CL1 - More Information: Why does collaborative learning work?




Why does collaborative learning work?

There are theories on how collaborative learning improves the educational and psychological outcomes for students. These can be broadly described as cognitive, social constructivism, and motivational.

Cognitive approach: For learners to retain and comprehend knowledge, it must be placed in a conceptual framework (Cooper, et al., 1997; Slavin, 1995). In the small group setting, the learner has the opportunity to rehearse their understanding with others and to be exposed to other conceptual constructs.

Social constructivism: For knowledge to be internalized and a framework established, a social discourse must first take place. It is this discourse that leads to the conceptual framework in which to relate the new knowledge (Bruffee, 1992). As MacGregor states, "Knowledge is shaped, over time, by successive conversations, and by ever-changing social and political environments." (MacGregor, 1990). Feminist pedagogy contains many of the same ideas of social constructivism (Belenky, et al., 1986).

The motivational theorists believe that the inherent structure of cooperative learning creates an environment which motivates learning. For instance, if group and individual performances are components of the final assessment, individuals are motivated not only to learn the material but also to encourage all group members to understand the basic underpinnings of the knowledge. Hence, there is a driving force to foster positive interdependent relationships between group members. That is, cooperative learning creates a "One for all and all for one attitude." (Alexandre Dumas)

Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R., and Tarule, J. M. (1986). Women's ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic Books.

Bruffee, K. A. (1992). "Collaborative learning and the 'Conversation of Mankind'" In Goodsell, A. S., Maher, M. R., and Tinto, V. (Eds.), Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education. National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning, & Assessment, Syracuse University.

Cooper, J., and Robinson, P. (1998). "Small group instruction in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology." Journal of College Science Teaching 27:383.

MacGregor, J. (1990). "Collaborative learning: Shared inquiry as a process of reform" In Svinicki, M. D. (Ed.), The changing face of college teaching, New Directions for Teaching and Learning No. 42.

Slavin, R. E. (1995). Cooperative learning: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Doing CL
More Info