In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.
Communication and collaboration with others support active, engaged learning and community. Collaborative group work is learner-centered. It requires that all members of the group actively participate. They are then responsible for their own learning and, in part, the learning of others.
Collaboration encourages the sharing of information and perspectives, and requires both independent responsibility and cooperation. For example, a learner may be required to work as a member of a team, or in pairs. In many cases, collaboration reflects the realities of working under real-world conditions, where individuals may typically work in teams.
Types of Groups
Learners are encouraged to interact with others (fellow classmates, guest experts and practitioners, the instructor, and outside sources) and benefit from their experience and expertise.
Different types of activities require different ways to group learners. Here are three common grouping techniques:
1. Heterogeneous groups. Learners are grouped by their differences in skills and/or knowledge. For example, each learner in the group may have a different skill critical to the success of the group activity.
2. Homogeneous groups. Learners are grouped by their similarities in knowledge, skills, or simply by the groups unique task. For example, if you wanted to hold an online debate for or against an issue, the two sides should be fairly well matched.
3. Jigsaw groups. The jigsaw method is commonly used to have learners work cooperatively. Each group member is assigned a unique task. The goal is for the learners to present their findings to one another. To ensure the findings are accurate, learners consult with members of other groups assigned with the same task.
For more details on how jigsaw groups work, see www.jigsaw.org.
The point is that you probably want to group learners in a thoughtful and appropriate way that draws upon the experience, knowledge, and skills of the students, rather than just randomly. The size of the grouping should be appropriate to the task.
Preparing for Collaboration
When designing and planning for collaborative learning in your course:
1. Create a safe and supportive culture
2. Provide guidelines and expectations for group activities
3. Indicate the responsibilities and roles of the students
4. Build in a way for learners to assess one anothers performance working in the group.
Procedures for group activities are specified so that students are aware of their role and responsibility in collaborative activities.
Review the strategies for grouping learners for collaborative activities. Begin thinking about the following:
Which of the following is most appropriate for the subject area you are teaching:
1. small groups, 34?
2. large groups, 68?
3. whole class?
Thinking about how to group students? this two questions must be answered;
What is the teachers role?
What will be the product or outcome of their work?
Most LMSs provide spaces for groups of learners to collaborate and communicate. Simple tools such as Google Docs are also good for collaboration and give students experience with the tools used in many workplaces.
Learners are encouraged to interact with others (fellow classmates, course guests, etc.) and benefit from their experience and expertise.
Collaborative activities are designed to facilitate a safe learning environment.
Learn more about Collaborative Learning in this video.