Collaborative learning is actually a broad spectrum term in regards to many educational approaches between instructors and students. The idea is that pupils are presented with situations where they will depend on and be accountable to each other. This is very much like cooperative learning and can take in things like writing, group discussions, group tasks, and more.
Collaborative learning does not just have to take in the pupils in any setting. It can also include the wonderful world of technology. Students can use computers to bring data, make graphs, and other tools to their learning experience. The wonderful thing about using computers and networking in this way is that we can and do have virtual classrooms. Where material is presented, students discuss via forum or discussion threads and e-mail groups. Ideas are shared and brainstorming happens. The end result is the same as if they were sitting in a room together but sometimes even greater because each student has the ability to bring technology into play. With online encyclopedias, publishing’s, statistics and more, the world is at a student’s fingertips and the information can be shared.
The basic idea behind collaborative learning is that the students know that they “sink or swim together”. For example, in Army boot camps they use this in some field training. They will send a group of soldiers into a situation that seems impossible and they know that they have to communicate, work together and become united to overcome the challenge. These can be great team building experiences. Not only for the K-12 student, but the military personnel or a Fortune 500 company. Basically all groups can benefit from such challenges, including families.
A key finding in studies done on collaborative learning is that not only does this strengthen groups of people and make them come together but it raises critical thinking skills. It has been identified that when a group uses collaborative learning skills they produce better results, are more creative and are more efficient than individuals going about the same task.
More benefits of collaborative learning are:
Builds student’s self esteem
Creates an environment conducive to exploratory learning
Develops high critical thinking skills and thought processes
Fosters good social skills
Helps student’s with self management skills
Students take responsibility for each other, not just themselves
Is great for interpersonal relationships
Student’s learn to not criticize people, but individual ideas and concepts
Promotes problem solving
The benefits of this learning method are endless, the above are just a few key points. No matter what learning environment you are in, there is a good chance that collaborative learning could be a great thing to implement.