A couple of myths about learning

Collaborative learning means less work for the teacher.

Quite the contrary, the collaborative learning activities require a lot of preparation. To select and design activities or questions are essential elements, as well as guiding the students to use appropriately the working abilities in small groups.

 

Teachers don’t do their work when students learn by themselves.

The teachers that use the collaborative learning methods assume that knowledge is created through interaction and not from teacher to student. Therefore, teaching starts with the knowledge, experience and understanding that the student has (and not the teacher has). This requires that the teacher leaves part of the traditional authority- and responsibility- that implied acting as an exponent.

The role of the teacher in collaborative learning is to create the environment in which the students discover the knowledge through interaction.

 

Teachers should change the whole syllabus to use the collaborative learning model.

Not all the activities are appropriate to work with collaborative learning. Individual and competitive tasks and activities should also be included to support the collaborative learning activities. If there isn’t a reason to do a collaborative learning activity, then the teacher should not change it.

When one considers using collaborative learning for a task, it should first be decided whether collaboration is an essential part of what is being taught. For example, when the students work in teams to write research reports, the teaching method is not separated from the content, because the students are learning not only to write, but to write collaboratively, which requires a different combination of abilities (Enerson, at al., 1997). When considering using a collaborative activity, teachers should ask themselves the following questions (Enerson, 1997):

  • What is the goal or objective of this task, project or activity?
  • How does it help the objective asking the students to work in a team?
  • Is the project complex and challenging enough so it is not possible for the student to do it individually?
  • Does the project requires that the students summarize their work in a collaborative way instead of doing the work individually and then putting it together to handle it in?