Collaborative Learning: Not Just Working in Groups.









When I was in high school, I won’t lie, group work made me gag. I hated working as a team because many of the people that I worked with didn’t want to work with me, or I didn’t want to work with them. I just wanted to work alone. One person ended up doing all of the work and there was an unseen hatred between us. That is NOT how I feel about group work now, however. Today I like group work because I like collaborating with people. I have found that working in a group, in college, has gotten me out of my shell and allowed me to gain some ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. People, especially in this class, have ideas are unique and may even work better than mine! I enjoy input from others. Collaboration, surprisingly, is very important in life and school. In this post, I will discuss what collaborative learning is, its benefits and how to utilize them, the four methods of collaborative learning (that we have learned about), and also lesson plans in science that incorporate collaborative learning!

Let’s Go!

What is Collaborative Learning: My Definition

Collaborative Learning is when teachers allow the collaboration or formation of “teams” in working on a project. They allow students to work together and come up with ideas on their own. They then share their ideas with the rest of the class and educate their classmates. They share their ideas and their background knowledge, as well as, constructivism. This helps other students tremendously!

Characteristics of Collaborative Learning:

  • Students work in groups
  • Ideas are shared
  • Presentations are given
  • Little reliance on teacher
  • Student-led, rather than lead by a teacher
  • Each person brings new knowledge to the table to share
  • Constructivism is utilized in classroom
  • Knowledge is built
  • Engaging
  • Quizzes or self-assessments are given
  • Not only one person does work; everyone contributes
  • Must be monitored in many cases
  • Groups can either be chosen by teacher or student
  • Teams work with each other

Benefits of Collaborative Learning!

Collaborative learning has many benefits to students! Many of them will be mentioned here:

  • Allows students to learn how to work in a group setting and collaborate on ideas
  • The sharing of ideas allows for building upon previous knowledge
  • The practice of important social skills will do them well in college and in work.
  • Teaches students the importance of valuing other opinions and seeing things from another person’s point of view
  • Allows students to create partnerships with each other and healthy relationships
  • Allows students to get work done faster and divide up the work
  • Teaches valuable interpersonal skills
  • Is very engaging for students because students learn most from peers and like working with them.
  • Students are more likely to learn in a nurturing environment vs. a lecture
  • Students discover things on their own and hold onto the information better
  • Supports learning cycle
  • Allows students to depend on one another as a group.

A Note on How to Utilize these Benefits in your Classroom:

Collaboration is very important in learning, but it must be monitored in the classroom. Many of the problems that arise are what I talked about in the opening paragraph. Students might not be very nice to each other. They may be disrespectful and rude to the other person. In my class, this will NOT be tolerated. Everyone needs to feel included. The other problem that can arise in collaborative learning is that one person will do all the work and the other students will not get to learn. Another problem that can arise in group work or collaboration is that some students who are shy may not give their ideas to their group, when, in reality, they rock! Another problem is that some students like to work alone. To combat these problems. I, as a teacher, would take several steps, and I’ll outline them here:

  • Watch the groups closely
  • Walk around the room and offer assistance as needed
  • Do not allow any type of bullying and if problems arise, move students.
  • Make sure all of the kids have something to contribute, instead of one student doing all of the work.
  • If a student is shy, go to the group and ask what their ideas are, and give them positive feedback.
  • Allow students to pick groups at times, when appropriate, I know that they enjoy this. Make sure no one is left out.
  • Make sure everyone is being respectful.
  • Let students know that when problems arise, talk to you
  • Keep the discussion student-led, do not offer too much assistance.
  • Pick groups when needed.
  • Teach children the polite way to disagree and how to view things from other viewpoints
  • Assess students individually and with the whole groupTypes of Collaborative Learning and Their Characteristics:


    • Teacher gives a presentation about what they are going to learn and the learning targets. This can be any type of presentation, audio, visual, etc.
    • Groups of 4-5 students are made, students work together to answer questions or work on a project or worksheet. All students work together to answer all questions, and the teacher must make sure that all of the students are able to answer everything.
    • A quiz must then be administered to assess knowledge. The quiz must be done individually.
    • A score must be made by the teacher to assess every individual student
    • Recognition must be given to each group for their work.

    Jigsaw II:

    • An expert sheet and a quiz is created by the teacher. It lists the topics of discussion and learning targets.
    • The students are divided into teams and expert groups. The expert groups are students that are studying the same topic and the teams are groups of students that teach each other about those topics.
    • After each topic is mastered, the students return to their teams from their expert groups and teach the teams about the subject in various ways. This can be a power point, a visual, a poster, etc. Students are encouraged to use a wide variety of ways to present information.
    • After the students have all mastered a topic, they are accessed on how much they know. This can either be done through a report, a quiz, self-assessment, or test.

    CO-OP, CO-OP:

    • Students are introduced to a subject and discussions take place about what the students want to know about the subject. A list is brainstormed and written on paper by the teacher.
    • Teams are then chosen by the students based on interest.
    • Each team will take a certain topic and divide the topic into mini-topics. Each student in the team will take a mini-topic and elaborate on it. The group will then share their findings.
    • After all groups have become “experts” on the topic, they are told to present it to the class in any way that they want to.
    • The students are then individually assessed with a test or quiz.

    Group Investigation:

    • A topic is selected in a group of five students or fewer and mini-topics are generated. The students decide what they want to know about a topic and how to learn about it, effectively.
    • Teachers give students an outline of what they should focus on in the topics and mini-topics.
    • Students gather information through research and experimentation. They gather sources outside of and inside of school about their topic.
    • They collaborate ideas and decide how to best present the information to the class.

    They then all present the information in multiple formats, that they each choose.

This video show collaborative learning at work in a college preparatory school:

Check it out!

This video shows more about the Jigsaw II method of collaborative learning.

Lesson Plans for High School Biology and Chemistry

In this section, I will come up with lesson plans for my two areas of study: Biology and Chemistry!

Biology- To incorporate collaborative learning in a biology class can be quite easy. Think of the 11 systems of the human body. It would be impossible to study them all in one day. What I would do in this situation is divide the class into groups and give each group one of the systems of the human body. For example, the cardiovascular system. Then I would use group investigation to allow students to find out more information about the system. They would each pick an organ or part of the system to study as a mini-topic. They would then come together to share their results and learn how to be present it to the class. I would allow the students to do various different methods of displaying their findings. They can do a power point, poster, video, pamphlet, etc. The limits are endless. The goal is that everyone learns about the systems and can later take a quiz on the material.


Chemistry- An example that I can think of in chemistry is a class exploring stoichiometry. This is a hard concept to learn and can take a lot of time to learn it. It is a lot of steps and they must all work in unison. I would use STAD for this subject. I would give a presentation on the learning goals, what stoichiometry is, and how it is used. I would give various information to the students before they explore the topic. I would also work a few problems on the board. I would then have them split into groups of 3-4 students and work on a list of problems. I would have them work together and collaborate on what they think the correct answer is. I would then administer a self-evaluation to them about how well they did. I would then go over the information further and give a test of their knowledge. Stoichiometry is hard, but this makes it easier.


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