peers. It is evident which groups work more efficiently and effectively, and it is those with the most chemistry between them. Learning to work well with people is vital in order to successfully maintain an organized and structured group. It really starts with working on developing empathy for others. If you can understand your group members, you can understand why things may or may not be working. So thinking of group projects as just projects, may be the wrong approach, but thinking more of a group as a team can boost and build relationships all together.
Some students just need a little self-confidence boost when it comes to doing assignments. When there are multiple peers, discussions typically draw out probable answers. The plus side to this, is the more possible answers discussed, the likelihood of getting it also increased. Just like when faced with a jar full of Hershey kisses and Reese’s, when one variable is added, the chances of selecting the added variable also increased. To add to psychological benefits, students are also more pleased with their teachers/professors. This is most likely do to the fact that they are enjoying the project and see the task less than a dread.
With all the above benefits listed, it is no wonder classrooms have incorporated more collaborative learning lessons in their courses. Students constantly complain that what they learn isn’t used in the real world, or that is it pointless. But, regardless of the information retrieved, there are multiple benefits that come out of steering away from traditional learning that apply to real world situations.