Collaborative Learning Techniques
📖 eBook - ePub

Collaborative Learning Techniques

A Handbook for College Faculty

Elizabeth F. Barkley, Claire H. Major, K. Patricia Cross

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📖 eBook - ePub

Collaborative Learning Techniques

A Handbook for College Faculty

Elizabeth F. Barkley, Claire H. Major, K. Patricia Cross

About This Book

A guide to thirty-five creative assignments for pairs and groups

Collaborative Learning Techniques is the bestseller that college and university faculty around the world have used to help them make the most of small group learning.

A mountain of evidence shows that students who learn in small groups together exhibit higher academic achievement, motivation, and satisfaction than those who don't. Collaborative learning puts into practice the major conclusion from learning theory: that students must be actively engaged in building their own minds. In this book, the authors synthesize the relevant research and theory to support thirty-five collaborative learning activities for use in both traditional and online classrooms.

This second edition reflects the changed world of higher education. New technologies have opened up endless possibilities for college teaching, but it's not always easy to use these technologies effectively. Updated to address the challenges of today's new teaching environments, including online, "flipped," and large lectures, Collaborative Learning Techniques is a wonderful reference for educators who want to make the most of any course environment. This revised and expanded edition includes:

  • Additional techniques, with an all-new chapter on using games to provide exciting, current, technologically-sophisticated curricula
  • A section on effective online implementation for each of the thirty-five techniques
  • Significantly expanded pedagogical rationale and updates on the latest research showing how and why collaborative learning works
  • Examples for implementing collaborative learning techniques in a variety of learning environments, including large lecture classes and "flipped" classes
  • Expanded guidance on how to solve common problems associated with group work

The authors guide instructors through all aspects of group work, providing a solid grounding in what to do, how to do it, and why it is important for student learning. The detailed procedures in Collaborative Learning Techniques will help teachers make sure group activities go smoothly, no matter the size or delivery method of their classes. With practical advice on how to form student groups, assign roles, build team spirit, address unexpected problems, and evaluate and grade student participation, this new edition of the international classic makes incorporating effective group work easy.

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Part One
Establishing the Context

Chapter 1
Collaborative Learning
Coming to Terms with the Term

Interactive group learning has received wide attention and usage in higher education for decades. There are a number of terms for this kind of activity, each with particular elements that are thought or are demonstrated through research to enhance learning. Cooperative learning and collaborative learning are the most commonly used two terms, and each has a rich history and extensive theoretical and research base. Because our primary goal is to help college teachers implement group work effectively in a wide range of contexts, we drew from all approaches to provide the advice and activities in this handbook.
We chose collaborative learning as an overarching term for our broad, integrated approach to group learning, a decision that we describe more fully later in this chapter. The challenge with selecting this single term is that it may not help us understand differences among our instructional practices, some of which are deeply philosophical and some of which are simply practical in nature. Thus, in this first chapter, we offer an introduction to the extensive literature on interactive group learning to develop a more detailed description of the term collaborative learning that is still general enough to be useful yet specific enough to be definitional. In so doing, we address the following questions:
  • What is collaborative learning?
  • What is the difference between cooperative and collaborative learning?
  • How might we use the terms cooperative and collaborative learning in practice?
  • How did we decide to retain the term collaborative learning for this text?
The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to establish the context for the rest of this handbook by first providing a definitional framework.

What Is Collaborative Learning?

Collaborative learning is used in the literature as a general expression for group learning. Smith and MacGregor (1992, p. 10), for example, note: “‘Collaborative learning’ is an umbrella term for a variety of educational approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers together. In most collaborative learning situations students are working in groups of two or more, mutually searching for understanding, solutions, or meanings, or creating a product.” While we believe that a broad, flexible definition is best, some features are indispensable.
The first of these is intentional design. All too often, teachers simply tell students to get into groups and work. In collaborative learning, however, faculty members create intentional learning activities for students. They may do this by selecting from a range of prestructured activities, such as those included in Part Three of this text, or by creating their own activities and assignments. In both approaches the focus is on intentional group activities carefully structured to provide opportunities for learning.
Also crucial to collaborative learning is co-laboring, a characteristic underscored by the literal meaning of the Latin-based term. In collaborative learning, all participants in the group must engage actively in working together toward the stated objectives. If one group member completes a group task while others simply watch, then it is not collaborative learning. Whether all group members receive the same task or complete different tasks that together constitute a single, large project, all students must contribute more or less equally. Equitable engagement is still insufficient, however, for true collaborative learning.
In collaborative learning, meaningful learning must also take place. As students work together on a collaborative assignment, they must increase their knowledge or deepen their understanding of course curriculum. The task assigned to the group must help them accomplish the learning objectives of the course. Shifting responsibility to students and having the classroom vibrate with lively, energetic small-group work are attractive, but it is educationally meaningless if students are not achieving intended instructional goals. Collaborative learning, then, is two or more students laboring together and sharing the workload equitably as they progress toward intended learning outcomes. See Exhibit 1.1 for an overview of how these defining features manifest in online classes.

What Is the Difference Between Cooperative and Collaborative Learning?

Although to most educators—and indeed to the lexicographers who compile dictionaries—the terms collaborative and cooperative have similar meanings, there is considerable debate and discussion as to whether they mean the same thing when applied to group learning. Some authors use the words interchangeably to mean students working interdependently on a common learning task. To others, cooperative learning is simply a subcategory of collaborative learning (Cuseo, 1992). Likewise, Pascarella and Terenzini (2005, p. 103) stress that the two terms are not synonymous, but they “regard cooperative learning as a distinct and highly structured version of collaborative learning.” Still others hold that the most sensible approach is to view collaborative and cooperative learning as positioned on a continuum from most structured (cooperative) to least structured (collaborative) (Millis & Cottell, 1998).
Certain authors, however, insist on a sharp distinction between the two. In an article for Change magazine, subtitled “Cooperative Learning versus Collaborative Learning,” Bruffee (1995) contends, “Describing cooperative and collaborative learning as complementary understates some important differences between the two. Some of what collaborative learning pedagogy recommends that teachers do tends in fact to undercut some of what cooperative learning might hope to accomplish, and vice versa” (p. 16). The essence of Bruffee's position is that, whereas the goal of cooperative learning is to work together in harmony and mutual support to find the solution, the goal of collaborative learning is to develop autonomous, articulate, thinking people, even if at times such a goal encourages dissent and competition that seems to undercut the ideals of cooperative learning.
Given the different epistemological reasons some scholars have for making a sharp distinction between the two forms of group learning, it helps to clarify the nature of their arguments for doing so.

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning arose primarily as an alternative to what was perceived as the overemphasis on competition in traditional education. Emerging as a formalized pedagogy in K–12 under the leadership of Karl Smith and brothers David and Roger Johnson, cooperative learning, as the name implies, requires students to work together on a common task, sharing information and supporting one another. The most straightforward definition of cooperative learning is “the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each others' learning” (Smith, 1996, p. 71). After spending many years leading the cooperative learning movement in K–12, Smith and the Johnson brothers brought the term with them when they turned their attention to higher education.
Cooperative learning experts Johnson, Johnson, and Smith draw directly from behavioral and cognitivist learning theory to describe how cooperative learning promotes higher achievement than competitive or individualistic learning (1998b). Thus, cooperative learning is based in sound epistemological positions that are derived from important theories about the ways individuals learn.
Much of the research on and discussion about cooperative learning is based on the assumption that the teacher has acquired knowledge about a given subject matter and is more expert in that subject matter than the students. Our responsibility as teachers is to design learning activities that guide our students in obtaining and deepening their own knowledge and expertise. Because different students will have knowledge about different aspects of the task, a synergy happens in group work that results in a process and product greater than the sum of the individual student contributions.
The literature also largely assumes that the teacher, as the content expert, is the authority in the classroom and is responsible not only for designing and assigning structured learning tasks but also for managing time and resources, monitoring students' learning, and checking to see that students are on task and that the group process is working well (Cranton, 1996; Smith, 1996). We find that most teachers using interactive student learning in their classrooms and writing about their experiences are talking about cooperative learning.
There is substantial agreement in the literature on what cooperative learning is as well as what it is not. Smith addresses nicely some common misunderstandings about cooperative learning by identifying what it is not. Cooperative learning, for example, is not having students sit side by side at the same table to talk with one another as they do their individual assignments. Cooperative learning is not assigning a report to a group of students on which one student does all the work and the others put their names. Cooperative learning is not having students do a task individually and then having the ones who finish first help the slower students. Cooperative learning is not just being physically near other students, discussing material with other students, or sharing material among students, although each of these is important (Smith, 1996, p. 74).
In contrast to what cooperative learning is not, many authors agree on some common essential characteristics, in particular structure. Davidson and Worsham (1992), for example, suggest that
Cooperative learning procedures are designed to engage students actively in the learning process ...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Collaborative Learning TechniquesHow to cite Collaborative Learning Techniques for your reference list or bibliography: select your referencing style from the list below and hit 'copy' to generate a citation. If your style isn't in the list, you can start a free trial to access over 20 additional styles from the Perlego eReader.
APA 6 Citation
Barkley, E., Major, C., & Cross, P. (2014). Collaborative Learning Techniques (2nd ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from (Original work published 2014)
Chicago Citation
Barkley, Elizabeth, Claire Major, and Patricia Cross. (2014) 2014. Collaborative Learning Techniques. 2nd ed. Wiley.
Harvard Citation
Barkley, E., Major, C. and Cross, P. (2014) Collaborative Learning Techniques. 2nd edn. Wiley. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Barkley, Elizabeth, Claire Major, and Patricia Cross. Collaborative Learning Techniques. 2nd ed. Wiley, 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.