Advantages and disadvantages of collaborative learning

8th October 2020

Advantages and disadvantages of collaborative learning

Collaborative learning is a new teaching method where people learn in small groups or teams allowing them to consolidate their knowledge on the concept being discussed. We've already covered what collaborative learning is on our blog. There are many advantages and a few disadvantages to this method of collaborative learning. We are going to explain the pros and cons of this method of learning below.

Advantages of collaborative learning

Peer learning

In group work, students will learn from their fellow students. Sometimes peers will be able to explain concepts or ideas to their fellow students better than a lecturer or teacher.

Improves critical thinking

During the group work process students will be expressing their opinions or ideas with the other students in the group providing feedback. This feedback to each student will include critique as well as the interpretation of the opinions or ideas expressed. The final piece of group work will be based on the total opinions and ideas discussed.

Enhances problem solving

Each piece of group work provided for collaborative learning will require some problem solving. Every member in the group will need to help solve the problem in order to complete the task.

Improves communication skills

Working in groups to learn will encourage people to improve their communication skills. They will need to learn how to communicate their opinions or ideas, how to listen to other people’s opinions or ideas and provide feedback.

Improves cultural awareness

People from different backgrounds and cultures may have different ways to learn as well as different opinions or ideas than other people in the group. By working in groups, these differences will be highlighted and will improve people’s awareness.

 

Disadvantages of collaborative learning

People learn at different speeds

People do tend to learn at different speeds, which is why group work can sometimes take longer than individual learning. However, by providing the opportunity for group learning, someone within the group may have the opportunity to explain something to another student that a teacher or lecturer has struggled to explain to the same student.

Someone may be in charge of the group

In group situations the best case scenario is that no one is in charge and everyone works together to complete the task. In some groups it may be the case that someone decides to be in charge or become the leader of the group, which can cause group tension. Teachers and lecturers can stop students being put in charge of groups by stating it at the start of the task and by encouraging other people in the group to get involved.

Some groups may struggle if they don’t have group work skills

If people have never worked in groups before, they won’t have the skills to work together. Teachers and lecturers should help initially by explaining the task and the aims of the group work required. This should help spark the conversation on the required task.

Social loafing/ introverts may struggle

Social loafing is when someone in group working situations puts in less effort than the rest of the team. This can often happen when there are people who are in charge (of the group) that they don’t get on well with or the people don’t get on well within the group. Introverts can also struggle in groups to get their voice heard. Teachers or lecturers are told to put people that are introverts or tend to be social loafers in groups they will work well in, but also encourage them along the way. 

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