This article by Luckin (2009) et.al. discusses some of the issues involved in using collaborative learning processes in the classroom. According to the article some of the challenges that were often experienced by teachers who created group work experiences were:
*students being off task through ‘small talk’
* not all group members offering ideas
* conflicts between individual group members.
The article discusses the differences between cooperative and collaborative learning and suggests that cooperative learning be considered the starting point of successful collaborative learning (p.8). The author of this chapter advises that teaching students highly structured skills in terms of group formation, interaction procedure and outcomes of activity, provides a good foundation for collaborative learning. As the students mature in their practice of engaging in group work, the structures can be gradually removed (p.8). The reading reports the benefits of students gaining skills in cooperative learning and suggests that less structured groups achieve the highest level of knowledge advancement.
Vygotsky is also discussed. Lev Vygotsky incorporated the social aspect to learning. He proposed that the cognitive processes begin with social interactions which children can internalize and use independently once they have processed them. Bodrova & Leong (1996) wrote that what a child does with assistance today is what a child will do independently tomorrow (p.35). Modelling lies at the core of this learning theory and collaborative learning provides the opportunity for students to learn through assistance and modelling from peers. As Luckin (2009) et. al refers, collaborative learning is a strategy that can successfully cater to a diverse range of learners (p.14).
Overall, this article stresses that we can not merely expect our students to be able to work collaboratively. Like many things, regardless of their age or stage, teachers are required to put in foundations and teach the skills required to foster successful cooperative learning practices within their classrooms. In my classroom I can see how I would need to create my own foundations for group work in art, which may be different to how the students complete group work in other subjects.
Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. J. (1996). Defining the zone of proximal development. In Tools of the mind : the Vygotskian approach to early childhood education (pp. 35-41). Englewood Cliffs, N. J. : Merrill.
Luckin, R., Clark, W., Logan, K., Graber, R., Oliver, M. and Mee, A. (2009). Do Web 2.0 tools really open the door to learning: practices, perceptions and profiles of 11-16 year old learners. Learning, Media and Technology, 34: 2.