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Collaborative education is a term used to describe several different educational models, but the common theme is involvement of a joint effort. Sometimes it is used to describe students working together in groups of two or more, but it can also be students and teachers or teachers with teachers.
The standard teaching model of an educator presenting material or lecturing in front of the class doesn’t allow for much collaboration, if any. When collaborating, the students’ learning process is more of the focus, and a teacher might be seen as a coach to assist the students in their experience.
The subject matter can be any topic that requires absorbing new ideas and information and processing it. The learners help each other by working together.
Collaborative Learning Theory
The following are some of the theories behind this approach:
• Learning is an active process – The collaborative method allows students to learn in a dynamic way, building on their existing understanding of a subject by fitting the new information into the construct as they go.
• Learning takes place in context – Our minds tend to take in all sorts of stimuli when learning. Collaborative learning often gives students complex tasks to accomplish before teaching the tools for a solution. This provides a wider basis for absorbing the material and a kind of trial and error.
• Learners are different – Diverse backgrounds of students often results in different learning styles. By examining how the students adapt to the material gives teachers information on how each student is learning.
• Learning is a social activity – Students are allowed to talk and interact. Studies have found that much of the learning happens when students are talking to each other and the teacher. This allows for immediate feedback which shapes the learning.
This is a somewhat new teaching model, but it is gaining ground in many school settings. As more research is conducted, we will learn more about this approach.