Collaborative vs. Cooperative Learning

What is collaborative learning?

The concept of collaborative learning, the grouping and pairing of learners for the purpose of achieving a learning goal, has been widely researched and advocated - the term "collaborative learning" refers to an instruction method in which learners at various performance levels work together in small groups toward a common goal. The learners are responsible for one another's learning as well as their own. Thus, the success of one learner helps other students to be successful

Collaborative learning is an educational approach to teaching and learning that involves groups of learners working together to solve a problem, complete a task, or create a product. Collaborative learning is based on the idea that learning is a naturally social act in which the participants talk among themselves. It is through the talk that learning occurs.

There are many approaches to collaborative learning:

  1. Learning is an active process whereby learners assimilate the information and relate this new knowledge to a framework of prior knowledge.
  2. Learning requires a challenge that opens the door for the learner to actively engage his/her peers, and to process and synthesize information rather than simply memorize and regurgitate it.
  3. Learners benefit when exposed to diverse viewpoints from people with varied backgrounds.
  4. Learning flourishes in a social environment where conversation between learners takes place. During this intellectual gymnastics, the learner creates a framework and meaning to the discourse.
  5. In the collaborative learning environment, the learners are challenged both socially and emotionally as they listen to different perspectives, and are required to articulate and defend their ideas. In so doing, the learners begin to create their own unique conceptual frameworks and not rely solely on an expert's or a text's framework.

Thus, in a collaborative learning setting, learners have the opportunity to converse with peers, present and defend ideas, exchange diverse beliefs, question other conceptual frameworks, and be actively engaged.

Collaborative learning (CL) is instruction that involves students working in teams to accomplish a common goal, under conditions that include the following elements (Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991): 

1.    Positive interdependence. Team members are obliged to rely on one another to achieve the goal. If any team members fail to do their part, everyone suffers consequences. 

2.    Individual accountability. All students in a group are held accountable for doing their share of the work and for mastery of all of the material to be learned.

3.    Face-to-face promotive interaction. Although some of the group work may be parcelled out and done individually, some must be done interactively, with group members providing one another with feedback, challenging one another's conclusions and reasoning, and perhaps most importantly, teaching and encouraging one another.

4.    Appropriate use of collaborative skills. Students are encouraged and helped to develop and practice trust-building, leadership, decision-making, communication, and conflict management skills.

5.    Group processing. Team members set group goals, periodically assess what they are doing well as a team, and identify changes they will make to function more effectively in the future.

Collaborative learning is not simply a synonym for students working in groups. A learning exercise only qualifies as CL to the extent that the listed elements are present.

Four Collaborative Learning Strategies

THINK-PAIR-SHARE: (1) The instructor poses a question, preferable one demanding analysis, evaluation, or synthesis, and gives students about a minute to think through an appropriate response. This "think-time" can be spent writing, also. (2) Students then turn to a partner and share their responses. (3) During the third step, student responses can be shared within a four-person learning team, within a larger group, or with an entire class during a follow-up discussion. The caliber of discussion is enhanced by this technique, and all students have an opportunity to learn by reflection and by verbalization. 

THREE-STEP INTERVIEW: Common as an ice-breaker or a team-building exercise, this structure can also be used also to share information such as hypotheses or reactions to a film or article. (1) Students form dyads; one student interviews the other. (2) Students switch roles. (3) The dyad links with a second dyad. This four-member learning team then discusses the information or insights gleaned from the initial paired interviews. 

SIMPLE JIGSAW: The faculty member divides an assignment or topic into four parts with all students from each LEARNING TEAM volunteering to become "experts" on one of the parts. EXPERT TEAMS then work together to master their fourth of the material and also to discover the best way to help others learn it. All experts then reassemble in their home LEARNING TEAMS where they teach the other group members. 

NUMBERED HEADS TOGETHER: Members of learning teams, usually composed of four individuals, count off: 1, 2, 3, or 4. The instructor poses a question, usually factual in nature, but requiring some higher order thinking skills. Students discuss the question, making certain that every group member knows the agreed upon answer. The instructor calls a specific number and the team members originally designated that number during the count off respond as group spokespersons. Because no one knows which number the teacher will call, all team members have a vested interest in understanding the appropriate response. 

Again, students benefit from the verbalization, and the peer coaching helps both the high and the low achievers. Class time is usually better spent because less time is wasted on inappropriate responses and because all students become actively involved with the material

Collaborative Learning Structures and Techniques

Three-step Interview

Three-step interviews can be used as an ice breaker for team members to get to know one another or can be used to get to know concepts in depth, by assigning roles to students.

  • Faculty assigns roles or students can "play" themselves. Faculty may also give interview questions or information that should be "found."
  • A interviews B for the specified number of minutes, listening attentively and asking probing questions.
  • At a signal, students reverse roles and B interviews A for the same number of minutes.

At another signal, each pair turns to another pair, forming a group of four. Each member of the group introduces his or her partner, highlighting the most interesting points.

Activities applying Collaborative Learning Focused Listing

Focused listing can be used as a brainstorming technique or as a technique to generate descriptions and definitions for concepts. Focused listing asks the students to generate words to define or describe something. Once students have completed this activity, you can use these lists to facilitate group and class discussion.

Example: Ask students to list 5-7 words or phrases that describe or define what a motivated student does. From there, you might ask students to get together in small groups to discuss the lists, or to select the one that they can all agree on. Combine this technique with a number of the other techniques and you can have a powerful cooperative learning structure.

Structured Problem-solving

Structured problem-solving can be used in conjunction with several other cooperative learning structures.

  • Have the participants brainstorm or select a problem for them to consider.
  • Assign numbers to members of each group (or use playing cards). Have each member of the group be a different number or suit.
  • Discuss task as group.
  • Each participant should be prepared to respond. Each member of the group needs to understand the response well enough to give the response with no help from the other members of the group.

Ask an individual from each group to respond. Call on the individual by number (or suit).

One Minute Papers

Ask students to comment on the following questions. Give them one minute and time them. This activity focuses them on the content and can also provide feedback to you as a teacher.

  • What was the most important or useful thing you learned today?
  • What two important questions do you still have; what remains unclear?
  • What would you like to know more about?

You can use these one minute papers to begin the next day's discussion, to facilitate discussion within a group, or to provide you with feedback on where the student is in his or her understanding of the material.

Paired Annotations

Students pair up to review/learn same article, chapter or content area and exchange double-entry journals (see below) for reading and reflection.

Students discuss key points and look for divergent and convergent thinking and ideas.

Together students prepare a composite annotation that summarizes the article, chapter, or concept.

Value Line

One way to form heterogeneous groups, is to use a value line.

1.    Present an issue or topic to the group and ask each member to determine how they feel about the issue (could use a 1-10 scale; 1 being strong agreement, 10 being strong disagreement).

2.    Form a rank-ordered line and number the participants from 1 up (from strong agreement to strong disagreement, for example).

3.    Form your groups of four by pulling one person from each end of the value line and two people from the middle of the group (for example, if you had 20 people, one group might consist of persons 1, 10, 11, 20).

Structured Learning Team Group Roles

When putting together groups, you may want to consider assigning (or having students select) their roles for the group. Students may also rotate group roles depending on the activity.

Potential group roles and their functions include:

  • Leader - The leader is responsible for keeping the group on the assigned task at hand. S/he also makes sure that all members of the group have an opportunity to participate, learn and have the respect of their team members. The leader may also want to check to make sure that all of the group members have mastered the learning points of a group exercise.
  • Recorder - The recorder picks and maintains the group files and folders on a daily basis and keeps records of all group activities including the material contributed by each group member. The recorder writes out the solutions to problems for the group to use as notes or to submit to the instructor. The recorder may also prepare presentation materials when the group makes oral presentations to the class.
  • Reporter - The reporter gives oral responses to the class about the group's activities or conclusions.
  • Monitor - The monitor is responsible for making sure that the group's work area is left the way it was found and acts as a timekeeper for timed activities.
  • Wildcard (in groups of five) - The wildcard acts as an assistant to the group leader and assumes the role of any member that may be missing.

The Conditions for Effective Collaborative Learning

There are three key conditions for effective collaborative learning:

  • Group composition
  • Task features

Communication media

Group composition

One factor that determines the efficiency of collaborative learning is the composition of the group. This factor is defined by several variables: the age and levels of participants, the size of the group, the difference between group members, etc.

Regarding the number of members, small groups seems to function better than large groups in which some members tend be 'asleep' or excluded from interesting interactions. 

Task features

The effects of collaboration vary according to the task. Some tasks prevent the activation of the mechanisms described above, while other tasks are appropriated. For instance, some tasks are inherently distributed and lead group members to work on their own, independently from each other. Interaction occurs when assembling partial results, but not during each individual's reasoning process. Without interaction, none of the described mechanisms can be activated. Some tasks are so straightforward that they do not leave any opportunity for disagreement or misunderstanding.

Communication media
Whatever task and group members have been selected, the collaboration may not work because the medium used for communication is not adequate. It would be beyond the scope of this paper to describe each available media. Basically, most of current widely available Internet-based tools use text-based communication, synchronous or asynchronous, with mostly fixed graphics and images. Voice and video interaction or voice and video mail are of course available, but the overload of standard networks and the limits of currently available hardware has postponed their larger use in current distance education.

What is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative Learning involves structuring classes around small groups that work together in such a way that each group member's success is dependent on the group's success. There are different kinds of groups for different situations, but they all balance some key elements that distinguish cooperative learning from competitive or individualistic learning.

Cooperative learning can also be contrasted with what it is not. Cooperation is not having students sit side-by-side at the same table to talk with each other as they do their individual assignments. Cooperation is not assigning a report to a group of students where one student does all the work and the others put their names on the product as well. Cooperation involves much more than being physically near other students, discussing material, helping, or sharing material with other students. There is a crucial difference between simply putting students into groups to learn and in structuring cooperative interdependence among students


More than Just Working in Groups

Five key elements differentiate cooperative learning from simply putting students into groups to learn (Johnson et al., 2006).

             Positive Interdependence: You'll know when you've succeeded in structuring positive interdependence when students perceive that they "sink or swim together." This can be achieved through mutual goals, division of labor, dividing materials, roles, and by making part of each student's grade dependent on the performance of the rest of the group. Group members must believe that each person's efforts benefit not only him- or herself, but all group members as well.

      Individual Accountability: The essence of individual accountability in cooperative learning is "students learn together, but perform alone." This ensures that no one can "hitch-hike" on the work of others. A lesson's goals must be clear enough that students are able to measure whether (a) the group is successful in achieving them, and (b) individual members are successful in achieving them as well.

      Face-to-Face (Promotive) Interaction: Important cognitive activities and interpersonal dynamics only occur when students promote each other's learning. This includes oral explanations of how to solve problems, discussing the nature of the concepts being learned, and connecting present learning with past knowledge. It is through face-to-face, promotive interaction that members become personally committed to each other as well as to their mutual goals.

     Interpersonal and Small Group Social Skills: In cooperative learning groups, students learn academic subject matter (taskwork) and also interpersonal and small group skills (teamwork). Thus, a group must know how to provide effective leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication, and conflict management. Given the complexity of these skills, teachers can encourage much higher performance by teaching cooperative skill components within cooperative lessons. As students develop these skills, later group projects will probably run more smoothly and efficiently than early ones.

         Group Processing: After completing their task, students must be given time and procedures for analyzing how well their learning groups are functioning and how well social skills are being employed. Group processing involves both taskwork and teamwork, with an eye to improving it on the next project.

Similarly, Kagan (2003) has developed the easily recalled acronym PIES to denote the key elements of positive interdependence,individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction where the latter 2 components encompass the final three described above.

Why Use Cooperative Learning?

Extensive research has compared cooperative learning with traditional classroom instruction using the same teachers, curriculum, and assessments.
On the average:

·        Students who engage in cooperative learning learn significantly more, remember it longer, and develop better critical-thinking skills than their counterparts in traditional lecture classes.

·        Students enjoy cooperative learning more than traditional lecture classes, so they are more likely to attend classes and finish the course.

·        Students are going to go on to jobs that require teamwork. Cooperative learning helps students develop the skills necessary to work on projects too difficult and complex for any one person to do in a reasonable amount of time. 

·        Cooperative learning processes prepare students to assess outcomes linked to accreditation.

Cooperative Learning Techniques

Cooperative learning techniques can be loosely categorized by the skill that each enhances (Barkley, Cross and Major, 2005), although it is important to recognize that many cooperative learning exercises can be developed to fit within multiple categories. Categories include:discussion, reciprocal teaching, graphic organizers, writing and problem solving. Each category includes a number of potential structures to guide the development of a cooperative learning exercise. 

Discussion: communicating
"A good give-and-take discussion can produce unmatched learning experiences as students articulate their ideas, respond to their classmates' points, and develop skills in evaluating the evidence of their own and others' positions."
(Davis, 1993, p. 63)

·        Think-pair-share: As probably the best known cooperative learning exercise, the think-pair-share structure provides students with the opportunity to reflect on the question posed and then practice sharing and receiving potential solutions. Its simplicity provides instructors with an easy entry into cooperative learning and it is readily adaptable to a wide range of course constructs. (Example: Where Do I Begin? Using Think-Pair-Share to Initiate the Problem Solving Process)

·        Three-step interview: This structure can be used both as an ice-breaker which introduces students to one another and to provide students with a venue for soliciting opinions, positions, or ideas from their peers. Students are first paired and take turns interviewing each other using a series of questions provided by the instructor. Pairs then match up and students introduce their original partner. At the end of the exercise, all four students have had their position or viewpoints on an issue heard, digested, and described by their peers.

Reciprocal teaching: explaining, providing feedback, understanding alternative perspectives

Slavin (1996), in a review of hundreds of studies, concluded that "students who give each other elaborated explanations (and less consistently, those who receive such explanations) are the students who learn most in cooperative learning." (p. 53) 

·        Note-taking pairs: Poor note-taking leads to poor performance. Designing an exercise which requires students to summarize their understanding of a concept based on notes taken (with directed questions such as what is the definition of a concept, how is it used, what are the three most important characteristics of a topic) and receiving reflective feedback from their partner provides students the opportunity to find critical gaps in their written records.

·        Jigsaw: For more complex problems, this structure provides students the opportunity to develop expertise in one of many components of a problem by first participating in a group solely focused on a single component. In the second stage of the exercise, groups are reformed with a representative from each expert group who together now have sufficient expertise to tackle the whole problem.

Graphic organizers: discovering patterns and relationships

"Graphic organizers are powerful tools for converting complex information in to meaningful displays...They can provide a framework for gathering and sorting ideas for discussion, writing, and research." (Barkley, Cross and Major, 2005, p.205) See also, concept mapping.

·        Group grid: Students practice organizing and classifying information in a table. A more complex version of this structure requires students to first identify the classification scheme that will be used.

·        Sequence chains: The goal of this exercise is to provide a visual representation of a series of events, actions, roles, or decisions. Students can be provided with the items to be organized or asked to first generate these based on a predetermined end goal. This structure can be made more complex by having students also identify and describe the links between each of the sequenced components.

Writing: organizing and synthesizing information

The Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse at Colorado State University encourages the use of written assignments across the campus because is teaches students to communicate information, to clarify thinking and to learn new concepts and information.

·        Dyadic essays: Students prepare for the in-class portion of this exercise by developing an essay question and model answer based on assigned reading. Students typically need to be guided to develop questions that integrate material across classes as opposed to ones that simply recite facts presented in the reading. In class, students exchange essay questions and write a spontaneous answer essay. Students then pair up, compare and contrast the model answer and the spontaneously generated answer. Subsequently, questions and answers can be shared with the larger class.

·        Peer editing: As opposed to the editing process that often appears only at the final stage of a paper, peer editing pairs up students at the idea generation stage and peers provide feedback throughout the process. For example, the relationship begins as each student in the pair describes their topic ideas and outlines the structure of their work while their partner asks questions, and develops an outline based on what is described. See also, peer review.

Problem solving: developing strategies and analysis

Research by mathematics educators Vidakovic (1997) and Vidakovic and Martin (2004) shows that groups are able to solve problems more accurately than individuals working alone.

·         Send-a-problem: Students participate in a series of problem solving rounds, contributing their independently generated solution to those that have been developed by other groups. After a number of rounds, students are asked to review the solutions developed by their peers, evaluate the answers and develop a final solution. (Example: Understanding the Impact of (Fiscal and Monetary) Policy)

·        Three-stay, one-stray: Even students working in groups can benefit from the feedback of additional peers. In this structure, students periodically take a break from their work (often at key decision making points) and send one group member to another group to describe their progress. The role of the group is to gain information and alternative perspectives by listening and sharing. The number of times the group sends a representative to another group depends on the level of complexity of the problem. This method can also be used to report out final solutions.



Collaborative vs. Cooperative Learning

My Opinion

To start this topic I really want to know how to difference both, because in the school where I actually work had a course about it, but It is a little dificult to me recognize between them. But now with this information I could see what is what. Is a challenge to work in this way because we have to be carefully to use them carefully and get a great time.