Your Study Guides and Strategies starts here!

Whatever God's dream
about man may be,
it seems certain it cannot
come true unless
man cooperates.
Stella Terrill Mann
American author

Cooperative learning series

Cooperative and
Collaborative Learning

Cooperative or collaborative learning is a team process
where members support and rely on each other to achieve an agreed-upon goal. The classroom is an excellent place to develop team-building skills you will need later in life.

Cooperative/collaborative learning is interactive;
as a team member, you:

  • develop and share a common goal
  • contribute your understanding of the problem:
    questions, insights and solutions
  • respond to, and work to understand, others' questions, insights and solutions.
    Each member empowers the other to speak and contribute,
    and to consider their contributions
  • are accountable to others, and they are accountable to you
  • are dependent on others, and they depend on you

What makes for a good learning team?

  • Team activities begin with training in, and understanding group processes.
    An instructor begins by facilitating discussion and suggesting alternatives
    but does not impose solutions on the team, especially those having difficulty working together
  • Three to five people
    Larger teams have difficulty in keeping everyone involved
  • Teacher-assigned groups
    They function better than self-assigned groups
  • Diverse skill levels, backgrounds, experience
    1. Each individual brings strengths to a group
    2. Each member of the group is responsible to not only contribute his/her strengths, but also to help others understand the source of their strengths
    3. Any member who is at a disadvantage or not comfortable with the majority should be encouraged and proactively empowered to contribute
    4. Learning is positively influenced with a diversity of perspective and experience increasing options for problem solving, and expanding the range of details to consider
  • Commitment of each member to a goal
    that is defined and understood by the group
    1. Confidential peer ratings are a good way to assess who is and who is not contributing
    2. Groups have the right to fire a non-cooperative or non-participating member if all remedies have failed.
      (The person fired then has to find another group to accept him/her)
    3. Individuals can quit if they believe they are doing most of the work with little assistance from the others.
      (This person can often easily find another group to welcome his/her contributions)
  • Shared operating principles and responsibilities,
    defined and agreed to by each member. These include:
    1. Commitment to attend, prepare and be on time for meetings
    2. Have discussions and disagreements focus on issues, avoiding personal criticism
    3. Take responsibility for a share of the tasks and carry them out on time
      You may need to perform tasks that you have little experience, feel ill-prepared for, or even think others would do better. Accept the challenge, but be comfortable in stating that you may need help, training, a mentor, or have to resign and take on different task.

Process:

Refer to the Group Project Guide

  • Set up goals, define how often and with what means you will communicate, evaluate progress, make decisions, and resolve conflict
  • Define resources, especially someone who can provide direction, supervision, counsel, and even arbitrate
  • Schedule review of your progress and communication
    to discuss what is working and what is not working

Teams with problems should be invited or required to meet with the instructor to discuss possible solutions.


Cooperative learning series

Collaborative learning | Group projects | Active Listening |
Conflict resolution | Case study: conflict resolution | Peer mediation |
Tutoring guidelines | Using feedback with tutors


* "Cooperative learning" is often used in K-12 education, and "collaborative learning" in higher education
See also:
Online Collaborative Learning in Higher Education, primary sites a web site devoted to world's best practice in online collaborative learning in higher education, and related topics. Tim Roberts, Faculty of Informatics and Communication, Central Queensland University, Bundaberg, Queensland 4670 Australia
"Cooperative learning in technical courses: procedures, pitfalls, and payoffs", Richard M. Felder, North Carolina State University & Rebecca Brent, East Carolina University