#5 Learning Together

Students learn better when they learn from each other.

Five essential elements to collaborative learning in groups[1]

  1. Groups are interdependent
  2. Group members hold each other accountable
  3. Group members support each other’s learning
  4. Groups members use interpersonal skills effectively
  5. Group members work together to assess the effectiveness of the group

Benefits to collaborative learning

  • Enhances student engagement with the material and creates a stimulating learning environment[2]
  • Encourages students to depend on one another rather than relying only on the teachers [3]
  • Research suggests that collaborate learning no only increases learning but supports individual self-efficacy.[4]
  • Cooperative learning activities in class lead to more social involvement outside of class which is shown to support student retention and graduation rates [5]
  • Students get the opportunity to practice leadership skills[6]
  • Fosters the value of diversity and experience working with people with a variety of world views
  • Prepares students for the environment that they are likely to experience in future work and academics

Support student experience by providing a proper orientation for quality team work; teaming is a skill to develop as well as a process.[7]

  • Strategies include
    • Explain the value and benefits of group work for projects with multiple members
    • Use ice breakers and introductory activities to develop relationships
    • Explain expectations and clarify typical roles in team assignments[8]
    • Give students tools for effective peer interaction[9]
      • Have teams draw up group contracts
      • Provide opportunities of peer evaluation on the process and based on their contract midway through (for mid-course correction) and at the end.
  • Team Make-Up[10]
    • The ideal group size is 5 or 6 (unless doing quick informal work like think-pair-share)
    • Research generally supports the value of heterogeneous groups with some caveats
      • If minority students or female students are alone in a group they can be isolated
      • Low achievers may not take opportunities to lead if in a group with higher achievers
    • Assign teams for the right balance rather than let students choose their own groups. Lower achievers tend to migrate towards other lower achievers.

[1] Tinto. Completing College. 162-163

[2] Chad, P. (2012). The Use of Team-Based Learning as an Approach to Increased Engagement and Learning for marketing students: A case studyJournal of Marketing Education, 34, 2, 128-139.

[3] James Eison. Teaching Strategies for the Twenty-First Century. In Richard Diamond (Ed). Field Guide to Academic Leadership. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002).

[4] Vincent Tinto. Completing College: Rethinking Institutional Action. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012). 69.

[5] Ibid. 65

[6] John C. Bean. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011). 201.

[7] Blumenfeld, P.C., Marx, R., Soloway, E. & Krajcik, J. (1996). Learning with Peers: From Small Group Cooperation to Collaborative CommunitiesEducational Researcher, 25, 8, 37-40.

[8] Elixabeth F. Barkley, Claire H. Major, K. Patricia Cross. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014). 58.

[9]John Bean. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. 196-198

[10] Barkley et al., Collaborative Learning Techniques. 76-87.