Encouraging collaborative learning

Image of wall with words "together we create" written on it
Photo by "My Life Through A Lens" on Unsplash

What is collaborative learning?

Recently, a fantastic new resource for staff has been launched on the hows and whys of using collaborative learning with students. Staff can self-enrol here: https://canvas.sydney.edu.au/enroll/RREBH3

Collaborative learning involves students working together to achieve a shared goal, usually in the form of a project (Gokhale, 1995). It engages students in peer learning and critical discussions that have been shown to promote critical thinking, openness to diversity, greater retention of learning, interpersonal skills, and employability skills among students (Hansen 2006). Collaborative learning can include group assignments, but it is also used in formative learning activities where students work together, for example, on case studies.

Why use collaborative learning?

Arguably, collaboration is an important part of almost all human interactions. It’s increasingly a highly regarded skill for many jobs. For most students, collaborative learning is an integral component of undergraduate learning, embedded in many units of study. By engaging students in collaboration with their peers, this invites critical thinking, openness to diversity, greater learning retention and people skills. Ultimately, working with others helps students develop and nurture graduate attributes which they can harness beyond the university context.

The site is designed to support staff in using collaborative approaches in their teaching and encourages colleagues to share their practice. It includes sections on

  • Setting up groups/teams
  • Building teams
  • Supporting teams
  • Managing conflict
  • Assigning roles and responsibilities
  • Fostering diversity in groups
  • Providing real-world experience

Sydney staff can self-enrol in this site at https://canvas.sydney.edu.au/enroll/RREBH3

A summary of strategies shown to be effective in designing, supporting and assessing group work can be found in this Teaching Insight: Designing effective collaborative learning activities

We would like to acknowledge and thank the Education Portfolio for funding this project and our participants who contributed their experiences and ideas. The team consists of Dr Kathryn Bartimote, Dr Jennifer Fletcher, Rebecca Goldsworthy, A/Prof Anya Johnson, Alana Munro, A/Prof Helena Nguyen, Professor Lorraine Smith, Professor Keith Willey, and was led by Dr Melanie Keep.

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