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Collaborative Learning

What is it?

Collaborative learning is an educational approach that involves students working in groups, or teams, trying to solve a problem, or completing an activity. Working towards a shared common goal, team members are interdependent in terms of their assigned tasks or outcomes, and each team member assumes a distinctive role. The outcomes of a team working together are greater than those possible by any one person working independently (Morgeson et al, 2009; Kozlowsky and Ilgen, 2006).

The concept stems from the idea that learning involves interactions with other people and thus is a social process. At the heart of collaborative learning lies active engagement with peers through cooperation and interaction, either in class or online. (Dillenbourg, 2010; Dewey 1938).

Why is it important?

There is an increasing demand for graduates who possess teamwork skills as necessary for successful integration in the workplace. Collaborative learning provides an opportunity for students to clarify and refine their understanding of concepts through discussion and rehearsal with peers, allowing them to learn from each other and benefiting from activities that require students to articulate and test their knowledge. Group work can also help develop generic skills sought by employers. (James, McInnis, & Devlin, 2002).

Benefits of collaborative learning

Collaborative learning activities create opportunities for students to:

  • Engage in subject specific discussions with peers
  • Learn how to work cooperatively and support each other
  • Develop effective teamwork and communication (including interpersonal and cross cultural awareness) skills
  • Assimilate multiple views to deepen knowledge and promote critical thinking
  • Foster individual accountability to the team
  • Develop independent learning strategies
  • Structure out-of-class learning
  • Mitigate learner isolation

Online collaboration brings additional benefits of flexibility, managing student participation and behaviour, trackability and student autonomy.

How can collaborative learning be assessed?

How you assess collaboration and group work will depend on the learning outcomes for your unit or the course. There are a number of ways you can assess collaboration and teamwork in your unit, for example:

  • Participation in tutorials and lectures;
  • Activities such as “real world” projects in which students are required to collaborate with their peers to work on solving a “real world” problem;
  • Problem solving in small groups;
  • Peer evaluation and self – evaluation;
  • WIL (Work Integrated Learning), Internships or practicums;
  • Extra and co-curricular activities e.g. volunteering.

Products of groups work

  • Reports
  • Wikis
  • In – class presentations
  • Video presentations
  • Posters


The aim of these resources is to help you foster collaboration and teamwork in your unit.


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