Getting Started with Collaborative Learning

Shorter in-class collaborative learning activities generally involve a three-step process. This process can be as short as five minutes, but can be longer, depending on the task at hand.

  • Introduce the task. This can be as simple as instructing students to turn to their neighbor to discuss or debate a topic.
  • Provide students with enough time to engage with the task. Walk around and address any questions as needed.
  • Debrief. Call on a few students to share a summary of their conclusions. Address any misconceptions or clarify any confusing points. Open the floor for questions.

For larger group work projects, here are some strategies to help ensure productive group dynamics:

  • Provide opportunities for students to develop rapport and group cohesion through  icebreakers, team-building, and reflection exercises.
  • Give students time to create a group work plan allowing them to plan for deadlines and divide up their responsibilities.
  • Have students  establish ground rules. Students can create a contract for each member to sign. This contract can include agreed-upon penalties for those who fail to fulfill obligations.
  • Assign roles to members of each group and change the roles periodically. For example, one student can be the coordinator, another the note-taker, another the summarizer, and another the planner of next steps.
  • Allow students to rate each other’s quality and quantity of contributions. Use these evaluations when giving individual grades, but do not let it weigh heavily on a student’s final grade. Communicate clearly how peer assessment will influence grades.
  • Check in with groups intermittently but encourage students to handle their own issues before coming to you for assistance.

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