Dr. Theodore Panitz, EdD
Patricia Panitz, MLS
The verdict is in. Research studies overwhelmingly favor collaborative learning (CL) as the most effective form of learning (Johnson & Johnson 1984). Yet, despite all the studies and anecdotal experiences reported by teachers and researchers, the paradigm remains largely unused. This article will explore the nature of collaborative learning in higher education and what can be done to promote it. The paper consists of five sections, each dealing with a different aspect of CL.
The first section defines CL in broad philosophical terms and outlines pedagogical models. The definition calls for cooperation and involvement among all people involved in trying to attain educational goals: teachers, students, administrators and parents. The underpinnings provided by the definition form the basis for the remaining parts of the chapter. Part two examines the reasons why more teachers do not use CL methods. It focuses on reasons why teachers are discouraged from adopting CL and lays the groundwork for identifying policies and methodologies needed to overcome these blocks. The next three sections deal with different aspects of overcoming difficulties CL may present: a methodology for starting Cl is suggested; a list of the benefits of CL is given along with brief explanations; and lastly policies needed to fully implement Cl are presented. While the subject matter of each of the last three sections differs, the content of each is highly intertwined because the methodology is based upon the benefits which lead to the needed policies.
The uniqueness of this paper lies
in its analysis of why more teachers do not use CL and its suggestions
for institutional policies which would promote full implementation of CL
teaching techniques at all levels. Several authors have suggested processes
for staff development (Cohen 1992; Cooper1992; Joyce 1992; Schmuck 1992),
but few have analysed in detail reasons why teachers resist changing from
their current lecture methods to CL techniques.
WHAT IS COLLABORATIVE LEARNING?
Collaborative learning is a personal philosophy, not just a classroom technique. In all situations where people come together in groups, it suggests a way of dealing with people which respects and highlights individual group members' abilities and contributions. The underlying premise of CL is based upon consensus building through cooperation by group members, in contrast to competition in which individuals best other group members. CL practitioners apply this philosophy in the classroom, at committee meetings, with community groups and generally as a way of living with and dealing with other people.
As a pedagogy CL involves the entire spectrum of learning activities in which groups of students work together in or out of class. It can be as simple and informal as pairs working together in a Think-Pair-Share procedure, where students consider a question individually, discuss their ideas with another student to form a consensus answer, and then share their results with the entire class, to the more formally structured process known as cooperative learning which has been defined by Johnson and Johnson (Johnson, Johnson & Holubec 1990).
The use of pairs can be introduced at any time during a class to address questions or solve problems or to create variety in a class presentation. The Johnsons' approach, which includes pair activities, requires more preparation and structure. They define five elements necessary for a technique to be considered cooperative learning: positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, individual accountability. interpersonal and small group skills, and group processing. Cooperative learning stresses the social nature of learning and the need to train students how to work collaboratively in order to resolve conflicts, interact appropriately and actively involve all group members.
Many of the elements of cooperative learning are used in collaborative situations. The Jig Saw method (Aronson 1978) is a good example. Students become "experts" on a concept and are responsible for teaching it to the other group members. Groups subdivide a topic and members work together with those from other groups who have the same topic. They then return to their original groups and explain their topic. Ken Brufee (1993) suggests collaborative learning involves giving more mature groups of students control of the learning process, including establishing criteria for grading and group procedures, defining the final product, and presenting the group's results.
This paper uses a definition of
collaborative learning in its widest sense, including cooperative learning.
Cl encompasses all elements of group work and learning situations where
students cooperate in order to accomplish a specific learning objective.
WHY MORE TEACHERS DO NOT USE COLLABORATIVE LEARNING TECHNIQUES
Considering the overwhelming number of benefits created by the use of collaborative learning methods, it is surprising that so few teachers use this paradigm. The cause lies in the current educational system which emphasizes content memorization and individual student performance through competition.
Few teachers or students have had any exposure to the CL teaching/learning technique. Teachers are not trained during their certification processes in collaborative methods and those that are often receive incomplete training. If teachers are taught by the lecture method while at teachers' college, then it is hardly surprising that this will be the method of choice when their turn arrives to take over the classroom. And the fact that most students have been exposed only to the competitive, individualistic approach used in our school systems today at all levels constitutes a major problem. Students are not likely to change their attitudes from one class to another unless they are trained in CL techniques. In order to gain a better understanding of the impediments to CL, we will separate for analysis those areas which effect teachers, administrators, parents and students.
Reasons Why Teachers Resist Collaborative Learning Techniques
LOSS OF CONTROL IN THE CLASSROOM
Perhaps the biggest impediment to CL lies in the fact that many teachers feel they give up control of the class if they give more responsibility to the students for their learning. When a teacher lectures she/he gets the feeling that the content is being covered, because it has been presented to the students in an orderly fashion. Many teachers provide lecture notes in an attempt to guarantee student coverage. Collaborative learning techniques encourage students to formulate their own constructs and ways of understanding the material. The constructivist ideology is foreign to most teachers who have been trained in the didactic method of lecturing.
LACK OF SELF CONFIDENCE BY TEACHERS
It takes a great deal of confidence in one's self and one's students to transfer the responsibility of learning to the student or even to share some of the responsibility. Many teachers lack the self confidence to try methods which may expose them to potentially difficult situations. These may occur when students ask unanticipated questions or act in socially unacceptable ways. CL redefines the role of teacher from expert to facilitator. The focus on the student reduces the opportunities teachers have to demonstrate their expertise and might call into question their teaching ability. He/she has to be sure he/she has something to offer, as a person, before a class can be allowed to take some control. Some people cannot face the risk.
There is also a fear of looking stupid. Teachers are defined as being experts in their fields, able to answer any and all questions. In a CL environment students may ask questions in a manner which is difficult for the teacher to understand. Sometimes it takes another class member to articulate a question or answer a fellow student's question using vocabulary which they can understand. Allowing and encouraging students to answer each other's questions is contrary to the typical teacher centered class. CL contradicts the concept that teachers are repositories of subject knowledge, whose role is simply to pour into the open, empty and willing minds of students their vast resevior of knowledge,
FEAR OF THE LOSS OF CONTENT COVERAGE
Teachers fear a loss in content when they use CL methods because group interactions often take longer than simple lectures. Students need time to accumulate enough information in order to be able to use it within their groups. They need time to work together to reach a consensus and/or formulate minority opinions for presentation to the whole class. A major function of CL involves teaching students how to work together effectively. Also, teachers superimpose onto CL their current experiences with the lecture method. For example, many students do not understand the material despite excellent presentations by the teacher and therefore perform poorly on content based tests. Teachers therefore conclude that the situation would be even worse if students work with other students who may be having similar problems. The reality is that when students become involved in their learning their performance rises. Initially groups do work slowly as they learn how to function cooperatively, analyse what works and what doesn't work for their groups, and receive training in conflict resolution. But as students get used to the process, their level of retention and critical thinking increases to the point where they can move through the curriculum faster. If students started using CL at the elementary levels, less time would be needed for training at the secondary and college levels. Thus many of the concerns college teachers have about keeping up with their schedules would be addressed.
LACK OF PREPARED MATERIALS FOR
USE IN CLASS (Irwin et al 1985)
The use of CL techniques requires teachers to build a set of handouts which create interdependence among students and provides a basis and reason for their working together. Current textbooks generally offer a set of questions at the end of each chapter which are usually answered by students individually. A few publishers are beginning to tailor their texts to offer one or two questions which can be answered by groups, but supporting materials are not included. Teachers must develop worksheets, project descriptions and other appropriate materials. In addition, few suggestions are provided in the teacher manuals about how to institute group activities. For teachers who are new to CL, this is a major impediment. Teachers generally adhere to the methods and materials with which they are most familiar, since a major expenditure of effort and time is required to revamp curriculum materials.
Many teachers are wrapped up in their own self importance and enjoy being the center of attention. The class is their stage and it provides them with an opportunity to show off their knowledge and expertise. Lecturers do not trust students to learn. They think they must tell them what to learn and provide all the structure for the learning to take place. The egotistical side of teaching must be overcome in order for teachers to involve their students actively in the learning process.
LACK OF FAMILIARITY WITH ALTERNATE
Assessment is a major concern frequently expressed by teachers who are unfamiliar with CL. They presume that individual accountability will be lost or that one student will dominate the group or do all the work for the group. They are unfamiliar with how to assess group efforts and assign grades to groups. Often they assume that only one process is appropriate for assessing student performance.
CL as defined by Johnson and Johnson (1987) specifically calls for individual accountability as one of its five major components. Another one of the five elements is interdependence, which includes group grading and a reward system for group improvement. The two ideas are complimentary, not contradictory. Because teachers are not trained in alternate assessment techniques they naturally assume the worst, i.e., that the students will not be able to understand and deal with these testing procedures.
Techniques available for assessing groups include: teacher observations during group work; group grading for projects; students grading each other or evaluating the level of contribution made by each member to a team project; extra credit given when groups exceed their previous average or when individuals within a group exceed their previous performance by a specified amount; use of a mastery approach whereby students may retake tests after receiving extra help from their groups or the teacher; and the use of individual quizzes, exams or assignments.
Alternate assessment techniques provide an additional benefit in that teachers can build in reward systems for individual performance and group performance. These reward systems may consist of extra points toward a grade, certificates of achievement, extra time to work on special projects, class recognition for good group efforts or special recognition for work well done.
CONCERN WITH TEACHER EVALUATION
AND PERSONAL ADVANCEMENT
The question of teacher evaluation is of great concern to many teachers who consider using collaborative learning techniques. In order for teachers to be properly evaluated the supervisor must understand the nature of this method and accept it as a teaching paradigm. If the department head is a propopnent of the lecture method of teaching then, his/her understanding of what he/she observes will be limited (Bliss 1986). This problem can be overcome by developing a process whereby the teacher and evaluator work closely together to review the class objectives and methods.
CL classes often appear to be chaotic since groups work differently than individuals. A noise level exists, even if muted, which is inconsistent with what takes place in a lecture class or with discussion formats (Forest 1996). It takes a few moments to refocus the class when the teacher wishes to bring everyone together to go over the material, or make observations about what is going on in the groups. Groups sometimes digress from the topic at hand and need to be brought back to working on the task. Several students may request the teacher's attention simultaneously. To someone who is untrained in CL these activities may appear to represent ineffective teaching, which in turn may lead to a poor classroom evaluation.
STUDENTS' RESISTANCE TO COLLABORATIVE
A cause for concern by teachers starting CL is the initial student reaction. Students have not been trained to cooperate in an academic environment. The primary approach in our schools is one of competition for grades and recognition. Teachers need to sell the concept of CL to the students by making clear what the objectives are and what the benefits will be. Until the students become comfortable with this new method, they will express concerns and doubts. Additionally, CL encourages student input on methodology. Not surprisingly, some of this feedback may be critical. Student criticism may be new to many teachers.
Students feel that the lecture method is "easier" because they are passive during the class while apparently receiving the necessary information. In contrast, interactive classes are very intense. The responsibility for learning is shifted to the student, thus raising the level of critical thinking by each student. This situation is both mentally and physically tiring. The students initially respond by complaining and lobbying for a return to the good old lecture days. For a new CL practitioner this can be very disconcerting. To the more experienced teacher, this is just part of the process all groups go through as they learn how to use CL techniques, and begin to see and appreciate its benefits as they move away from the comfortable paradigm of the lecture method.
Also, students may perceive the teacher as not doing his/her job. Collaborative classrooms are student centered whereas in typical classes teacher performance is seen as central to the class. In order to address this concern, teachers need to make clear to the students why they use a particular technique and what the outcomes will be from the activity. Another way for teachers to overcome this perception is to spend time with the groups or with individuals during the class. Teachers may walk around the class to observe groups interacting, make suggestions or ask leading questions in order to help facilitate the groups. The frequent emphasis upon and explanation of their roles in the CL process is a critical task teachers must do in order for their students to fully understand what they are observing.
LACK OF FAMILIARITY WITH CL TECHNIQUES
AND CLASS MANAGEMENT
A number of perceived problems are associated with classroom procedures. Teachers are often concerned about the potential dominance by a few students or a few students doing all the work. These questions can be addressed by assigning roles to students and rotating the roles, allowing students to assign performance grades to each other anonymously and specifying what percent of the total assignment was completed by each member, and by the teacher observing each group and making suggestions for more equal participation. Group processing throughout the semester also helps address these issues. Questions about what to do with quicker class members and/or groups who finish a given assignment early can be resolved. Additional activities can be developed or a reward system can be created whereby students are allowed to socialize or work on other materials provided they do not disrupt the students who are still working.
Collaborative learning is difficult to sustain. As in any real life situation, repetition leads to boredom. (This is certainly true if one uses the lecture approach continuously.) A significant advantage to CL is the variety of classroom activities available to the experienced teacher. When adopting CL the teacher needs to learn the new techniques, practice them, introduce them into the classroom and work with the students to practice the new methods. Also, it is often necessary to convince the students of the benefits of working together. The fact that the responsibility for learning is being shifted to the students is hard for some students to adjust to.
Other problems: CL involves trial and error approaches. Not every activity works exactly as planned and constant modification is needed. Some activities work better with some groups than with others and classes react differently to each situation. In some institutions CL is seen as cheating because the educational pedagogy recognizes and rewards individual effort and competition and discourages cooperation among students. Also, students who are exposed to CL and have enjoyable experiences in a supportive educational environment have a difficult readjustment back to other classes where CL is not used.
If the institution has a perspective that says what is going on is material coverage instead of material mastery then the teachers will be less concerned about what students are learning and more concerned about including as much material as they can in a class period. Content versus learning centered classes are the primary focus of modern educational systems. In addition, thinking about learning primarily as a social interaction is a strange idea for most instructors, students and administrators, who expect to see the teacher controlling the class through lectures and/or teacher directed class discussion. Another potential problem arises for students who learn best by the auditory modality and who may be distracted by noise in the class. This problem can be addressed through student social skill development which identifies acceptable ways for students to talk and interact in class.
LACK OF TEACHER TRAINING IN COLLABORATIVE
The current teacher training methodology does not foster CL. Teachers are not trained to facilitate groups, use brainstorming techniques, facilitate conflict management, or use group dynamics theory. They are trained to be good classroom managers with orderly students quietly listening to their lectures or doing their work individually. Many teachers do not know how or where to start using CL techniques in their classrooms.
Teachers are not trained to involve their students in the development of class procedures and assessment and are therefore not likely to accept constructive criticism from students. Also, teachers have trouble dealing with dissention in class by students who do not want to use CL methods. Convincing students that they are learning well or benefiting from this method is not always easy. Therefore, teachers need to be well grounded in the philosophy of CL and they must have opportunities to practice in a safe environment.
Collaborative learning skills need to be modelled to become effective, yet how many administrators run their schools or departments in a cooperative fashion? Very few meetings are run using collaborative techniques. It takes a great deal of effort to change what one is comfortable doing, especially if the same process has been used for many years. In order to move into CL teachers must rethink what they are doing in their classes and how they are accomplishing their goals. Most teachers have not seen group work in action so they have very few models to go by when trying to make changes.
Teachers generally reflect the teaching styles of their professors and in turn want their students to emulate themselves. There is a great deal of comfort in propogating the familiar. At the university level the preferred pedagogy is the lecture, thus there are few role models for future teachers who might be interested in using CL methods. Most professors are more concerned with doing research than with teaching. This situation is reflected in their teaching loads compared to graduate student research supervision. Except within some education departments, very little research goes on in support of good teaching practices. Within institutions there are very few role models to provide mentoring for teachers. In fact, teachers are often criticized by their peers when they do try to institute CL. Critical comments by teachers about room noise and student activity in the classroom are often used to discourage people from using CL techniques.
Because teachers receive little training in CL they are unaccustomed to what takes place in the CL class. One consequence is that they find it hard to believe that students can be learning the content material while they are socializing in their groups. Social learning is unique to CL and creates an enjoyable as well as interesting environment. This is not very surprising: human beings are social animals so any situation which encourages and enhances this basic instinct is bound to be deeply satisfying and enjoyable; learning in such instances is magnified, not diminished. Additionally, students' self esteem builds as they gain confidence in themselves and their peers, leading to additional enjoyment of the learning process. In real life situations people work, learn and socialize all at the same time. If we are to help our students move into social and employment situations, then we need to provide a model for them to follow which includes cooperation and team efforts, as well as individual efforts, in a social environment leading to the accomplishment of their task at hand.
Another consequence of the teacher's lack of familiarity with CL classes is the feeling of guilt which arises. Teachers do not feel they are teaching if they are not dispensing information. They may appear to be inactive since it is necessary to allow time for the groups to interact without teacher intervention. Even if teachers move around the classroom observing the students or talking to individuals or groups, in their minds they still do not fit the picture of a teacher. Students may comment on the fact that they do not see the teacher "teaching". It takes a high degree of confidence and training to overcome these personal feelings and to resist student pleas to move back to the lecture format.
REASONS WHY ADMINISTRATORS LACK AN UNDERSTANDING OF COLLABORATIVE LEARNING TECHNIQUES AND PHILOSOPHY
LACK OF TRAINING OR EXPOSURE TO
Many professors start their teaching careers with minimal training in teaching techniques. As they move into administrative positions they advance by starting at the department chair level, then moving up through the division dean position to dean and president. Advanced degrees focus on administrative areas instead of teaching. Theydo not receive training in CL as part of their teacher preparation processs and do not receive any CL training in their administrative Masters or Doctoral degree programs. Few administrators seek out information about CL through seminars or individual courses. Thus they maintain their primary focus on the traditional classroom where the teacher provides students with information via a lecture format and the students listen attentively and quietly. Adminmistrators who lack a well grounded understanding of CL tend to evaluate teachers who use it negatively and this in turn undermines the teachers attempts to initiate CL in their classes.
LACK OF FAMILIARITY WITH ALTERNATE
STUDENT ASSESSMENT TECHNIQUES
As with teachers, administrators have not been trained in the alternative assessment techniques which are vital to collaborative learning. They continue to support the individual, competitive exam systems and discourage techniques which involve group grading. This problem is exacerbated by state assessment tests and the national SAT and Achievement exams which also emphasize individual performance and content mastery instead of process mastery. Grade point averages and class rank are emphasized in order to promote student acceptances into top colleges. Colleges themselves rely heavily on the standardized tests for admissions criteria. College courses are content oriented and competitively graded based upon class curves. Secondary school teachers and administrators attempt to provide classroom environments which model college classes in order to help their students succeed later.
REASONS WHY STUDENTS RESIST COLLABORATIVE LEARNING
STUDENTS' LACK OF FAMILIARITY
WITH COLLABORATIVE TECHNIQUES
A major problem in implementing CL arises because students lack an understanding of the underlying philosophies of CL. Our current system encourages competition and individual responsibility and discourages student interaction. Understandibly, student resentment arises when they are asked to share information and study techniques or to help their peers. The superior students have figured out how to get good grades in a competitive situation and to share that information is a complete anathema. CL redefines the role of the student and the teacher and their interelationships by creating a nurturing environment versus a competitive one.
FEAR OF LOSS OF CONTENT AND ABILITY
TO ACHIEVE HIGH GRADES
Students initially do not have a clear way of knowing if the work they are doing is correct. The process of student centered discovery and construction of their own knowledge base is new to most students. It is exactly this process that helps students develop critical thinking skills but they often resent the fact that group work shifts the burden of learning to themselves. They feel much more comfortable hearing the teacher present the important facts instead of having to sort out what is important. A common fear among students is that all the group members will be wrong, leading to failure.
The CL process calls for constant review and summary through whole class discussions and presentation of material by individuals and groups. In addition the teacher is continuously observing the groups and making suggestions about how to procede or where to go to find necessary information. Over time students become more comfortable with the process as they understand that their questions will be answered and that the teacher is an active participant in the process, taking on the role of facilitator or coach instead of expert information presenter.
PARENT REACTIONS TO COLLABORATIVE LEARNING
LACK OF PARENT UNDERSTANDING OF
Our society is not used to collaboration. It is used to authority and direction, particularly in the work place. Management trends such as TQM and CQI with quality teams are slowly being adopted by colleges as well as businesses. Until there is widespread use of teams in businesses and at colleges the parents of students will have little understanding of the collaborative process. Parents are not generally involved at the college level, however, at K-12 parents have a significant impact on the system and here they may impede the implementation of CL. Parents of upper level students often complain about their children being used as tutors or appearing to carry the load for a group. Students try to enlist their parents in a effort to discourage teachers from using CL, for all the reasons cited above. Parents rarely visit CL classes to observe first hand what is taking place, and teachers do not make enough of an effort to invite them into the process. As with teachers and administrators, parents are used to seeing a quiet classroom with the teacher in front lecturing. This is the pedagogy they were exposed to throughout their own education so they feel comfortable seeing the same approach.
Administrators often react to parent pressure and discourage attempts by teachers to introduce new pedagogies. They give lip service to the concept of active, hands on learning in groups, but in reality do not encourage adoption of these techniques. It will require a significant effort to educate parents as well as students about the benefits and procedures used in CL classrooms.
GETTING STARTED USING COLLABORATIVE LEARNING TECHNIQUES
Successful implementation of a CL strategy is much like planning for a journey. The more people you talk to who have been to your destination and the more background research you do, the more successful you will be. As a first step we recommend observing a teacher or teachers who are experienced and proficient in the use of CL techniques: professors who have excellent reputations among students and teachers for their CL teaching techniques. Many people profess to use CL techniques but in reality are not qualified in this area. We recommend several class visits prior to initiating research and reading into CL techniques, in order to experience first hand the sensations and reactions one has when first observing people placed in groups as the primary instruction paridigm (Kidder 1989). In an ideal situation the teacher you observe would also serve as mentor and coach. However, if CL practitioners are not available, then an alternative is to take a course in CL, being careful to make sure that it is truly an interactive class. The activities provide the personal experiences needed to understand how teachers and students react to CL.
Once you have decided that CL is a viable teaching strategy, obtaining training prior to introducing it into your classes is mandatory. We suggest seminars, workshops, and courses which model CL through interactive activities, and demonstrate specific techniques, warmup activities and group building exercizes. Training should extend over time and not consist of a single seminar or intensive multi day workshop (Cooper 1992). Becoming a CL teacher is an exploratory process which requires practice, analyses, feedback and continual modification. The process is evolutionary and will continue to change throughout one's career (Rolheiser-Bennett, & Stehahn 1992). Continuous self evaluation and revision of one's techniques, by attending and presenting at CL seminars and sharing ideas and techniques with colleagues, creates exciting professional development opportunities. Continuously learning new methodologies helps prevent teacher burnout, caused by repeating and using the same lecture and class technique every semester.
It is important at this stage to start building a library of books and articles for reference and to provide a philosohpical basis for adopting CL. There are many excellent resources available in the form of edited books (Slavin 1990; Davidson 1990; Sharan 1994), manuals (Johnson, Johnson & Holubec 1984, 1990,1992; Cooper et al 1995; Reynolds et al 1995; Foster 1993) and magazines (Graves & Graves, Editors) published by CL practitioners. Of course, the reading you do will be much more meaningful if it is done in the context of initiating CL.
The best time to start CL is at the beginning of the semester when students are most receptive to being introduced to new class procedures. It is more difficult, but not impossible if this is the only choice, to switch during the semester after students have become adjusted to particular class procedures. Students need to be sold on the idea of CL. In our current system CL is not used by enough teachers to make it familiar to students and thus easily adopted.
Preparation for classes using CL is the key to success. Explaining in detail why you are using CL is mandatory, as well as describing the benefits and results. Providing written materials describing CL, such as journal or newspaper articles, gives students a rationale and philosophical basis for its use. Making clear what process will be used to evaluate students is very important. Possibilities include group grades on projects or tests or undividual grades. The criteria for grades must be clear in either case.
When starting CL, using techniques you feel comfortable with and which have the greatest potential for success is very helpful. Having students work in pairs is the easiest to organize has the fewest social problems associated with it, and engages the greatest number of students (Swartz, Black & Strange, 1991). With pairs one person verbalizes while the other listens and responds. This creates an environment where 100% student participation is achieveable.
We recommend the use of worksheets, one for each pair, which are handed in at the close of the lesson, and signed by both group members for some form of credit or grade. We suggest using worksheets initially because students and teachers cannot be expected to move from the traditional lecture classroom to CL techniques like Jigsaw and Structured Controversy overnight. Our experiences have shown that students tend to work independently and need a mechanism to focus their attention on the group effort. Asking students to work on textbook questions does not provide enough incentive to get them to work together (though it's certainly acceptable to use textbook questions in developing worksheets). We think of the use of the worksheet in pairs as a bridging mechanism between the old and the new, as a way of easing or transitioning into CL in small steps and measured doses, using materials familiar to both teachers and students, while they acclimate themselves to this new method of learning.
The worksheet in pairs is an excellent method for novice teachers to begin incorporating Cl activities into their classroom. For multiple section classes it might be adviseable to try this technique on a single section first in order to evaluate the outcomes and student responses. Try it on your best class. If successful, implementing the technique in all the other sections with a high degree of confidence becomes easier. Changes can be tried prior to effecting a large number of students.
In order to help students begin the process of working collaboratively, it is necessary to provide activities which will foster a cooperative environment and encourage students to get to know each other from different perspectives (Weinstein & Goodman 1980; Williams 1992; Johnson & Johnson 1985, 1990). This can be accomplished through warmup and ice breaking activities. At the beginning of each semester we use a pairs interview technique in which students discuss their interests including career interests, academic majors, hobbies and extracurricular activities, etc. Two specific questions which we want answered are "What is your biggest concern about the course?" and "How to you feel about the subject we are studying?" When we teach math classes the second question elicits many responses which reflect the students' math anxieties, and this provides an opportunity to begin to address them during the first class. Students also learn that they are not alone in their concerns.
When we start using larger groups we use an activity called "Finding Things In Common" in which the group must find, appropriately enough, five things they all have in common which are not related to school, work or family, but are of a personal nature such as favorite musician, food, reading material, or a place they have all visited. This activity helps students get to know each other on a personal level and encourages them to discover commonalities. Another group building activity has each group write on one flip chart size paper fears about the course, the semester or being in school generally, and on a second paper their hopes and aspirations or reasons for attending the course or school. The charts are hung around the room and provide a basis for a class discussion about common fears and hopes. What becomes clear is that their fears are often opposite their hopes. This activity gives students a feeling of being interconnected.
A third activity we use is to ask group members to find something in their pocketbook or wallet which will help others in the the group get to know them better and to explain why this item reflects their nature or personality. This is an enjoyable activity and helps build a sense of social interaction in an academic setting.
An activity recommended by Nell Warren Associates (Warren 1995) asks students to draw a picture of themselves on a sheet of paper, or write a series of words on a paper, or draw pictures of animals or objects with which they identify themselves. Each participant pins the sheet to his/her clothing and then circulates around the room reading other students' sheets, without talking. Every minute the teacher signals the students to move on to someone new, for a total of ten to fifteen meetings. After the nonverbal activity the group members ask questions of the other participants. At the end of the activity the members briefly discuss their feelings and reactions to this technique. This is a likeable activity which in addition to getting students to interact and learn more about themselves, also encourages them to start the process of analysing group activities and their own reactions to class and group interactions. Other activities include having students make up three statements about themselves, only one of which is true. Then put students into groups and have them guess which statements are true by questioning each other; the questions must be answered honestly. These are just a few of the many activities available to teachers. There are many resources available which describe in detail warmup and group building activities (Kroehnert 1991; Scearce 1992; Weinstein & Goodman 1980; Williams 1993).
Using groups of three or more takes more preparation and thought in order to engage all the students in the activity. Role assignment may be needed to insure an equal distribution of effort and training in appropriate group behavior will also be necessary to insure active participation by all members. When introducing a topic the teacher will find it helpful to use a short lecture followed by the CL activity. It is very comforting to the teacher and student alike to mix lecturing with group work. As the teacher gets more experienced and confident with CL it becomes possible to start classes with CL activities and then later use short lectures to highlight concepts or address problems or questions groups have as they arise.
In order to begin using collaborative learning techniques Artzt and Newman (Davis, Maher, Noddings (Eds.) 1990) suggest trying them out with homework assignments initially. Students need to be advised that they will be working together during the next class in order to encourage them to do the homework. At the beginning of the class allow ten minutes for each group to compare their homework results and come to an agreement on the best solutions. Then have the group submit one set of solutions. Finally, the teacher leads a discussion on the difficulties the students have encountered. A particular benefit to this process occurs when students have the opportunity to check their homework within the privacy of the group and work out trivial difficulties without needing to involve the entire class. It is also not necessary to discuss all the homework problems with the whole class, thus saving time for additional group work. The teacher has an opportunity during this period to observe each group interacting and to see which students have done the work and at what level of performance.
Another collaborative technique which we find helpful is to assign groups the responsibility for working out one problem or answering one question out of a set of problems, then placing their answer on the board. The teacher may chose one of the group members to go to the board or the group may chose someone, providing they do not chose the same person every time. Several members may work at the board together if they feel more comfortable that way. More accountability accrues when the teacher choses the presenter because all group members must be informed and ready to do the work on the board. A variation of this technique is to have each student explain his/her approach in a mini lecture and answer other students' questions. This technique is especially useful in mathematics and science classes and has applications in other technical and nontechnical courses as well.
In class, academic games also help build a sense of group cohesion. In Math Olympics, for example, groups of four or five students attempt five problems which are placed on the board. Each group is responsible for answering all the problems. After a set time one member of each group writes their group's answers on a grid on the board. The results are checked for accuracy. The groups are responsible for establishing their own procedures; each member may do one problem or all the problems. They then check with each other to reach an agreement on their solutions. If at any time there appears to be a consensus that the groups are missing a concept, a mini lecture can be given or students may be asked to explain their approaches. While the groups are working, their problem solving activities and interactions may be observed by the professor. At the end of the session a few minutes are allowed to discuss what transpired within their groups and what they can do to improve their working together.
Felder and Brent(1994) recommend the following in-class procedures. Early in a class period, organize the students (or have them organize themselves) into teams of two to four, and randomly assign one student in each group the role of team recorder. Ideally, after no more than 15 minutes of lecturing, give the teams an assignment to do, instructing the recorder to write down the team responses. You may circulate among the teams verifying that they are on task, everyone is participating and that the recorders are doing their job. Stop the teams after a suitable time and randomly call upon students to present their teams' solutions. Suggested topics include: recalling prior material; stage setting by identifying questions under consideration for the day; asking students to think in advance about questions which can effectively motivate them to watch for the answers during the remainder of the class period; responding to questions such as "What procedure could I use here?" or "What would you guess is the next step?"; problem solving- "Turn to page 27 and answer question 5 together"; analytical, evaluative and creative thinking- "List all the assumptions, problems, errors, ethical delemmas you can find in this case study, scenario, problem solution"; generating questions and summarizing; Jigsaw- each group member is assigned a different part of a question or problem, then they join with members of other groups who have the same section in order to become experts on their topic, and then return to teach the group what they have learned. These are a few of the many activities which may be used to initiate collaborative learning procedures in classes.
Keeping a record of what works and why as you develop CL techniques is desirable. A teaching journal is very handy for this purpose. Spontaneous changes are sometimes made in techniques based upon student reactions and group results. It is important to make a record of these changes in order to keep track of them and to be able to modify course materials for future use or for sharing with colleagues. It also is helpful to record what doesn't work and the reasons why.
Involvement of students in evaluating the CL activities and in designing them is important, yet few teachers are trained or encouraged to do this. There are several simple techniques which ask students to write about their reactions to the class or describe what they have learned. The One Minute Paper given at the conclusion of the class (Weaver & Cotrell 1985; Cross & Angelo 1993) asks students to describe the most important concept they learned and what question(s) they still have. This helps the teacher determine if the material was indeed understood by the students. We often lecture and presume students understand what we are saying. A variation is the Think-Pair-Share activity, in which students complete the One Minute Paper, share their written comments with a partner, and then with the whole class. Such a technique might be employed at the end of class or at the beginning of the next class to help students verbalize their understanding of particular concepts.
Other noteworthy ideas: asking groups to identify three things they did well and one thing that needs improvement helps focus attention on the groups' social skills. A classroom meeting model can be used to discuss any issue facing a class. To do this sit the students in a circle where they can see each other, and discuss some aspect of the class procedure or content. The teacher may moderate the discussion, or for a more collaborative approach, a ping-pong procedure can be used in which the student speaking recognizes the next speaker and so on. Students can be asked to write about problems they see occurring in class or in their groups, as an individual assignment or part of their regular writing journal.
CL is based upon a philosophy of working together. It is necessary for teachers to model this approach by seeking student opinions and suggestions for improvements in the course. In turn students are encouraged to assume an ownership of the class, and very high expectations are set by involving the students with the teacher in designing classes. The class is personalized by the active involvement of the student and teacher in a deliberative process. This is not possible when the lecture method is the only class procedure employed.
When CL is introduced into a class students need to be trained in group dynamics theory, social skills and conflict resolution. Teachers need to be trained in these areas as well through attendance at workshops, seminars, courses and in-service activities and mechanisms must be established to determine if groups are functioning properly. To begin, there are several mechanisms available to accomplish the student training. The use of a T-chart specifies what a particular desired activity or behavior should look like and sound like to an outside observer. If equal participation is desired, then the teacher needs to facilitate a class discussion about what student behaviors would be observed during a CL activity, to insure that this social skill was being accomplished. A collaborative activity might be used prior to the class discussion by involving groups of 2-4 students in identifying and discussing the characteristics first, possibly prioritizing them, and then reporting back to the class as a whole. These characteristics are then placed upon a chart and displayed in a prominent place. For a specified period of time a particular skill is worked on by the class. At the end of each class or activity some time needs to be allotted to review how the groups performed the social skill under study and what might be done to improve their actions and behaviors to facilitate the desired behavior. Another technique is to have group members evaluate each other's performance during an activity as to the amount and quality of the contributions made by each member. Asking students to write about what worked and what didn't is a good way to determine if desired outcomes are being achieved.
Another important mechanism the teacher has to provide feedback to groups comes from the observation of their performance on assignments during class. The teacher generally spends time during each class walking among groups, observing their activities and behaviors, answering questions and socializing with students. This provides teachers with an excellent opportunity to listen to students explain concepts and interact with each other. The teacher may then comment on these observations at the end of class. There are also more formal mechanisms to observe groups, which include activities like tallying how many times each student participates or determining the quality of participation in terms of how many times he/she uses a particular social skill.
Once teachers become comfortable with using groups they may wish to expand their repertoire of activities. Slavin (1990) provides a complete description of more advanced CL techniques. For the purposes of this paper these techniques will be listed only by name with associated references. Co-op, Co-op (Kagan 1989); CIRC- Cooperative Integrated Reading and Comparison (Madden, Slavin, Stevens 1986); Group Investigation (Sharan & Sharan 1976); Issues Controversy (Johnson & Johnson 1987); Jigsaw (Aronson et al 1978); Jigsaw II (Slavin 1983): Learning Together (Johnson & Johnson 1987); TAI-Team Assisted Individualization (Slavin, Leavey & Madden 1986); TGT-Teams-Games-Tournament 1978); STAD- Student Teams Achievement Divisions (Kagan1978): Structures (Kagan 1989).
As the CL process is begun forming support groups with other teachers in departmental areas or across curricula is desirable. Having a resource group to share ideas and techniques and to discuss new approaches is important. The Johnsons refer to base groups and formalize the process by having them meet regularly to report on specific activities that members have tried. They recommend that teachers sign contracts with the base group to help provide additional motivation for new users of CL techniques. The formation of support groups is necessary because few teachers use CL; therefore it is difficult to receive feedback or advice from experienced teachers.
Because CL is relatively new to many institutions, teachers must work with their supervisors to make sure they are aware of the techniques as well as reasons for using them. Supervisors who are used to seeing orderly, quiet classes with students listening to a lecture need to be informed about the nature of CL classes, where students talk in groups and socialize while they work on task. A common concern among CL teachers is that their supervisors will not understand what is taking place in the class and that poor evaluations will result. This problem can be avoided by the institution's providing training for administrators, and by the teachers working closely with their department heads and other supervisory personnel.
BENEFITS OF COLLABORATIVE LEARNING
1. DEVELOPS HIGHER LEVEL THINKING SKILLS (Webb 1982).
Students working together are engaged in the learning process instead of passively listening to the teacher present information. Pairs of students working together represent the most effective form of interaction, followed by threesomes and larger groups (Schwartz, Black, Strange 1991). When students work in pairs one person is listening while the other partner is discussing the question under investigation. Both are developing valuable problem solving skills by formulating their ideas, discussing them, receiving immediate feedback and responding to questions and comments by their partner (Johnson, D.W. 1971). The interaction is continuous and both students are engaged during the session. Compare this situation to the lecture class where students may or may not be involved by listening to the teacher or by taking notes (Cooper, et al 1984). In collaborative learning the teacher is able to observe and assess individual student's thinking skills and approach to learning.
2. PROMOTES STUDENT-FACULTY INTERACTION AND FAMILIARITY
The collaborative process enables the teacher to move around the class in order to observe students interacting (Cooper 1984). An opportunity is created whereby the teacher can talk to the students directly or in small groups. Teachers may raise questions to help direct students or explain concepts. In addition, a natural tendency to socialize with the students on a professional level is created by approaches to problem solving and about activities and attitudes which influence performance in class. Students often mention offhandedly that they are having difficulties outside of class related to work, family, friends, etc. Openings like this can lead to a discussion of those problems by the teacher and student in a non-threatening way because of the informality of the situation.
3. INCREASES STUDENT RETENTION
Students who are actively involved in the learning process are much more likely to become interested in learning and make more of an effort to attend school (Astin 1977). A class where students interact fosters an environment conducive to high student motivation and participation and student attendence (Garibaldi 1976; Treisman 1985).
4. BUILDS SELF ESTEEM IN STUDENTS (Johnson & Johnson 1989)
Collaborative efforts among students result in a higher degree of accomplishment by all participants as opposed to individual, competitive systems in which many students are left behind (Slavin 1967). Competition fosters a win-lose situation where superior students reap all rewards and recognition and mediocre or low-achieving students reap none. In contrast everyone benefits from a CL environment. Students help each other and in doing so build a supportive community which raises the performance level of each member (Kagan 1986). This in turn leads to higher self esteem in all students (Webb 1982).
5. ENHANCES STUDENT SATISFACTION WITH THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
By their very nature people find satisfaction with activities which value their abilities and include them in the process. Effective teams or groups assume ownership of a process and its results when individuals are encouraged to work together toward a common goal, often defined by the group. This aspect is especially helpful for individuals who have a history or failure (Turnure & Zeigler 1958) Passive educational experiences where the student is the receptacle for information presented by the expert teacher are inherently dissatisfying.
6. PROMOTES A POSITIVE ATTITUDE TOWARD THE SUBJECT MATTER
Collaborative learning fosters a higher level of performance by students(Bligh1972). Their critical thinking skills increase and their retention of information and interest in the subject matter improves (Kulick & Kulick 1979). When students are successful they view the subject matter with a very positive attitude because their self esteem is enhanced. This creates a positive cycle of good performance building higher self esteem which in turn leads to more interest in the subject and higher performance yet. Students share their success with their groups, thus enhancing both the individual's and the group's self esteem. Some cooperative learning structures formalize this effect by awarding certificates of achievement or improvement to students, or extra credit to groups for an individual's or group's improvement.
7. DEVELOPS ORAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS (Yager 1985)
When students are working in pairs one partner verbalizes his/her answer while the other listens, asks questions or comments upon what he/she has heard. Clarification and explanation of one's answer is a very important part of the collaborative process and represents a higher order thinking skill (Johnson, Johnson, Roy, Zaidman 1985). Students who tutor each other must develop a clear idea of the concept they are presenting and orally communicate it to their partner (Neer 1987).
8. DEVELOPS SOCIAL INTERACTION SKILLS
A major component of cooperative learning elaborated by Johnson, Johnson and Holubec (1984) includes training students in the social skills needed to work collaboratiively. Students do not come by these skills naturally. Quite the contrary, in our society and current educational framework competition is valued over cooperation. By asking group members to identify what behaviors help them work together and by asking individuals to reflect on their contribution to the group's success or failure, students are made aware of the need for healthy, positive, helping interactions when they work in groups (Cohen & Cohen 1991).
9. PROMOTES POSITIVE RACE RELATIONS (Johnson & Johnson 1972)
Research into the effect of using cooperative learning with students of varied racial or ethnic backgrounds has shown that many benefits accrue from this method (Slavin 1980). Because students are actively involved in exploring issues and interacting with each other on a regular basis in a guided fashion, they are able to understand their differences and learn how to resolve social problems which may arise (Johnson & Johnson 1985b). Training students in conflict resolution is a major component of cooperative learning training (Aronson 1978; Slavin 1993).
10. CREATES AN ENVIRONMENT OF ACTIVE, INVOLVED, EXPLORATORY LEARNING (Slavin 1990)
The entire focus of collaborative learning is to actively involve students in the learning process. Whenever two or more students attempt to solve a problem or answer a question they become involved in the process of exploratory learning. They interact with each other, share ideas and information, seek additional information, make decisions about the results of their deliberations and present their findings to the entire class. They may tutor their peers or receive tutoring. Students have the opportunity to help structure the class experience through suggestions regarding class format and procedures. This is a level of student empowerment which is unattainable with a lecture format or even with a teacher-led whole class discussion.
11. FOSTERS TEAM BUILDING AND A TEAM APPROACH TO PROBLEM SOLVING WHILE MAINTAINING INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTABILITY (Cooper et al 1984; Johnson, Johnson & Holubec 1984)
A major function of collaborative learning is team building. This is accomplished through a variety of techniques used throughout the duration of the semester. During the first few weeks of a collaborative class, warmup activities, getting to know class members' names, and practice exercizes help acclimate students to cooperative learning. As the semester progresses, group building exercizes and group processing are important techniques for helping students understand how they are functioning in their groups and what they can do to improve. Regarding individual accountability, at the end of each content section an exam or paper or other assessment mechanism is used to determine how well individual students have mastered the material (Slavin 1983b). Group projects or group tests may be given in addition.. Quizzes during the semester may also be given individually, thus maintaining a strong element of accountability by each group member. Numerous grading schemes exist which bring both elements together such as providing bonus points for group members when the group exceeds its previous group average on a test by a specified amount.
12. ENCOURAGES DIVERSITY UNDERSTANDING (Burnstein & McRae 1962)
Understanding the diversity that exists among students of different learning styles and abilities is a major benefit of collaborative learning. Lower level students benefit by modelling higher level students and they benefit by forming explanations and tutoring other students (Swing, Peterson 1982; Hooper & Hannafin 1988). Higher level students benefit by explaining their approaches. Students observe their peers in a learning environment, discuss problem solving strategies and evaluate the learning approaches of other students. Often behaviors which might appear odd when taken out of context become understandable when the opportunity is presented to students to explain and defend their reasoning. For example, Americans signal agreement by nodding vertically while students from India nod horizontally. Very little opportunity exists for students to explain their behavior in a lecture class, whereas in a CL environment discussions of this nature occur continuously. Warmup and group building activities play an important role in helping students understand their differences and learn how to capitalize on them rather than use them as a basis for creating antagonism.
13. ENCOURAGES STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY FOR LEARNING (Baird & White 1984)
Promotive interaction, a foundation principle of cooperative learning, builds students' responsibility for themselves and their group members through a reliance upon each other's talents, and an assessment process which rewards both individuals and groups. Students assist each other and take different roles within their groups (such as reader, recorder, time keeper etc.). An emphasis on student involvement is created in the development of the processes which the group follows. The empowerment of students produces an environment which fosters maturity and responsibility in students for their learning. The teacher becomes a facilitator instead of a director and the student becomes a willing participant instead of a passive follower.
14. INVOLVES STUDENTS IN DEVELOPING CURRICULUM AND CLASS PROCEDURES (Kort 1992)
During the collaborative process students are asked to assess themselves, and their groups as well as class procedures. Teachers who are confident in themselves can take advantage of this student input to modify the makeup of groups or class assignments and alter the mix of lecture and group work according to immediate student feedback. The teacher does not have to wait until the results of the section exam are returned to make alterations which will help the students understand the material. Students who participate in structuring the class assume ownership of the process because they are treated like adults, and their opinions and observations are respected by the authority figure in the class.
15. STUDENTS EXPLORE ALTERNATE PROBLEM SOLUTIONS IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT (Sandberg 1995)
Many students are hesitant to speak out and offer opinions publicly in a traditional classroom setting for fear of appearing foolish. When students work in groups, solutions come from the group rather than from the individual. In essence, the focus is removed from the individual, thus diffusing the effects of criticism, even constructive criticism, from any one student. Students can propose ideas and theories to their peers prior to formulating a final response, and then rehearse their presentation in an informal setting. If a group response is the end product, then the entire team becomes reponsible for the answer. Cl creates a safe, nuturing environment, where students can express themselves and explore their ideas without the fear of failure or criticism. In a lecture format an individual student responds to a question before the entire class without much time to think about his/her answer; such a situation vreates a threatening environment.
16. STIMULATES CRITICAL THINKING AND HELPS STUDENTS CLARIFY IDEAS THROUGH DISCUSSION AND DEBATE (Johnson 1973a, 1974a)
The level of discussion and debate within groups of three or more and between pairs is substantially greater than when an entire class participates in a teacher led discussion. Students receive immediate feedback or questions about their ideas and formulate responses without having to wait for long intervals to participate in the discussion (Peterson & Swing 1985). This aspect of collaborative learning does not preclude whole class discussion. In fact whole class discussion is enhanced by having students think out and discuss ideas thoroughly before the entire class discusses an idea or concept. The level of discussion becomes much more sophisticated. In addition, the teacher may temporarily join a group's discussion to question ideas or statements made by group members or to clarify concepts or questions raised by students.
17. ENHANCES SELF MANAGEMENT SKILLS (Resnick 1987)
Collaborative learning inherently calls for self management by students. In order to function within their groups they need to come prepared with assignments completed and they must understand the material which they are going to contribute to their group. Students are given training about what their responsibilities are toward the group and how to be an effective group member. They are also given time to process group behaviors, such as checking with each other to make sure homework assignments are not only completed but understood by each group member. These promotive interactions help students learn self management techniques.
18. FITS IN WELL WITH THE CONSTRUCTIVIST APPROACH (Davis, Mahler & Noddings 1990)
Only when students formulate their own constructs and solutions are they truly thinking critically. Collaborative techniques create a constructivist approach when students become actively involved in defining questions in their own language and working out answers together instead of reproducing material presented by the teacher or the textbook (Wooley et al 1990).
19. ESTABLISHS AN ATMOSPHERE OF COOPERATION AND HELPING SCHOOLWIDE (Deutsch 1975, 1985)
Most schools celebrate individual student performance through athletics,
clubs or extra curricular activities even when these accomplishments are the result of team efforts. In contrast, CL focuses attention on the accomplishments of the group. Students are trained how to interact positively, resolve disputes through compromise and/or mediation and encourage the best performance of each member for the benefit of the group. Teamwork is the modus operandi and intergroup cooperation is encouraged. Even when group competitons are used such as in STAD (Slavin 1987), the intent is to create a positive helping environment for all participants.
20. STUDENTS DEVELOP RESPONSIBILITY FOR EACH OTHER
In a traditional competitve classroom students are concerned with their individual grades and where they fit into the grade curve (Stahl 1992). Emphasis is placed on doing better than everyone else (Bonoma et al 1974). In the collaborative class the opposite is true. Mechanisms are in place which creatre interdependence among students and reliance upon others for the group's success. A nuturing atmosphere is created whereby students help each other and take responsibility for their entire group's progress. Group celebration of individual and group performances promote a supportive atmosphere and highlight each student's responsibility to the entire group.
21. BUILDS MORE POSITIVE HETEROGENEOUS RELATIONSHIPS
The current educational system rewards students achievement by separating students of differing abilities rather than encouraging students to utilize their abilities to help each other. Collaborative learning fosters student interaction at all levels (Webb 1980). Research has shown that when students of high ability work with students of lower ability both benefit. The former benefits by explaining or demonstating difficult concepts which he/she must understand thoroughly in order to do so, and the latter benefits by seeing a concept modelled by a peer. Both observe each other's approaches to problem solving and begin to appreciate their differences (Johnson & Johnson 1985c).
22. ENCOURAGES ALTERNATE STUDENT ASSESSMENT TECHNIQUES (Rosenshine & Stevens 1986)
Collaborative learning provides the teacher with many opportunities to observe students interacting, explaining their reasoning, asking questions and discussing their ideas and concepts (Cooper 1984). These are far more inclusive assessment methods than relying on written exams only (Cross & Angelo 1993). In addition, group projects provide an alternative for those students who are not as proficient in taking written tests based upon content reproduction. Also, group tests give students an alternate way of expressing their knowledge, by first verbalizing their solution to their partner or group prior to formalizing a written response.
23. FOSTERS AND DEVELOPS INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS (Johnson & Johnson 1987)
The reliance on base groups to help individuals keep track of each other's performance, the interdependence created by self and group assessment and improvement techniques, and the social nature of collaborative learning processes all combine to improve interpersonal relationships among students. Collaborative learning encourages out of class work by the groups, bringing them together in a combined academic and social experience which continues over long periods of time.
24. MODELLING PROBLEM SOLVING TECHNIQUES BY STUDENTS' PEERS (Schunk & Hanson 1985)
Students often learn more by listening to their peers than they do by listening to an authority figure like a teacher (Levin, Glass & Meister 1984). Peers often have a better understanding of what other students don't know or causes them difficulty than the teacher does. The focus is on the student, not the teacher. In addition to shifting responsibility for learning onto students, Cl provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge by helping their peers (Bargh & Schul 1980), an especially important advantage over the lecture method or class discussion form of teaching.
25. STUDENTS ARE TAUGHT HOW TO CRITICIZE IDEAS, NOT PEOPLE (Johnson, Johnson & Holubec 1984)
A function of collaborative learning is to help students resolve differences amicably. They need to be taught how to challenge ideas and advocate for their positions without personalizing their statements. They are also taught conflict resolution methods, which are important for real life situations as well as being useful for academic endeavors.
26. SETS HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS
Being made responsible for one's learning and for one's peers presumes that each student has that capability. Inherently high expectations are established for students. By setting obtainable goals for groups and by facilitating group interaction teachers establish high expectations which become self fulfilling as the students master the collaborative approach, learn how to work well together in teams and demonstrate their abilities through individual tests and a variety of other methods. Higher self esteem and higher expectations are the outcomes.
27. PROMOTES HIGHER ACHIEVEMENT AND CLASS ATTENDANCE (Hagman & Hayes 1986)
Students who develop personal professional relations with teachers by getting to know them, and who work on projects outside of class, achieve better results and tend to stay in school (Cooper 1984). Teachers who get to know their students and understand their problems can often find ways of dealing with those problems. They have a great advantage in formulating ways of assisting their students. Students are often inspired by the teacher who takes the time to get to know them and encourage them to aspire to better performance (Janke 1980).
28. STUDENTS STAY ON TASK MORE AND ARE LESS DISRUPTIVE
An enormous hidden benefit of CL is one most attractive to teachers: it negates many forms of student disruptive behavior. As any teacher knows, it is extremely easy for only one (or more) member(s) of an entire class to disrupt class proceeding when the lecture method is employed. In contrast, when students are working in groups, the stage is removed from those who try to act out (Stahl & VanSickle 1992). It is very difficult for an individual to gain the entire class's attention when the class is working in many smaller groups. Within groups intense working is being carried on because more students are involved actively in the process. The CL activities are very focused and often vreate a high degree of concentration by group members. Thus they will not be distracted by an individual acting out in another group or trying to gain the class's attention.
29. GREATER ABILITY OF STUDENTS TO VIEW SITUATIONS FROM OTHERS' PERSPECTIVES (DEVELOPMENT OF EMPATHY)
Students using collaborative learning methods are encouraged to question each other, debate issues and discuss each other's ideas and approaches to answering questions and solving problems. A much deeper understanding of individual differences and cultural differences among students is developed (Yager 1985b). Because students work in a supportive environment where group processing skills are taught, they are much more inclined to accept different approaches than if they work in a competitive, non-interactive system which credits individual effort above team effort (Johnson 1975a, 1975b). Additionally, students are exposed to many more methodologies with CL than those presented by the teacher using a lecture.
30. CREATES A STRONGER SOCIAL SUPPORT SYSTEM (Cohen & Willis 1985)
Collaborative learning uses students' social experiences to encourage their involvement in the learning process. Warmup exercizes and group building activities used throughout the course build a social support. The teacher plays a very active role in facilitating the process and interacting with each student. Administrators, school staff and parents become integral parts of the collaboration process, thus building into it many possibilities for support for any individual who develops problems, both academic and social (Kessler & McCleod 1985).
31. CREATES A MORE POSITIVE ATTITUDE TOWARD TEACHERS, PRINCIPALS AND OTHER SCHOOL PERSONNEl BY STUDENTS AND CREATES A MORE POSITIVE ATTITUDE BY TEACHERS TOWARD THEIR STUDENTS
The level of involvement of all the participants in a collaborative system is
very intense and personal. Students get to know teachers personally. Teachers learn about student behaviors because students have many opportunities to explain themselves to the teacher. Lines of communication are opened and actively encouraged. Teachers have more opportunities to explain why policies are established and the system allows students to have more input into establishing policies and class procedures. The empowerment created by the many interpersonal interactions leads to a very positive attitude by all parties involved.
32. ADDRESSES LEARNING STYLE DIFFERENCES AMONG STUDENTS (Midkiff & Thomasson 1993)
Students working in collaborative classes utilize each of the three main learning styles: kinesthetic, auditory and visual. For example, material presented by the teacher is both auditory and visual. Students working together use their kinesthetic abilities when working with hands on activities. Verbal and auditory skills are enhanced as students discuss their answers together. Visual and auditory modalities are employed when students present their results to the whole class. Each of these learning styles are addressed many times throughout a class in contrast to the lecture format which is mainly auditory and occasionally visual.
33. PROMOTES INNOVATION IN TEACHING AND CLASSROOM TECHNIQUES (Slavin 1980, 1990)
Collaborative learning processes include class warmup activities, name recognition games and group building activities, and group processing. Students work in pairs or larger groups depending upon the task at hand. Group work on content takes many forms, including pairs or groups working on individual questions, problem assignments, projects, study activities, group tests etc. Classes are interesting and enjoyable because of the variety of activities available for use by the teacher. In fact, collaborative learning effectively addresses the "Sesame Street" syndrome in which modern students are used to being exposed to information in short, entertaining sessions. These same students are also used to high tech computer systems which deliver material in a variety of ways including video, text, graphical illustrations, and interactive systems. Collaborative learning effectively matches or exceeds the above approaches to learning by actively involving every student.
34. CLASSROOM ANXIETY IS SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED (Kessler, Price & Wortman 1985)
In a traditional classroom when a teacher calls upon a student, he/she becomes the focus of attention of the entire class. Any mistakes or incorrect answers become subject to scrutiny by the whole class. Such experiences produce embarrassment and anxiety in many students. In contrast, in a CL situation, when students work in a group, the focus of attention is diffused among the group. When an answer is presented to the class it represents the work of the entire group; therefore no single individual can be held up to criticism. In additon, the group produces a product which its members can review prior to presenting it to the whole class, thus diminishing prospects that mistakes will occur at all (Slavin & Karweit 1981). When a mistake is made, it becomes a teaching tool instead of a public criticism of an individual student. Coincidentally, the general class attitude is one of cooperation and nurturing, not criticism.
35. TEST ANXIETY IS SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED (Johnson & Johnson 1989)
Competition increases anxiety and makes people feel less able to perform. CL creates the opposite response from students. It provides many opportunities for alternate forms of student assessment as described above. This situation leads to a reduction in test anxiety because the students see that the teacher is able to evaluate how they think as well as what they know. Students are not locked into a testing format which requires memorization and reproduction of basic skills. Through the interactions with students during each class, the teacher gains a better understanding of each student's learning style and how he/she performs. An opportunity is thus afforded to provide extra guidance and counseling for the students or to establish alternate forms of assessment. This type of interaction is completely lacking in a lecture class.
36. CLASSROOM RESEMBLES REAL LIFE SOCIAL AND EMPLOYMENT SITUATIONS
Students socialize with family members and friends and work in situations which require team work and group work. Training in collaborative learning followed by group activities and processes provide an environment in which students can practice building good social skills, process beneficial group behavior, and generally observe each other's actions and reactions to their behaviors (Breen 1981).
37. STUDENTS PRACTICE MODELLING SOCIETAL AND WORK RELATED ROLES
In collaborative classes students may be assigned roles in order to build interdependence within the groups. Roles such as reader, recorder, reporter, materials handler, time keeper, skeptic/challenger and others are rotated among group members for each new assignment or project (Johnson, Johnson and Holubec 1984). Students are thus encouraged to develop and practice the skills which will be needed to function in society and the work world (Houston 1992). These skills include leadership, information recording, communication of results orally and in writing, challenging ideas in a constructive manner, obtaining and distributing materials and information to group members, encouraging member participation, brainstorming, meeting deadlines, etc (Sandberg 1995). Wlodowski (1985) observes that, "If students realize the direct applicability of classroom small group problem-solving to their own lives, motivation to learn will show a marked increase." Building strong social characteristics within students can be practiced in a risk free environment with support and training from the teacher.
38. Cl is synergistic with writing across
POLICY ISSUES NEEDED FOR THE FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF COLLABORATIVE LEARNING IN CLASSES
Policy #1) Support and encouragement must come from the highest policy making and financial boards and from the chief executive at the institution. Boards of trustees and presidents must embrace CL as a high system priority. They must be willing to provide the resources needed to implement CL in the form of training opportunities and materials. If possible the CEO should participate in administrative training sessions (see policy #7). The CEO must provide the leadership in order to create an environment supportive of CL.
Policy #2) Teachers must be involved from the start in planning for CL and throughout the process of implementing CL in their classes. Even though the initial impetus must come from the top levels of administration, the development work must be done by the teachers and department level administrators to guarantee its effectiveness (Guskey 1986).
Policy #3) Funding must be adequate to provide for training workshops, conferences, teacher presentations at conferences and in-house, release time for initial preparation, on-campus activities, materials for use in class and continuous training.
Policy #4) Textbook manufacturers must be involved in the conversion to CL by providing supplemental materials in the form of worksheets, handouts describing group activities, and faculty training materials. Eventually professors will develop materials unique to their courses; however, this process will take several years and an interim approach is needed. Publisher materials will also help model CL handouts for teachers who are just beginning to develop their own materials.
Policy #5) A support group mechanism must be developed and encouraged to involve teachers in the initial development process and in the initial training activities. Meeting times and facilities must be provided along with mentors to help the new groups function (Maher & Alston 1990).
Policy #6) Teachers need to be encouraged to adopt CL in a risk free environment (Forest 1996). The teacher evaluation process must be modified to take into account the different teaching methods used, and student testing through standardized tests must be re-evaluated. Alternative forms of assessment will have to be introduced and accepted in order to provide an accurate assessment of the outcomes of CL.
Policy #7) CL should be modelled in institutional decision making. Meetings should be facilitated in a CL manner. Few leaders appear willing to delegate the power to teachers which is needed to implement institutional change. If we desire teachers to delegate power to their students and give up the control afforded by lectures, then administrators must be willing to make the same changes. Teachers must be given the opportunity to work in collaborative versus competitive environments in order to reinforce the benefits of CL.
Policy #8) Administrators and supervisors should be trained in CL and group dynamics (Cohen 1986, Cohen & DeAvila 1983) in order to be able to evaluate it and model it for the teachers. This goal can be accomplished through seminars, by observing experienced teachers, by taking courses in CL and through inservice training (Noddings 1989).
Policy #9) A CL library should be established within the institution and materials provided by teachers should be archived for use by other teachers. Funding must be provided for training materials, books, video tapes, journals, etc.
Policy #10) Students should be involved in the process through a student council, advisory group or committee assignments. The student leaders should receive training in CL also via workshops and in-school activities.
Policy #11) The general student population should receive training in conflict resolution, group dynamics and proper social behavior. This agenda could be accomplished outside of regular class time by bringing in experts and student trainers to work with student leaders and with groups of students. Teachers need to be trained in these techniques also. An institutional philosohpy of cooperation and conflict resolution must to be established.
policy #12) Teacher training colleges and universities must emphasize CL as the primary teaching paradigm and hire professors who can teach using CL methodology. Teachers will follow the same model they were taught by, which explains why the lecture method is predominant. CL must be modelled in every college class in order to establish this method in teachers' minds.
policy #13) Colleges must adopt CL as the primary learning method in order to encourage secondary and primary teachers to follow suit. Secondary teachers use the lecture format because they feel they must train their students to succeed at the college level.
policy #14) CL must be implemented at all education levels simultaneously. College professors bemoan the fact that students weren't trained in CL at the secondary level, high school teachers criticize junior high teachers, who in turn suggest that primary teachers need to start the process. This situation needs to be rectified by everyone's beginning to use CL so that eventually students will be trained from the very beginning of their education. We can't wait 12 years for the first class to go through the entire process in order for all students to be versed in CL when they reach college.
policy #15) Absolute grading instead of grading on a curve must be adopted by the institution and alternate forms of assessment (such as group grades and portfolios) must be encouraged. The bell curve grading system by its very nature fosters competition, restricts collaboration, and leads to anxiety among students (Tseng 1969). Within this system, if one student helps another, then he/she alters the bell curve and lowers his/her own grade. Absolute grading eliminates this threat. Higher standards are set in that every student who performs well can receive a top grade.
Policy #16) Curriculum planning and instruction must go hand in hand. "When a curricula is created, instruction must be considered, and when instruction is planned, curriculum materials must be appropriate for the mode of instruction." (Noddings 1989).
Policy #17) Facilities must be provided which are conducive to CL. Lecture halls with fixed ampetheater type seating makes student interaction difficult at best. Rows of desks neatly lined up are an anathma to CL. Moveable chairs and/or tables where students can work together must be provided. Tables large enough to seat 5 people would be ideal. This size table would comforatbly seat groups of 4 and provide flexibility for larger groups. Classrooms must be large enough to enable the professor to move easily about the room when interacting with the groups.
Policy #18) Teachers who are just beginning to use CL must be placed in an environment which will foster success, remove anxiety producing environments and encourage a major change in teaching style. In order to accomplish thisfinancing must be provided to maintain small class sizes and thus maximize student interactions and familiarity and increase student-teacher interaction. Class sizes of 20 are manageable. Depending on the subject matter smaller classes may be desireable. In our present economy this appears to fly in the face of reality, however, large classes are a major impediment to CL and must be reduced in order to encourage teacher participation.
Considering the sheer number of identifiable educational and societal benefits created by professors using collaborative learning techniques one would presume that it is the most widely used paradigm. Quite the contrary, the didatic method of lecturing is the most commonly used teaching approach in colleges and universities. The reasons presented previously in this chapter help us understand why more teachers have not adopted CL at all levels of education. The barriers appear to be formidable. It will take strong, humanistic leadership to encourage teachers to make the changes needed to begin the process of implementing CL in their classes.
The policies required for the complete implementation of CL are presented above. They provide a philosophy and framework whithin which administrators and faculty can work to make the transition from the lecture method to collaborative learning.
The policies call for an institutional
philosophy which encourages and supports collaborative interactions among
faculty, administrators and students in all college governance activites
as well as in teaching. Support must originate from the highest policy
making bodies and chief executives followed by development of collaborative
stuctures by the faculty at each institution. Financial support in particular
will be the the primary indicator of institutional dedication to this change.
Faculty development, appropriately equipped classrooms, small class sizes,
training administrators in appropriate evaluation techniques, all require
a higher level of funding than is currewntly provided. If additional funding
is not forthcoming then CL will wither and die instead of expanding as
it should to provide students with the best possible learniong environment.
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