Small Groups for Collaborative Learning
Uses for Collaborative Learning (Groups of 3 or more) to develop community and promote effective learning
Using ideas and
Barkley, Elizabeth, K. Patricia Cross, and Claire Howell Major. Collaborative LearningTechniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
Purposes of all
collaborative learning groups: “to engage students actively in their own
learning and to do so in a supportive and challenging social context” (9).
Collaborative learning will promote five essential elements for students:
- Positive interdependence
- Promotive interaction (weird words to mean students help and support each other)
- Individual and group accountability
- Development of teamwork skills
- Group processing (evaluative) (8-9)
- Develop community during the first three weeks of the quarter
- Collaborative Learning in Informal Groups Throughout the Quarter
- Formal Groups for projects during the quarter
However, you may have questions!!
What is the most important and most common mistake teachers make in collaborative learning?
They under-prepare. Collaborative learning is at least as much work as lecturing, if not more.
- Decide exactly what you want to happen in each group during the collaborative learning exercise.
- Print out one copy of those instructions for every single student -- remember that some students learn visually!!
- Explain what you want orally.
- Demonstrate what you want with a co-teacher or an experienced student.
- Decide on the minimum time in which students might complete the task and stop them at that point, asking "Who needs more time? How much time?"
- Build in an assessment aspect for each exercise/ task.
- Leave time for de-briefing.
How often should I use collaborative learning?
answer to this depends on the subject matter, the "character" of each
class, and your own style. In a four or five-hour-per week class,
doing a collaborative learning task about once a week enhances learning
and keeps students engaged with the material. In a two-hour class, I
recommend either a collaborative learning exercise or a pair project
(see Pairs) every class.
When students are working in a formal group for a larger, long-term project, give specific tasks to accomplish with the group several times during the week. Never, however, just say, "OK, now get together with your group and work on your project." This is the kiss of death.