Enhance student engagement with cooperative and collaborative learning

Cooperative and collaborative learning have been firmly established as essential in many classrooms. From animated brainstorming sessions to structured group tasks, these approaches focus on using group work to bring students together for engaging and active learning experiences.

But while cooperative and collaborative learning share many benefits and characteristics, they also have distinct features which shape the way students engage with the subject matter as well as each other. Let’s look at the details of cooperative vs. collaborative learning and how you can successfully utilize both tactics in the classroom.

What are the benefits of cooperative learning?

Cooperative learning is a structured approach to group work, with students working under the direct guidance of the teacher. Tasks are designed in a way that specifically requires students to cooperate to achieve their groups’ shared goals.

Teachers might assign responsibilities and meaningful roles or choose to divide up tasks, for example in jigsaw grouping strategies, to ensure individual members have a particular part to contribute. In this way, students work both independently and cooperatively, enhancing their own learning alongside their peers’.

Researchers Johnson and Johnson identify five elements teachers can consider in planning to promote effective cooperative learning experiences: positive interdependence, individual accountability, promotive interaction, interpersonal and small group skills, and group processing.

Teacher-assigned tasks should ensure that an individual’s success is linked to that of the group (and vice versa) with everyone having a particular part to play (no coasting here!). In this way, students benefit from active learning while also learning how to work as a team to ultimately collaborate.

What are the benefits of collaborative learning and how is it different?

Collaborative learning may involve any or all of the above but tends to be more open-ended, with a focus on shared exploration of a task. Groups tackle oftentimes complex problems together, without the predetermined division of labor characteristic of cooperative learning.

Here, the responsibility of learning shifts more significantly from teacher to student, where students have to develop and organize their own approaches to the task at hand.

The scaffolding and knowledge from their peers and teachers means students can work in the Zone of Proximal Development, interacting to build something they would have been unable to do working independently. And, in engaging with each other in this way, they develop important skills such as consensus-building, teamwork and dialogue! So, how can teachers set up their students for collaborative success?

Organize your groups with diversity and size in mind for heterogeneous voices

Organizing students into heterogeneous groups can make for a more dynamic learning experience with students exposed to a range of voices. And, by keeping group sizes to four or five students, students will have plenty of opportunities to use those voices!

Prepare students for collaborative learning tasks by assigning a tangible assignment

Collaboration doesn’t always come naturally, but clearly defined goals and guidance can provide the needed focus to get students off on the right foot. Provide focus by asking groups to produce something tangible, be it a brief summary of their discussion or a proposed solution to a problem.

It can be helpful to agree on ground rules for interaction and participation, emphasizing the importance of communication and active listening.

Use a range of collaborative activities to engage students

There are many different ways to bring collaborative activities into the classroom, whether students are sharing their perspective with one partner in an activity like Think-Pair-Share, or working on a project in a more extensive group. Give your students a reason to collaborate by having them tackle complex tasks and questions.

Many activities in the classroom may involve a blend of cooperative and collaborative learning, or indeed a movement between them as students become more adept at working together. Here are some of our favorite ways you can use Kialo Edu to support these classroom approaches.

Collaborative and cooperative learning activities using Kialo Edu discussions

Collaborative learning emphasizes the role of diverse perspectives and strengths in creating shared understanding. Discussions work as a key part of this approach as it asks participants to justify and explain their own views while reacting and adapting according to others’ input.

Have engage in peer review and joint editing to practice giving feedback

It’s not always easy to spot flaws in your own work, whether it’s using ambiguous phrasing, having spelling mistakes, or expressing a fundamental misunderstanding. Feedback wouldn’t be necessary if it were! Hand some of the feedback process over to students by employing peer review. By learning to give constructive criticism (tactfully), students can also benefit from the process.

Kialo discussions have different participant permissions to encourage peer feedback and collaboration. For students with more experience on the platform, give them the Editor role so they can act as peer editors for their classmate’s claims. For students with less experience, they can comment on claims to make suggestions.

You can also task students to do a collaborative review of a completed discussion. Ask discussion participants to come together to review the overall quality of the discussion once they’ve finished contributing their claims. Together they can use their oral communication skills to move and link claims, resolve grammatical inaccuracies, and reword claims for clarity. Streamline the process by giving just one student in the group the Editor role to make changes.

Map out and collaborate on real-world group projects on Kialo Edu

Class projects are an enriching way for students to develop real-world skills that will stand to them in the classroom and beyond — not least in collaboration!

Is it possible to build cities that don’t harm the environment? kialo-edu.com

For a discussion considering the environmental impacts of city-building, organize students into groups of four and provide each group with their own copy of the discussion. Task each group member with exploring and developing one of the top-level claims fully, researching and building it by adding claims beneath it. For example, one member of the group might focus on the impact cities have on wildlife habitats, while another researches the role of technology in creating environmentally conscious cities, and so on.

Each member then takes turns to explain their claims to their group, responding to questions and elaborating as needed. The group then works together to edit the discussion to draw new connections between each member’s claims or add any new insights gained from listening to each other.

Once they have a good handle on the issues involved, have the group investigate a known city to search for ways to lessen its impact on the environment. Then, ask students to co-create a proposal for the city council, suggesting evidenced and detailed changes they could make.

We know that students working together can be immensely satisfying but also challenging to manage. We’d love to hear about your thoughts on cooperative and collaborative learning and their role in your classroom! Please get in touch at feedback@kialo-edu.com, or on any of our social media platforms.

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