Topic 1 Collaborative learning: definition and main characteristics

After the end of this module you will be able to:

  1. identify the main characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of collaborative learning;
  2. discover essential elements for successful groups collaboration in order to make them find their role in the group and have an effective experience of collaborative learning;
  3. learn how to design collaborative learning activities;
  4. discover collaborative tips and strategies for trainers.

Collaborative learning is a method of active learning. It involves a group of two (peer-to-peer) or more learners in larger groups who work together to solve problem, complete task or learn more concepts, defending their positions, reframing ideas, listening to other viewpoints and articulating their points.

They have a common goal and the responsibility for their team learning and succeeding, but their roles, resources, and organisation is left to them.

They divide the roles them between them according to their strengths. Regarding the rules of engagement, the group itself must self-direct.


Three Broad Categories:

  • Collaborative Learning: learners make individual process working with other, teaching each other, focus on a common goal and self-managing as an individual and as a group
  • Cooperative Learning: involves inherent interdependencies, like the crew of a theatre. The roles and responsibilities are clearly defined
  • Competition: with proper use, is more effective to develop collaborative, entrepreneurship and leadership skills and works particularly with teams, incentivized with rewards to work toward.

A short introduction to Collaborative Learning:

Examples of Collaborative learning:

Think-pair-share: foresee a discussion prompt, a question, a short or problem issue where the learners work individually on a response that they after report to each other in pairs. Finally some or all summarize the key points of their discussion for the large group. It need a low effort for active learning but it doesn’t take long times, keeping all the benefits.

Problem-based learning (or PBL): learners in group have to think about a specific problem previously introduced to them in order to find a solution. It’s more useful because they may need to approach to problems as they have to do or will do in their life, in general, or in the performance of their workplace. This same typology includes the Guided Design, that is similar but work on the problem through steps, for example, the group could do a preliminary research and report back, propose compromises and report again.

Case Studies: learners works on with sample problems from experience.

Examples of Collaborative learning:

  • Simulations ask students to adopt roles as they perform the work of a problem-solving group.
  • Peer teaching means for both the student teacher and student learner to learn new concepts or reinforce concepts with which they are familiar. One example of peer teaching is tutoring, which means guiding the learning of a newer student Could be good ask presentations to communicate course material to their peers.
  • Small group discussion offers students the chance to interact with peers, to listen, and to teach and at the and share a product such as a summary of the discussion.
  • Peer editing guides students as they review each other drafts of written work. In this way learn the editor (who must learn to read critically and communicate criticism) and writer (who must learn to evaluate and receive feedback).
  • Jigsaw strategy breaks problems into small parts and assigns parts to groups who report back, contributing a piece of the puzzle’s solution. For instance, each person read an article and present to others in order to make a synthesis of all the materials.

The difference between Cooperative and Collaborative learning:

Cooperative learning is a type of collaborative learning;

The roles and the structure of cooperative learning are predefined and interconnected;

Cooperative learning need a person to oversee the project closely;

Even though each person has a separate role in the work, the entire group has a stake in the success of others.

Kagan’s collaborative learning

D Spencer Kagan proposed his model about cooperative learning in 1985 in his book ‘Cooperative Learning Structures’. In his model, he mainly advocated two basic principles: the world is pretty much competitive while in some fields it isn’t that much, and you have to be fully equipped with knowledge in the fields you are going to face; there is the need of learning method which was a mixture between competitive and individualistic, with cooperative classroom organization so that it could help in preparing the students for complete sort of social situations.

Kegan and the adult development: Robert Kegan’s theory say that cognitive development don’t end around 25 but is a lifelong process, so it’s possible for people to continually develop the systems they use to create meaning by transforming the way that they interact with the world. An adult with a high stage of development is in control of their behaviour, is self-aware and is able to more effectively managed his relationships and the social factors affecting them.

The improvement and level up need to achieve several competences, more of them are the same we can reach through Collaborative learning approach.

How ensure the efficacy of the Collaborative learning?

  • Help the learners to identify their strength
  • Help the learners to develop critical thinking skills and to accept the criticism
  • Help the learners to know well about the digital world, how it works, how they can use it ethically, and how they can safely interact with others

The following research presents concerns and issues about collaborative learning:

Article Collaborative Learning in the Workplace: Practical Issues and Concerns, Hyunkyung Lee and Curtis J. Bonk, 2014

Help the learners to identify their strength, bring them to choose a role she can play well and avoid the problem of the different speed, because he/she did something that fit on him/her. No matter how old the students are, they’ll always have more to discover about themselves. When they find their passion, this one could become the strength they can apply in a group setting. This could help to find their place in the group.

Everyone needs critical thinking skills, to learn how to express own ideas, accept and learn the criticism, especially in today’s age of information literacy in order to make them less susceptible to lies, including the modern fake news.

The world nowadays is a collaborative world that shares its resources, ideas and information, using technology to communicate. In this kind of world, more than ever, begin important the principles and personality traits gained from peer-to-peer education and engagement as well as soft skills in working environment, such as decision making, flexibility and problem-solving.