Collaborative learning is an educational approach involving groups of learners working together to solve problems, finish a task, or complete a project. The idea that learning is social and that students can benefit from peer interaction is the foundation of collaboration in the classroom. Collaborative learning allows for more opportunities to exchange knowledge and ideas within groups rather than the traditional teacher-centered approach of delivering information for students to receive.
Learn more about collaboration in the classroom with best practices and ways to get started. We’ll cover:
- What is collaborative learning
- 4 best practices to foster collaboration in the classroom
- 4 ways to use WeVideo for collaboration in the classroom
What is collaborative learning?
It might be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that collaborative learning equals group work. While on the surface, this may look like what is happening, the truth is that collaborative learning allows for so much more! If you look beneath the surface, you’ll find that successful collaborative learning allows for a focus on the learning process, the development of social and communication skills, reflection opportunities, adjusting the teacher’s role, and specific assessment goals.
Focus on the learning process
Collaborative learning strongly emphasizes the process of learning together, not just the outcome. It encourages students to engage deeply with the material, question assumptions, and explore different viewpoints, fostering a deeper understanding and content retention.
Development of social and communication skills
Collaborative learning intentionally focuses on developing social skills. It’s about learning to communicate effectively, listen actively, resolve conflicts, and provide and receive feedback constructively.
This approach encourages students to reflect on their learning process, understand their cognitive strategies, and appreciate the diverse perspectives within their group. Learning that not everyone thinks the same or shares the same perspectives and opinions on specific topics is an important skill in life.
In collaborative learning, the teacher’s role shifts from being the central source of knowledge to being a facilitator of learning, similar to the role of the teacher in flipped learning. The teacher designs the learning environment, monitors group dynamics, and provides support and guidance to ensure collaboration in the classroom is productive and addresses learning objectives.
Collaborative learning often involves multi-tiered assessment opportunities. Not only is the final product evaluated, but the process and individual contributions are also assessed. Assessment does not necessarily need to take place by just the teacher. There is power in peer review as part of the assessment process. Instructor and peer feedback allows educators to cultivate a more inclusive, engaging, and reflective learning environment with assessment and evaluation in mind.
4 best practices to foster collaboration in the classroom
As evidenced above, there is more to collaborative learning than group work. However, the core element of collaborative work resides in the presence of groups. Group work can occur from a small group of just two students with a simple think-pair-share activity or a large group activity to help introduce and emphasize the power of collaboration in the classroom. To succeed with collaborative group learning, here are four best practices.
1. Group formation
When forming groups in collaborative learning, it is essential to follow guidelines. A think-pair-share may be a simple way to form a group with a seat partner or neighbor. In an elementary, middle, or high school population, it may be helpful for the teacher to assign groups to guide students in expanding beyond their chosen friend/peer groups. In higher education, it may be best for students to choose their partners to accommodate their schedules. Keeping the group size in mind is always essential based on specific tasks and roles. You don’t want a group, whether online or in-person, that is too large and risks individuals not participating.
2. Learning goals
All learning activities should connect to learning goals or objectives. The teacher must clearly define the learning objectives for the collaborative activity. Clear objectives will ensure that students understand the task and the expected outcomes. In addition to providing learning goals, include specific instructions and criteria for success to guide students in their group work.
3. Specific roles
When groups work together, this is an opportunity to help them learn collaboration skills. If all students attempt to complete the same task, frustration will undoubtedly arise. Assign specific roles for each group member and make the expectations clear for the role responsibilities.
For example, if a language arts teacher includes collaboration in the classroom through literature circles, roles may include an illustrator, a discussion leader, a vocabulary specialist, and a summarizer. Each of these roles should have specific instructions and guidelines to follow for success in their contribution to the group.
4. Collaboration skills
Not all students are ready or experienced in teamwork, and getting them up to speed will take some work. Discussing and modeling the expectations of collaboration in the classroom is essential for success. Make sure to emphasize active listening, conflict resolution, and constructive feedback through examples and modeling.
Why does collaborative learning matter?
In today’s day and age, collaboration is essential. We have a world where students at all levels can access education from in-person, virtual, or hybrid classrooms. The same is true for today’s workforce. Regardless of the environment, communication and collaboration take place regularly. Practicing collaboration in the classroom while studying and learning new concepts is a great way to help students grow in their academic knowledge and collaborative practice.
4 ways to use WeVideo for collaboration in the classroom
Tapping into technology to help students collaborate, share resources, and work on projects is a great way to facilitate collaborative learning across all learning environments. Here are three ways to use WeVideo for collaborative learning whether in K-12, higher ed, or even a corporate learning setting.
1. Collaborative research project
A collaborative research project is appropriate for students of all ages. Look at the example of a collaborative research project from students at Edgerton Public Schools in Alberta, Canada. This team of teens sought to solve the problem of access to healthy food options after their local greenhouse closed. Using a real-world example, and one based in their community, was a great way to connect them to their learning goals.
Multimedia creation is a powerful way to deliver project-based learning and build students' collaboration skills. Check out these video project ideas for more inspiration.
2. Debate an issue
In groups of four, have students pair off and research a debate topic relevant to the class subject. Assign one pair to represent the for side and the other to represent the against side. Provide opportunities for them to collaboratively draft a script and with specific roles as recorder and reader, record their stances. They can then combine their opposing arguments in one WeVideo with the opposing team for the teacher and fellow students to determine the winner.
3. Collaboration with feedback
Part of collaborative learning involves reflection. It's important for students to be able to reflect on their learning and progress, incorporating instructor and peer feedback as part of the reflection process.
Look at the collaboration between College Professor Dr. Jaime Hannans of California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) and her students performing venipunctures, and consider the power of peer reviews for your collaborative learning groups.
4. Learner-made content
Collaboration can take place with turning students into instructors and asking them to teach a specific topic or learning objective. This can work well with small groups, or even as individual students. Simply assign students a given topic and ask them to create their own content (learner-made interactive videos are a great place to start!).
Collaborative learning allows students to share their learning journey with others and helps prepare them for the future. After all, communication and problem-solving skills developed through collaboration in the classroom will last a lifetime. Here’s to a great future for you and your students as you embrace collaborative learning! Ready, set, collaborate!
Bethany has spent nearly 20 years in learning and development and community management. She has experience in K12 education, higher education, and corporate learning. Her community management experience has focused on building learning networks and internal communities. Currently, she is the Atlanta Ambassador for the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and involved in numerous XR at Work initiatives as she assists with rolling out VR Training within learning and development through her work with The Organic Learner.