Collaborative Learning

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Collaborative Learning

Collaborative Learning


From the earliest explorations in online education theory and practice, collaborative learning (CL) has proven to be a powerful principle of e-learning design and delivery. E-learning has been shaped by, and is also shaping, learning theory, especially that of collaborative learning (Scardamalia, 2008, 37).

Collaborative learning is an interactive group knowledge-building process (Resnick, 2007, 13). The term collaboration derives from the concept of co-laboring, whereby people work jointly (especially to create physical, social, cultural, or intellectual artifacts). In educational usage, collaborative learning refers to the process whereby learners work together to build knowledge by formulating their ideas into words and then developing these ideas/concepts as they react to other students' responses (positive, negative, questioning, elaborating, etc.) to their formulations (Knowles, 2008, 33). There is ultimately a level of convergence, either of agreement (intellectual or co-production, as in an artistic output, a treatise, or a scientific report or theory) or in agreeing to disagree (Harasim, 2007, 39).

The process of the collaborative learning classroom is: “(1) group work toward local consensus, (2) reports and plenary discussion toward plenary consensus, and (3) comparison of the class's plenary consensus with the consensus of a larger relevant knowledge community.” (Bruffee, 2006, 28)

What is the benefit to the child?

In spite of the potential for small-group work to foster student learning, most researchers agree that simply placing students in small groups does not guarantee that learning will occur. Rather, the extent to which students benefit from working with other students depends on the group dynamics and the nature of students' participation in group work. This chapter explores how group work is thought to benefit student learning and the many ways in which teachers might orchestrate small-group work to achieve those benefits. It does not catalog differences among small-group approaches, which often have such labels as cooperative learning, collaborative learning, peer tutoring, and peer-based or peer-directed learning, but considers all small-group contexts in which students are encouraged, expected, or required to work with each other to improve student learning.

The collaborative learning characteristic is supported in learning platforms by features that enable mediated student interaction tools such as discussion forums, internal e-mail, real-time chat, whiteboards, and exchanging files (Brown, 2007, 32). The important learning content is generated and shared in the process of the mediated student interactions and student-faculty interactions, rather than being located in some course structure as in the case of the preexisting content characteristic (Scardamalia, 2008, 38).

How can a child be positioned in this practice?

Numerous studies have examined the cognitive development of pairs of children working on conservation tasks that ask them to discuss whether some characteristics of objects (e.g., the volume of liquid) remain the same when others (e.g., the width or height of the container) change.

When children who have not yet learned the principle of conservation are paired with children who have mastered it, the former often gain conservation knowledge whereas the latter rarely regress to giving incorrect responses. Students with and students without a knowledge of conservation have been ...
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