When students engage in collaborative learning, it can have a wide variety of effects on learning. One area you may see a change is in their interest level, both long and short-term.
What is Collaborative Learning?
Collaborative learning is an educational methodology where learning involves groups of students working together toward a common goal. It is based on the concept that learning is social, so group members work alongside one another, talking and working through the learning process. If implemented properly, what is the effect of collaborative learning on students interest?
Positive Effects of Collaborative Learning
During a collaborative learning session, students are working and learning together. They are not only working on academics, but social skills. Students must adapt to the learning styles, behaviors, and abilities of others. These are all skills and adjustments that can carry over throughout life. Improved social skills in students can improve their relationships with others in the class.
This teaching methodology can also have an affect on students' interest. What child wouldn't prefer working with a group of their peers over sitting at their desk with a worksheet? Being able to successfully adapt collaborative learning into your lesson plans will allow your students to be more engaged and involved in the learning process, instead of being just passive learners. Students can learn about their strengths and weaknesses as they work through and accomplish a task in a small group. As this group inspired learning progresses, students may then find more success in the classroom. As they watch and learn from their peers, they may find new ways of tackling problems. Continued growth in this manner can only enhance the individual learning process, and make for happier students.
Negative Effects of Collaborative Learning
If you are going to incorporate collaborative learning into your classroom, it does take some forethought and planning. You can not just randomly throw students into groups. At times, you can allow students to choose their own groups, but you need to keep in mind that you do not want students sitting on the sidelines, not being chosen by their peers. If they are forced into a group when they feel unwanted, they may lose interest in the lesson before it gets started. If the groups are chosen by the teacher or a random selection, you still need to monitor that the groups are running efficiently. If one student takes over without input from others, quieter students will fall by the wayside. Over time, these types of unproductive sessions can slowly erode at a student's confidence and interest in learning in a group setting.
Rules to Pique Student Interest
If you really want to use collaborative to improve the interest level of your students, there are a few rules you may want to keep in mind.
- Job Assignments: If you assign jobs to students, then you can be sure everyone is participating. Assign a leader, recorder, and a speaker who will share their findings with the class. Rotate these often to allow everyone a change to be in charge.
- Walk the room: Even though the students are learning on their own, you still should walk to room to be sure everyone is on task and that everyone is participating equally.
- Develop a Quality Assignment: Come up with a group activity that involves more than reading as a group and answering/discussion questions.
- Make a Suggestion Box: If you are concerned that groups are not working well together, but out a suggestion box where students can voice their frustrations. Then you can pull some of the comments and discuss them as a class. This may help to ease any conflict in the future.
- Rotating Groups: It may be a good idea to keep the groups together for more than one assignment, because this can increase the comfort level of students. But, then do not hesitate to shake things up and change the groups assignments to offer a challenge to work with a new group of peers.
In the end, teachers do not put anything in their plans unless they think it will increase student interest in what they are teaching. Collaborative learning is no different. Take the time to plan a meaningful group activity that will spark student interest and encourage the sharing of ideas.