of this self-paced annotated webliography is to identify the rationale,
benefits, and challenges of collaborative learning in small-group activities
and to provide faculty with tools to effectively develop, integrate, assess
and evaluate collaborative activities
Module Objectives: Upon
completion of this module, the participant will be able to:
the benefits of using collaborative learning activities
challenges in using collaborative learning approaches
and use the appropriate tools to effectively plan, develop, facilitate,
assess and evaluate short and long-term small group collaborative activities
resources for further use in researching collaborative learning
from the following sections:
1: Collaborative Learning
terms Collaborative Learning and Cooperative Learning have become
murky in popular usage, and often, distinctions are not made between
the two. Collaborative Learning is the umbrella term encompassing
many forms of collaborative learning from small group projects to
the more specific form of group work called Cooperative Learning.
Cooperative Learning is a type of Collaborative Learning developed
by Johnson and Johnson in the 1960's and is still widely used today.
Between Collaborative and Cooperative Learning” from the University
of California at Santa Barbara's Office of Instructional Consulting website:
According to David and Roger Johnson of The Cooperative Learning Center
at the University of Minnesota, cooperative learning includes five
essential elements: positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction,
individual and group accountability, interpersonal and small group skills,
and group processing. See their article "An Overview of Cooperative Learning"
Roberta Matthews, et. al., point out in their article "Building
Bridges Between Cooperative and Collaborative Learning" (http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1254/is_n4_v27/ai_17382393)
that the two strategies evolved separately:
of the two traditions have published in different journals, created
bibliographies with few common names, sponsored different conferences,
and for many years, had little contact with each other...
Most of the well-known cooperative-learning researchers and theoreticians
are educational or social psychologists or sociologists whose original
work was intended for application at the K-12 level. Their primary
research emphasis is on empirical comparisons of cooperative learning
with other forms of instruction. Within the last decade, techniques
have been extended and adapted at the college level, and many of the
publications in the field offer practical advice. Cooperative learning
tends to be more structured in its approach to small-group instruction,
to be more detailed in advice to practitioners, and to advocate more
direct training of students to function in groups than does collaborative
Collaborative learning theoreticians and practitioners tend to come
from the humanities and social sciences. Their work often explores
theoretical, political, and philosophical issues such as the nature
of knowledge as a social construction and the role of authority in
the classroom. Many are concerned with drawing strong connections
between collaborative practice and feminist pedagogy. Collaborative
learning practitioners are inclined to assume students are responsible
participants who already use social skills in undertaking and completing
tasks. Therefore students receive less instruction in group skills
and roles and perform less structured reflection on group interaction
than in cooperative-learning classrooms.
overlap in that both indicate that students will be working in groups.
It can get confusing because the term collaborative learning will
sometimes be used in higher education circles to designate the same practices
that at the elementary and secondary level would be called cooperative
learning. Rather than dwell too long on semantics, let's look
at some practical examples of collaborative learning techniques.
is designed to generate a large number of ideas in a short period of
time. For collaborative brainstorming, it is helpful to structure the
activity as a roundtable/round-robin sharing of information:
poses question that has multiple answers/positions
- One piece
of paper and pen per group.
student writes one response, and says it out loud.
student passes paper to the left, second student writes response, etc.
around group until time elapses.
may say "pass" at any time.
stops when time is called. (http://www.gdrc.org/kmgmt/c-learn/methods.html#roundtable)
Case studies: Clyde Freeman Herreid
(Case Studies in Science: A Novel Method of Science Education, http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/cases/teaching/novel.html)
describes case studies as educational stories used to teach students about
their field, that are:
written as dilemmas that give a personal history of an individual,
institution, or business faced with a problem that must be solved.
Background information, charts, graphs, and tables may be integrated
into the tale or appended. The teacher's goal is to help the students
work through the facts and analyze of the problem and then consider
possible solutions and consequences of the actions that might take.
National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science at http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/cases/case.html
for informative articles on how to develop and use case studies as a teaching
tool. Don't miss "What Makes a Good Case?"
Double-entry journal/ Paired annotations: After students
read and reflect on the assigned reading, they write their observations
about the critical points and their responses to them in their journal.
In class, they swap journals with another student who has also read
and made comments on the reading. The pair (or group) discusses the key
points of the reading and looks for areas of agreement and disagreement.
Finally, the group "prepares a composite annotation that summarizes
the article, chapter, or concept." http://www.gdrc.org/kmgmt/c-learn/methods.html#paired
Dyadic Essays: Developed by L.
W. Sherman, the dyadic essay confrontation (DEC) technique has students
create an essay question on information previously covered in the course
and compose the answer to the question as well.
On a separate piece of paper, students write only the essay question.
Barbara Millis describes the follow-up that occurs:
students exchange questions, spending about 20 minutes writing an
answer--either closed or open book depending on the complexity of
the material--to their partner's essay question. The two then read,
compare, and discuss the four answers, looking in particular for the
differences between the in-depth responses prepared before class and
the spontaneously generated in-class responses. This structure promotes
critical thinking by requiring students to confront differing ideas,
offers writing-to-learn opportunities, and provides solid and immediate
feedback to students about their intellectual responses to discipline-specific
reports: Rather than just having each group report its findings,
consider structuring the process as a poster session in which each group
creates an outline or concept map. One person from the group serves
as a spokesperson, explaining the poster as the rest of the group circulates
to view the other groups' posters. Rotate roles so that each
group member has the opportunity to serve as the group's spokesperson.
Guided Reciprocal Peer
approach provides students with a series of generic, open-ended questions
designed to encourage synthesis, comparison/contrast, and extrapolation
to other contexts within the context of a small-group discussion, as
developed by Alison King (1993). "From sage on the stage to guide on
College Teaching, 41(1), and (1995) "Guided peer questioning:
a cooperative learning approach to critical thinking." Cooperative
Learning and College Teaching, 5 (2), 15-19. For an example,
jigsaw technique was first developed in the early 1970s by Elliot
and his students at the University of Texas and the University of
California. Jigsawing divides a problem or issue into parts--as many
parts as their are members of a group. Students who have been assigned the same
piece of the puzzle join together temporarily as a focus group studying
that piece. The purpose of these focus groups is for the students
the concepts in their section, and
a strategy for teaching what they have learnd to the other students
in their original collaborative learning group.
for a more complete description and variations on the jigsaw method.
Learning Community: A learning community is the “purposeful restructuring of the
curriculum to link together courses so
that students find greater coherence in what they are learning and increased
interaction with faculty and fellow students” (Gabelnick, MacGregor,
Matthews, and Smith, 1990). In their article, "What is Collaborative Learning?"
Barbara Leigh Smith and Jean T. MacGregor explain the relationship between
learning communities and collaborative learning:
altering the curricular structure to provide larger units of study,
learning communities frequently provide more time and space for collaborative
learning and other more complicated educational approaches. Small
group workshops and book seminars are staples of most learning communities.
Peer writing groups and team projects associated with labs and field
work are also fairly common. Study groups emerge in learning communities,
both intentionally and spontaneously. http://learningcommons.evergreen.edu/pdf/collab.pdf
Jodi Levine’s article, “Beyond a Definition of Learning Communities” (p.5)
Sarah Haavind of The Concord Consortium describes the best kind of e-learning
or webcourse as having many of the same qualities as "a well-run seminar."
key idea is that participants create their own learning through thoughtful
conversation and collaboration, guided by a knowledgeable teacher
who is expert in facilitating online groups. This design is pedagogically
superior to other designs because it is based on social constructivist
learning principles: having learners create their own understandings
based on group conversations. When group-based learning is implemented
online, inexpensive asynchronous technologies (typically, threaded
discussion groups) are not only satisfactory, they are superior to
synchronous ones. This online learning environment can be better than
a seminar, because each participant has time to think about the conversation
as it unfolds in slow-motion and to make thoughtful contributions.
information on making electronic collaboration, particularly through the
use of asynchronous learning networks (ALNs) and computer-mediated communication
systems (CMCS), more effective, see the following articles.
Kim, K., &
Bonk, C. (2002). Cross-cultural comparisons of online collaboration. JCMC
8 (1). http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol8/issue1/kimandbonk.html
Benbunan-Fich, R. (1999) Educational applications of CMCS: solving
case studies through asynchronous learning networks. JCMC 4 (3).
Gay, G. (1999). Document-centered peer collaborations: an exploration
of the educational uses of networked communication technologies. JCMC
Stacey, E. (1990). Collaborative learning in an online environment. Journal
of Distance Education.
Position papers/structured academic controversies:In their book Creative Controversy: Intellectual Challenge in the
and at their website http://www.co-operation.org/pages/academic.html,
David and Roger Johnson describe the process of using academic controversy
instructional use of intellectual conflict to promote higher achievement
and increase the quality of problem solving, decision making, critical
thinking, reasoning, interpersonal relationships, and psychological
health and well-being. To engage in an academic controversy students
must research and prepare a position, present and advocate their position,
refute opposing positions and rebut attacks on their own position,
reverse perspectives, and create a synthesis that everyone can agree
their website describe the steps an instructor must take in order to facilitate
the use of structured academic controversies. To see a sample exercise
developed for an engineering class by Karl Smith, visit: http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/CL/story/smithkar/TSKSD.htm.
Problem-Solving: Collaborative problem-solving usually requires more planning and more
time. Instructors cannot take for granted that their students
will have a readily available protocol for solving problems, and must
often outline a process or provide a checklist of steps. The
method by which groups are selected and roles assigned within those
groups will need to be considered. The task or problem to be
studied and the criteria for measuring the accomplishment of the task need
to be clearly explained to the students. The National Institute
for Science Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, offers
problem-solving models including Structured Problem-Solving, Discovery
Method, Think-Pair-Square, Drill-Review Pairs, and Thinking Aloud Pair
Problem-Solving for your consideration at: http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/cl/doingcl/prbsolv.htm
Send-A-Problem can be used as a way to get groups to discuss
and review material, or potential solutions to problems related to content
information. The process and one variation on it are described at this
Teamwork: Often one of the motivations for using collaborative learning techniques
is to prepare students for their experience in the workplace where they
will, undoubtedly, be asked to work in teams at some point. Successful
teamwork requires a set of skills including communication and organization.
The College of Engineering at Bucknell University has developed
an indepth Practical
Guide to Teamwork that covers everything you need to know to
get started. Highly recommended!
is a quick collaborative learning activity in which the instructor asks
an open-ended question and then allows students about a minute to think
about it. Next, pairs of students discuss their ideas about the
question or problem. Finally, the instructor solicits comments or other
feedback such as a class vote regarding the question. For more details,
2: Benefits of Using Collaborative
Johnson & Johnson largely base their examinations
of instructional practices on social interdependence theory. For additional
background, see http://www.co-operation.org/pages/SIT.html.
As they explain it:
individuals take action there are three ways what they do may be related
to the actions of others. One's actions may promote the success of
others, obstruct the success of others, or not have any effect at
all on the success or failure of others. In other words, individuals
may be: 1) Working together cooperatively to accomplish shared learning
goals; 2) Working against each other (competitively)to achieve a goal
that only one or a few can attain; 3) Working by oneself (individualistically)
to accomplish goals unrelated to the goals of others.
of educational research since 1898 demonstrates that:
cooperation, compared with competitive and individualistic efforts,
typically results in higher achievement and greater productivity;
more caring, supportive, and committed relationships; and greater
psychological health, social competence, and self esteem. http://www.co-operation.org/pages/cl.html#why
analyses comparing the various studies, they found that the average person
cooperating performed at about 2/3 a standard deviation above the average
person learning within a competitive (effect size = 0.67) or individualistic
situation (effect size = 0.64), as illustrated in the table below. For
future breakdown of the data, see Table 2: Mean Effect Sizes For Impact
Of Social Interdependence On Dependent Variables in the Johnson &
Johnson article "Cooperative Learning And Social Interdependence Theory."
For a graphic
comparison of the types of learning objectives supported by individual,
competitive and collaborative learning, see Susan Fountain's chart Intended
Learning Objectives and Optimal Learning Methods, based on 122 research
papers on the topic. http://www.gdrc.org/kmgmt/c-learn/types-learn.html
reiterates how Vygotsky's work provides the underpinnings for theories of
collaborative learning. Her own research, described in "Collaborative
Learning Enhances Critical Thinking," [(1995). Journal of Technology
Education 7(1)] gives insight into the potential positives and negatives
for students participating in collaborative learning activities. Students'
open-ended responses to questions soliciting their reflections on the collaborative
learning process and its social/emotional aspects including the following
General comment category (number of answers in that category):
knowledge and experience (17)
- Got helpful
- Got new
- More relaxed
atmosphere makes problem-solving easy (15)
- It was
responsibility- for myself and the group (4)
- Made new
time explaining the material to others (2).
Challenges in Using Collaborative Learning Strategies
When you first
consider using collaborative learning strategies with your classes, the
task may seem daunting for several reasons. You may worry about losing
time in class. You may be concerned about the time it takes to develop
collaborative activities and integrate them into your coursework.
And can anything be done about "slackers"--those non-productive members
of a group? A cost-benefit analysis (like the simple comparison table
below) might help you decide which of your lessons would benefit from the
collaborative approach and which would not.
of Large Groups
of Small Groups
opportunity for each person to contribute
diversity of ideas
equal participation likely
people to complete the job
time required in decision-making
opportunity for members to "connect" with others
to meet due to fewer schedule considerations
variety of skills available
of Large Groups
of Small Groups
opportunity for conflict among members
time required in decision-making
can be detrimental with few members to rely on to complete the project
opportunities for sub-groups to form
time and performance demands on each person
demands on the leader
of group members is important based on the demands of the project
difficulty achieving consensus
opportunities for anonymity
and students encounter challenges that accompany collaborative learning
situations. Faculty may feel, especially at first, that there is never
enough time: time to develop activities, time to teach group dynamics,
time to implement collaborative learning activities, time in class for
students to work on small group projects. It can be scary to implement
new collaborative lessons because of the concern that the “experimental”
activity may not work smoothly when assigned for the first time. And
then there's the grading issue--how should group projects be evaluated?
Students come to your class with varying degrees of interpersonal and academic
skills. Collaborative learning may make introverted students apprehensive
because it requires them to communicate verbally; they cannot remain passive
or disengaged.Students who are academically competitive and self-motivated
may resent collaborative learning at first; hey may fear that they will
do all of the work and other group members will simply "hitchhike" on
their achievements. And just as you will need to decide how to
grade collaborative activities equitably, students will need to understand
how group participation affects their grades.
As an instructor, one way to begin overcoming these hurdles is to ask experienced
colleagues to serve as "collaborative learning mentors." Find out
what has worked for them. Ask them how they located or created
resources for use in collaborative settings. Observe them in the
classroom using collaborative strategies. If you can't find one locally,
consider finding an electronic mentor!
Additional resources for addressing these and other challenges:
The Doing CL website includes a section called "Tough Questions"
which addresses many of the issues that make instructors reluctant to try
collaborative learning, including:
- I can't
cover all the material
- I tried
it before and it didn't work.
- My students
need to work independently.
- The real
world is competitive.
- My students
don't like to work in groups.
- I teach
in a large lecture hall.
an international website on issues of learning and teaching for the higher
education community, offers insights contributed by their readers. An
excellent resource to visit when you feel overwhelmed by the number of issues
to consider surrounding the implementation of collaborative learning.
"Generic Issues Involved in Adopting Collaborative Learning"
Raised for Students in Implementing Collaborative Learning"
Dr. Ted Panitz, Professor of Mathematics and Engineering and Coordinator
of Developmental Mathematics at Cape Cod Community College, has written
extensively about collaborative learning in higher education. His
includes links to archived electronic discussions (similar to the ones
listed above), to his online book Ted's Cooperative Learning E-book,
and to articles that he has authored, including:
"Why More Teachers Do Not Use Collaborative Learning Techniques"
Students and Yourself Using the One-Minute Paper and Observing Students
Cooperative Learning 100% Of the Time In Mathematics Classes Establishes
A Student-centered, Interactive Learning Environment" http://home.capecod.net/~tpanitz/tedsarticles/coopmath.htm
4: Implementing Small Group Collaborative Learning Experiences
this section of the module, you have probably already explored many of the
issues that should be addressed before you develop collaborative activities
for use in a course or re-design an entire course so that its structure
is significantly more collaborative in nature. If not, use the following
questions as inspiration.
About the students:
How many students are in the course?
What are the student demographics (freshmen or upperclassmen)?
Are the students majors or nonmajors?
What experiences have the students had with collaborative learning?
What will motivate students to participate actively within their groups?
Is this the first time I have taught this course?
Am I new to or experienced with collaborative learning activities?
Am I comfortable trying new things?
What is my instructional style?
About the process:
How much structure should I provide in small group assignments?
What is more important, the process or the product?
Is it feasible to assign semester-long group projects considering student
attendance and drops?
Do I allow groups to self-select or do I identify the groups?
How do I grade group work?
How does group size and diversity impact group performance?
How do I know if everyone participated and contributed?
Should I have students evaluate each other’s contributions?
What do I do if someone is adamant about not participating in a group project?
How will I know if application of these skills or concepts has benefited
my students or me?
How will I measure success?
the questions listed above should lead you to the realization that successful
collaborative activities require considerable planning and also an understanding
of the way that groups function.
The National Institute for Science Education's website includes a clear,
step-by-step guide to preparing and facilitating collaborative learning
The site incorporates research and recommendations from experts
in the field, including a link to the Teaching Goals Inventory
developed by Angelo and Cross.
http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/cl/doingcl/tgi.htm You can use this
tool to help you assess "what you deliberately aim to have your students
accomplish" and this process will, in turn, enable you to design goal-appropriate
collaborative activities. Alternatively, you could complete the checklist
would a collaborative activity support this goal?
and transfer of knowledge
Gerard M Blair, Senior Lecturer in Electrical Engineering at the University
of Edinburgh, offers a concise look at group development, in his article
"Groups That Work":
is common to view the development of a group as having four stages:
is the stage when the group first comes together. Everybody is very
polite and very dull....Since the grouping is new, the individuals will
be guarded in their own opinions and generally reserved....Storming
is the next stage, when all Hell breaks loose and the leaders are lynched.
Factions form, personalities clash, no-one concedes a single point without
first fighting tooth and nail. Most importantly, very little communication
occurs since no one is listening and some are still unwilling to talk
openly....Then comes the Norming. At this stage the sub-groups begin
to recognize the merits of working together and the in-fighting subsides.
Since a new spirit of co-operation is evident, every member begins to
feel secure in expressing their own view points and these are discussed
openly with the whole group. The most significant improvement is that
people start to listen to each other. Work methods become established
and recognized by the group as a whole....And finally: Performing. This
is the culmination, when the group has settled on a system which allows
free and frank exchange of views and a high degree of support by the
group for each other and its own decisions.
of Vermont's Plant Science Department has created a helpful website, Developing
an Excellent Group Process, with concrete suggestions on how to prepare for and implement collaborative
work The site includes links to: a Learning-Styles Inventory; a worksheet
for Individual and Group Assessment of Collaboration Skills; an example
list of Group Norms; guidelines for Group Facilitation; and an excellent
article on conflict within groups--its symptoms, causes, and resolution.
When a group member’s needs are not met, they may engage in non-productive
behaviors such as resistance, interruptions, or nonattendance. What
are the needs motivating group members to contribute actively? One
or more of these, perhaps:
- A good
to learn concepts/skills
Some Groups Fall Apart?
of understanding of the relevance of the assignment—uninterested
in the assignment
of motivation—possibly due to concern with ability to be successful
working as a group
conflicts—lack of appreciation of different approaches to problem-solving
as to each person’s roles or responsibilities
- Lack of
to meet due to time constraints
- Lack of
understanding of the goals of the assignment
- Lack of
understanding of decision-making options
- Lack of
preparation for meetings
Developing Effective Meetings for Groups Engaged in Collaborative Learning
an assignment before group meetings
a recorder to note decisions made at meetings and to summarize discussions.
a meeting place that is conducive to accomplishing meeting goals.
- Ask group
members to prepare for meetings, i.e., gather information, read identified
materials, summarize ideas.
group norms and individual roles, expectations, and motivations.
Encourage all group members to participate.
someone the role of challenging the ideas that are generated.
identify each member’s responsibilities and set timelines
meeting summaries to all group members
visit the "Small Group Communication" website [http://www.abacon.com/commstudies/groups/group.html]
developed by Tim Borchers at Moorhead State University. This site
explores models of group development and decision-making and examines common
group pitfalls such as "group-think" and conflict.
Grading Collaborative Efforts
Evaluation of group work can be looked at from two perspectives: 1)
assessment of the individual plus assessment of the group, or 2) assessment
of the process plus assessment of the product. In some cases, the
collaborative learning process is as important, or more important,
than the product. Gokhale, citing Slavin's research in her article
"Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking," reminds us that effective
collaborative learning includes group goals and individual accountability
“When it is the group’s task to ensure that every group member
has learned something, it is in the interest of every group member to spend
time explaining concepts to groupmates” (Gokhale, 1995, paraphrasing
The Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development suggest several ways
to grade students in groups:
students get the same grade for group project
students are assigned separate tasks within a group project, which
are assessed separately.
students get the same grades for the product of the group and then
peers assess contributions to the group process for an additional
grade or additional points
students get the same grade for original task and then get different
grades for an additional task.
get the same grade for the original task, then an exam task based
on the group work is given to assess individual student's understanding.
CL website http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise/cl1/cl/doingcl/grades.htm
addresses the pros and cons of these and other group grading schemes, adding:
is crucial that regular feedback (formative assessment) be provided
to the students by the instructor and peers. This not only helps the
students know whether they are "on track," it also makes the grading
at the end easier because the instructor has observed the group process
the tasks outcomes. Furthermore, students are informed on how they are
doing every step of the way so there are no surprises at the end.
within a group are asked to contribute to the grading process by assessing
their peers. Teresa Bulman, Portland State University, in her article
"Peer Assessment in Group Work" observes:
have found that the peer assessment forms works as both peer pressure
and as a release valve. Students know going into the project that they
will evaluate their peers and be evaluated by them. This causes them
(they tell me) to work harder on the project than they might if their
grade only were at stake. On the rare occasion when a student does not
do a fair share, the other members of the group have an opportunity
to reveal that problem.
5: Additional Resources
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Cross, K. P. (2001). Motivation: Er…Will that be on the
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New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 41. San Francisco:
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learning: A sourcebook for higher education. National Center
on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning, & Assessment, Syracuse University.
Heller, P., Keith, R., & Anderson, S. (1992). Teaching problem solving
through cooperative grouping. Part 1: Group versus individual problem solving.
American Journal of Physics Teachers, 60, 627-636.
Hertz-Lazarowitz, R., & Miller, N. (Eds.). (1992). Interaction in
cooperative groups: The theoretical anatomy of group learning. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
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