Collaborative learning is defined as term that describes a various approaches in education. Collaborative learning involves a shared logical effort by students or by students and teachers. It is referred to methodologies and environment in which the learners are engaged in a common task and for the completion of the task, each individual will depend on each other. The approach of collaborative learning is quite related to the collective learning wherein the groups of students will work together in order to search for meaning or solutions of a problem to create their artifact of learning. Collaborative learning includes different activities such as collaborative writing, group projects and many other activities.
The use of collaborative learning had characterized an important shift away from the usual teacher centered setting inside classrooms. The typical idea of education wherein the teacher lectures and the students listen and take down notes may not be completely omitted when using the collaborative learning approach. Instead, the typical setting in the classroom such as the lecture of teacher and listening of students will be included in other processes that will solely be based in discussions of students and group active works inside the collaborative classroom. Mentors who utilize the approach of collaborative learning consider themselves as less proficient transmitters of knowledge and education. Moreover, they consider themselves as more proficient designers of student’s intellectual experiences (Smith and Macgregor, 1992).
There are many forms of collaborative learning. One form is the Collaborative Network Learning. This form of learning is intended for self-directed adult learner. The collaborative networked learning is a form of learning wherein it occurs via electronic dialogue between the self directed co-learners and the learners and experts. The collaborative networked learning happens in interactive groups in which the participants actively communicate with one another within a contextual framework which may assisted by an on line coach, mentor or team leader. The second form of collaborative learning is a computer based one. The computer based collaborative learning had emerged as a new educational model among researchers and learners in several fields, including cognitive sciences, sociology and computer engineering. Thus, computer-supported collaborative learning represents a new trans-disciplinary field (Smith and Macgregor, 1992).
Theories of learning
The earlier statement consisted of the two forms of collaborative learning. Thus, collaborative learning may have introduced many of its forms and nowadays had been adopted by many teachers and learners; the field is attached together by many theories about the students and of course the process of learning.
In the history of education, there have been many theories presented about the process of learning. For many of the educators and the learners, learning is considered to be a process which is dynamic and constructive. In order for the students to learn new concepts, the teachers together with the students have to work energetically in a determined way. The students should incorporate the new information with the information or the knowledge that they have already gained. The new information also presents a way for the students to restructure the knowledge they have already gained. The approach of the collaborative leaning is not all about the grasping of new ideas by the students but instead the students will be given a chance to create newer information. Learning is considered to be dependent on a rich framework. According to Brown et al researches that were currently studied strongly recommend that learning is indeed manipulated by the framework that it is surrounded (Brown et al, 1989). The activities in the collaborative learning approach will engross the learners with the tricky and not so easy questions about a certain topic. The approach used by collaborative learning is started with the presentation of problems not unlike the typical classroom setting that every classroom session is started with the teacher’s lecture about a new topic or information. The reason why collaborative learning is warmed up first by problems is that the students or learners are encouraged to assemble and organize their thoughts about important and essential facts and information. This approach has also given the learners an essential educational growth in which they instantly become practioners. In the typical education setting, the students were only being thrown out into the idea that they become isolated observers of the different problems or questions being asked or administered by the teachers. Indeed, the rich framework of collaborative learning presents or gives the students a test to perform and develop a more complicated and rational way of reasoning and to develop skills related to problem solving (Smith and Macgregor, 1992).
Learners are varied or different according to their styles of learning. Educating students or learners are no longer assumed to be benefited by the approach of one-size-fits all. Since collaborative learning is using the approach of groups working together with a common goal, mentors or educators are having expectations of express and instant sense of how the students are learning. Moreover, mentors have also expectations of how the will the learners integrate the facts and ideas they have gained in the process of learning. The various perspectives of the different activities offered by collaborative learning are a great help for the learners because of the sense that perspectives are revealing and informative (Smith and Macgregor, 1992).
Learning is viewed as naturally and essentially social. The collaborative learning has a major structure of letting the students or the learners to talk with each other. Talking had presented evidence that students or learners have learned a lot with this approach (Golub, 1988). It is collaborative learning that had created the intellectual synergy in the minds of the learners to be able to solve the problem that had been given by the educator. It had also created a social encouragement and mutual commitment on a typical attempt. The feedbacks and the creating of meaning by the learners frequently guide the students to learn more and for the students to be able to create a new understanding that will be for the benefit of all.
There are many approaches concerning collaborative learning. Collaborative learning varies in terms of the time the students are engaged in the collaborative way of developing the traits brought about by collaborative learning. It can range from a variety of learning time such as short lectures (will only last for a session), a complete class periods, or for a period to study a research (will last for months). There are also a varied processes and objectives that concerns collaborative learning. Some of the educators have done their small group works in a manner wherein it is based on securely structured responsibilities that will be given and delivered to the learners. Other educators prefer to use a more unstructured scheme in developing the problem solving ability of the learners. Most of the educators use the setting wherein the learners are required to produce an evidently outlined product. While in others, the students are only asked to involve themselves (the students/learners) in the process and they are no longer required to present a product out of the lectures. The involvement of the students is a way to develop their ability to react and reply and engage in the study and analysis of the meaning-making process.
For the collaborative learning approach to be considered a successful one, there are some points to reflect on. The first one is the composition of the group. The group composition is a factor which concludes the efficiency and effectiveness of a group. The composition of the group is dependent and is defined by the some variable. The variables are namely learners’ age, group size, and the diversity of the members of the group (Dillenbourg and Schneider 2007).
On the subject of group size, small groups appear to be more functional than large groups. The reason is that most of the members in the large groups have a habit of not joining the group discussions and interactions. But this statement is not against the approaches used by a large group instead it only wanted to imply that in collaborative learning processes, the groups should only consist of few members and the educator should see to it that every learner is not left out during the discussions. In the context of the diversity of member’s, it represents the goals that should be fulfilled by the learners. The heterogeneity of the members in a group should is sometimes general or task specific. The diversity of members in a group is a way wherein it will cause and generate efficient interactions (Dillenbourg and Schneider 2007).
The features present in a task are also factor to consider for the success of collaborative learning. The tasks present in the collaborative learning approach differ with each other. Some of the task have natural distribution and is able to give a way for the members to be able to work in their own ways not depending on others for the success of their problem solving process. The interaction between members when working on the group work is able to fuel up interaction. But during the course of the member’s ability to reason out, interaction does no longer exist. There are tasks offered by the educators that are not giving the learners any chance to disagree or to present misunderstanding with the topics that have been covered by the educators. If ever there will be instances that the educators or mentors are going to utilized tasks, the mentors should be able to see to it that the tasks that they will be using will be in its finest efficiency. But if ever the tasks that are able to be utilized by the mentors will not be on its finest efficiency, the tasks could undergo modification. Modifications are being done to the task to be able to fit in the task to the approach of collaborative learning (Dillenbourg and Schneider 2007).
Is collaborative learning a help?
There are many claims that collaborative learning is able to improve the interests of the learners with the discussion part of the approach. Collaborative learning also is a great help to be able to promote and improve the critical thinking of each of the learners. Influential evidence proved that the members of a cooperative team are able to retain and learn information in a manner that it is able to be on hold by the members for a long period of time. The concept of learning in the collaborative way is shared which is able to help the learners to develop a critical and rational thinking (Johnson and Johnson, 1986).
Students who shared their experiences towards the benefits given by collaborative learning are stated in several researches. The students have been able to reveal that the difficulty and complexities they are experiencing are carried out and have been solved by the approaches of collaborative learning. Gained experienced of the learners or students from the way their co-learners are being able to solve the problems given by the educators of collaborative learning is also a great opportunity for them to develop their own way of solving problems in a critical manner. Being also able to speak out the ideas and information the learners have in mind could also bring the students a stress less way of learning. Critisms are also viewed as a constructive way of learning more essential information and to develop self confidence. In the social aspect, the students or the learners are being able to increase the way they accept the ideas and information given by their co-members. Friendship which is an essential way of developing mutual understanding between members is also developed by collaborative learning (Romney, 1996).