CL1 - More Information: Essential Group Factors




Essential group factors

Collaborative group work is not simply having students sit together and talk; this typically is not collaborative learning. It is not giving the same individual task to several students and telling them to talk about the assignment with each other. Nor is it asking whoever finishes first to help those not yet done. Collaborative learning is not accomplished when one or two group members do all the work and the other students simply sign their names to the group product.

To make collaborative learning a success, there must be some kind of "glue" that holds the group together. Group members must feel they need one another, must want to help each other learn, and must have a personal stake in the success of the group. They also must have the skills necessary to make the group work effectively and be able to regularly analyze the group's strengths and weaknesses to make adjustments as needed.

Those experienced in successful small group work have found five essential components (i.e., the "glue") that are necessary:

  • Positive interdependence
  • Face-to-face promotive interactions
  • Individual accountability and personal responsibility
  • Teamwork and social skills
  • Group processing
Let's take each one of these in turn.

Cooper, J., Prescott, S., Cook, L., Smith, L., Mueck, R., and Cuseo, J. (1990). Cooperative learning and college instruction: Effective use of student learning teams. California State University Foundation, Long Beach, CA.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T. (1987). Learning Together & Alone, Cooperative, Competitive, & Individualistic Learning. 2nd ed., Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., and Smith, K. A. (1998). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.

Smith, K. A. (1996). "Cooperative Learning: Making 'Group work' Work" In Sutherland, T. E., and Bonwell, C. C. (Eds.), Using active learning in college classes: A range of options for faculty, New Directions for Teaching and Learning No. 67.

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