Collaboration continues to be at the center of many academic conversations. Even for those of us who share in the excitement and understand the potential of collaboration, implementing collaboration in the most effective way can seem like a difficult task. What’s incredible about collaboration, however, is that it can be personalized, adapted, and applied in ways that best fit our teaching, content, and learners. As advocates for the power of social learning, we’ve created this page of resources to help inspire and guide your collaborative practices.

Why use collaborative learning?

Active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned educational experiences are associated with deeper learning. The advantages of collaborative learning include the development of higher-order reasoning, oral communication, self-management, and leadership abilities.

• Encouragement of student-teacher interaction.

• Enhanced student retention, self-esteem, and accountability.

• Greater exposure to and comprehension of diverse perspectives.

• Preparation for actual social and occupational situations.

Considerations for using collaborative learning

• Introduce group or peer work early in the semester to help students understand what is expected of them.

• Establish participation and contribution guidelines.

• Plan each phase of group work.

• Explain to your students how groups or peer discussions will function and how they will be graded.

• Assist students in developing the necessary skills for success through team-building exercises and self-reflection techniques.

• Consider utilizing written agreements.

• Include self-evaluation and peer evaluation so group members can evaluate their and others’ contributions.

Getting started with collaborative learning

  • Typically, shorter in-class collaborative learning activities involve three steps. Depending on the task, this procedure may take as little as five minutes or longer.
  • Introduce the activity. This can be as simple as instructing students to discuss or debate a topic with their neighbors.
  • Provide sufficient time for students to engage with the task. Address and answer any questions that may arise.
  • Debrief. Invite several students to summarize their conclusions. Clarify any misconceptions or points that are unclear. Open the floor for questions.
  • Strategies to help ensure productive group dynamics for larger group projects:
  • Students can develop rapport and group cohesion through icebreakers, team-building, and reflection activities.
  • Allow students time to create a group work plan to organize their deadlines and responsibilities.
  • Students should establish ground rules. Students can draft a contract for each group member to sign. This agreement may stipulate penalties for those who fail to fulfill their obligations.
  • Assign roles to members of each group and periodically switch their positions. For instance, one student can serve as the coordinator, the note-taker, the summarizer, and the next steps planner.
  • Permit students to rate the quality and quantity of one another’s contributions. Utilize these evaluations when assigning individual grades, but do not give them significant weight towards the final grade. Communicate precisely how peer evaluation will affect grades. Intermittently
  • Intermittently check in with groups but encourage students to handle their problems before contacting you.

Tips for using Zoom Breakout rooms to support classroom community 

  • Define your community norms/expectations (digital citizenship rules) 
  • Build community first.  Start with a low-stakes collaborative activity to build relationships and establish norms
  • Keep groups stable for at least 4 weeks (depending on class size; the larger the class, the more important is small group stability
  • Have clear goals, outcomes, products, and directions  (ex. Each person share their first impression/finding from the reading, task, article, etc.)
  • First person to respond – alphabetical order by first name; reverse order, by birthday, etc.
  • Check for understanding before going to breakout rooms; have students check yes/no in the response area
  • Provide a template (Google dock; OneDrive document; slide for group; Padlet, etc.) for group product; you can monitor these in process; if you create them, there will be no need for submissions.  Each student puts his/her initials next to their contributions
  • Have groups prepare a summary slide of their room/session/work:
    • Assign roles each week
    • Facilitator
    • Collaborative note-manager (One Drive, Google Doc)
    • Summary Slide Sleuth -creates the summary slide and shares it with the class
    • Timekeeper  

 Check out other CTLE Zoom resources.