How to Better Implement Collaborative Learning at School

Author: Tyler Cox

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Educators are constantly searching for ways to improve the learning process, and one method that's gained favor in recent decades is collaborative learning.

 

WHAT IS COLLABORATIVE LEARNING?

Building on the notion that "two heads are better than one," a collaborative learning approach in teaching involves enhancing the learning process by having students, or students and teachers, work together in small groups. The concept has been around for centuries, although in the 20th century, it was largely supplanted by lecture-based "sage on a stage" teaching models. It gained new life in the latter part of the century when research demonstrated that students learned faster and retained more when they became collaborators in the teaching and learning process as opposed to simply serving as empty cups into which knowledge was poured.

 

According to Cornell University's Center for Teaching Innovation, the benefits of collaborative learning include:

  • Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills.

  • Increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility.

  • Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives.

  • Preparation for real-life social and employment situations.

 

And while that may sound great, the challenge comes in developing and implementing effective collaborative learning strategies.

 

WORKING AND LEARNING TOGETHER

Unfortunately, efforts to implement collaborative learning activities often end up with groups of people sitting in a circle, with each focusing their attention on their own laptops. If they're lucky, an overachiever in the group will take charge of the project, leaving the others free to loaf while the overachiever does all the work.

 

To be successful, collaborative learning activities need to be complex enough that individuals can't accomplish them on their own, eliminating the possibility of the overachiever doing all the work.

 

Examples of collaborative learning might include the popular "think-pair-share" activity, where groups of two or three work together. The instructor poses a question for the group to consider. They'll work together to formulate a response and deliver that in person to the class or via an online discussion board. One of the advantages of think-pair-share activity is that the partners can often supplement gaps in the other's understanding of the problem or offer a perspective that the other member or members might not have considered.

 

Another example might be a "planned act of kindness," where the group decides on a project to undertake that benefits their school or the local community, with a group presentation to follow. For the project to be successful, each member needs to participate in whatever the group does, and each needs to have a speaking part in the presentation.

 

Although groups of two or three work well for think-pair-share, more complicated projects require groups of four, five, or six. Fewer members likely won't offer enough diversity for a successful project, while more than six will allow members to fade into the background and offer little in the way of participation.

 

Along with a group grade, it might be helpful to include a separate participation grade as well. In addition, have each member write a short reflection paper on the group process itself, outlining each member's roles during the project. Not only will that provide the group members with insight on how teams function, but it will also allow members to point out non-participation. 

 

COLLABORATION IN A PANDEMIC-AWARE WORLD

One of the main challenges to implementing collaborative learning strategies in today's educational environment is finding a way to do so while at the same time maintaining awareness of social distancing guidelines. Although the concept of having students work closely together may seem to be in opposition to policies that mandate keeping students apart, thanks to technology, that doesn't have to be the case.

 

Students can easily collaborate via web conferencing solutions, for example. And when it comes to delivering presentations, groups can take turns coming to the classroom while others watch from the comfort of their dorm room or campus library.

 

Of course, collaborating effectively while online requires the right technological tools. That starts with clear audio, which is directly related to increased classroom participation, better classroom management, and improved academic success.

 

If students are in the classroom but are spread out, solutions such as voice lift might be called for, and if they're participating remotely, a laptop microphone won't be sufficient. And for those who may not be able to attend the proceedings, a clear recording is critical.

 

When it comes to meeting video needs, Yamaha Unified Communications has partnered with Promethean and DisplayNote Technologies to create a three-for-one enterprise-grade plug-and-play collaboration tool for classrooms, huddle rooms, and conference rooms. Available exclusively from Promethean, the display system features Yamaha's CS-700 all-in-one Video Sound Bar, Promethean's ActivPanel Titanium Pro, and the DisplayNote Launcher application.

 

In addition, Yamaha UC's alliance with Mersive brings best-in-class audio and the "Bring Your Own Meeting" room system to hybrid workspaces. Yamaha UC's YVC series (YVC-200, YVC-330 & YVC-1000) fully integrate with Mersive's Solstice Pod to deliver a meeting and learning solution that creates engagement for a wide variety of spaces.


Of course, technology is just a starting point to creative classroom collaboration, but it's a necessary foundation. Learn more about Yamaha UC's audio solutions for education, and find out how Yamaha UC's ADECIA audio collaboration solution can enhance the modern classroom.