Cooperative and Collaborative Learning

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Cooperative and Collaborative Learning
Gale Encyclopedia of Education: Cooperative and Collaborative Learning |

Home > Library > History, Politics & Society > Education Encyclopedia Cooperative and collaborative learning are instructional contexts in which peers work together on a learning task, with the goal of all participants benefiting from the interaction. Cooperation and collaboration can be treated as synonymous, as a truly cooperative context is always collaborative. Varied perspectives on collaboration and their implications for classroom instruction will be described here, and a number of cooperative techniques involving dyads or larger groups will be outlined, including the costs and benefits associated with them in terms of cognitive or affective outcomes. Finally, the relationship between group and individual performance will be addressed. Theoretical Perspectives on Collaboration

In 1996, Robert Slavin described a variety of perspectives on peer learning, including social-psychological, sociocultural, cognitive-developmental, and cognitive-elaboration approaches. Explanations of how and what peers can learn from one another differ. Angela O'Donnell and James O'Kelly note that classroom decisions a teacher makes in relation to cooperative or collaborative learning depend on the theoretical approach adopted. Social-psychological approaches suggest that the interdependence among group members is the underlying mechanism for effective cooperation. Interdependence is created by using group rewards or by encouraging social cohesion and a norm of caring and helpfulness. From a cognitive-developmental perspective, effective peer learning occurs as a result of processes of cognitive conflict and resolution, or through the modeling of skilled behavior. A sociocultural perspective would suggest that the joint knowledge of the group members is greater than the individual knowledge of any member and that the group operates as an interacting system. In contrast, a cognitive-elaboration approach suggests that collaboration enhances student learning by providing a context in which individual learning is promoted by the use of more effective learning processes. In other words, an individual learns better with a peer because the peer provides an audience, prompts more metacognition, or maintains an individual's focus on a task. In creating and using collaborative groups for instructional purposes, teachers' decisions about the size and composition of groups, the kinds of tasks on which students will work, whether or not they should use explicit rewards, and the particular stance to take in relation to the collaborative groups will be influenced by the theoretical perspective that the teachers adopt. Collaborative Learning in Dyads and Groups

Dyads have many advantages as a functional unit for collaborative learning. The likelihood of participation by all students is increased when there are only two individuals involved. The larger the group, the more opportunity there is for diffusion of responsibility among group members or for exclusion of some members. Active participation in the collaborative process is essential for learning to occur. Among the cooperative techniques that can by used by dyads are scripted cooperation, devised by Angela O'Donnell and Donald Dansereau; reciprocal peer tutoring, devised by John Fantuzzo and...
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