Learning Strategy Series
In a series of short introductions to adult learning strategies, I’m presenting useful tips, techniques, and concepts for both learner and instructor.
Collaborative Learning: Share and Learn
By Justin Griffith, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Learning Alliance
Collaborative learning is a term you likely have heard and may have formed your own definition. There is a multitude of approaches and recommendations about the idea. However, in general terms, collaborative learning happens when two to six students work together, sharing their perspectives, ideas, and knowledge. This process involves interaction on a social level that creates discussion. Discussion can be emotional or unemotional and can generate ideas from sharing successes, failures, wisdom, and essentially just sharing. As I detail this series of learning strategies, note that they are meant for any classroom, including a professional corporate program, a college course, or working with primary-age learners. In practice, when we use a few simple tips to guide the process, productive learning becomes easier to accomplish.
5 Recommended Tips:
1. Social environments foster learning when conversation between learners takes place. We learn emotionally and socially when we listen and share ideas and stories, especially those that require engagement.
2. Idea formation can best be accomplished when the group is given a question to answer, a position to argue, or a concept/statement that requires the group to work together.
3. Full participation from all group members is imperative and can be accomplished if all members of the group are required to share something. Participation can also be assured when roles are assigned in each group, such as a recorder, reporter, organizer, devil’s advocate, and so on.
4. Interactive sharing can be a few minutes to a few hours and largely depends upon the program, class, or situation. Facilitators or teachers can experiment with the length because either too short or too long of a session may be unproductive.
5. Collaborative learning can as short as posing a question during a lecture and asking students to discuss their ideas with their neighbor for five minutes to a long-term project that requires many hours to complete.
Collaborative learning is an approach that shifts learning from a teacher-centered to a student-centered model. These tips are not designed to be comprehensive but rather important principles that will foster collaborative learning. While this learning strategy may be adapted to online learning, it is most effective face-to-face. When we observe learners in this context, we realize the capacity every person has within themselves to help others learn and develop.