06 September, 2009

Collaborative Learning and It's Benefits

By C. Radhakrishnan

What is Collaborative Learning?
Collaborative learning is a common term for a variety of educational approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers together. Usually, students are working in groups of two or more, mutually searching for understanding, solutions, or meanings, or creating a product. Collaborative learning activities vary widely, but most centre on students’ exploration or application of the study material, not simply the teacher’s presentation or explanation of it.

Collaborative learning represents a significant shift away from the typical teacher centred or lecture-centred setting in school/college classrooms. In collaborative classrooms, the lecturing/ listening/note-taking process may not disappear entirely, but it lives alongside other processes that are based in students’ discussion and active work with the topic. Teachers who use collaborative learning approaches tend to think of themselves less as expert transmitters of knowledge to students, and more as expert designers of intellectual experiences for students.

Benefits of Collaborative Learning:
CL benefits the learner in many ways. Some of them are listed below. These benefits reinforce the need to use this technique in our day-to-day teaching-learning process.

1. Develops higher level thinking skills
2. Promotes student-teacher interaction and familiarity
3. Increases student retention
4. Builds self esteem in students
5. Enhances student satisfaction with the learning experience
6. Promotes a positive attitude toward the subject matter
7. Develops oral communication skills
8. Develops social interaction skills
9. Promotes positive race relations
10. Creates an environment of active, involved, exploratory learning
11. Uses a team approach to problem solving while maintaining individual accountability
12. Encourages diversity understanding
13. Encourages student responsibility for learning
14. Involves students in developing curriculum and class procedures
15. Students explore alternate problem solutions in a safe environment
16. Stimulates critical thinking and helps students clarify ideas through discussion and debate
17. Enhances self management skills
18. Fits in well with the constructivist approach
19. Establishes an atmosphere of cooperation and helping school wide
20. Students develop responsibility for each other
21. Builds more positive heterogeneous relationships
22. Encourages alternate student assessment techniques
23. Fosters and develops interpersonal relationships
24. Modelling problem solving techniques by students' peers
25. Students are taught how to criticise ideas, not people
26. Sets high expectations for students and teachers
27. Promotes higher achievement and class attendance.
28. Students stay on task more and are less disruptive
29. Greater ability of students to view situations from others' perspectives (development of empathy)
30. Creates a stronger social support system
31. Creates a more positive attitude toward teachers, principals and other school personnel by students and creates a more positive attitude by teachers toward their students
32. Addresses learning style differences among students
33. Promotes innovation in teaching and classroom techniques
34. Classroom anxiety is significantly reduced
35. Test anxiety is significantly reduced
36. Classroom resembles real life social and employment situations
37. Students practice modelling social and work related roles
38. CL is synergistic with writing across the curriculum
39. CL activities can be used to personalise large lecture classes
40. Skill building and practice can be enhanced and made less boring through CL activities in and out of class.
41. CL activities promote social and academic relationships well beyond the classroom and individual course
42. CL processes create environments where students can practice building leadership skills.
43. CL increases leadership skills of female students
44. In schools/colleges where students commute to school and do not remain on campus to participate in campus life activities, CL creates a community environment within the classroom.