We are all familiar with the phrase “Two heads are better than one.” Yet for years this is a concept that society has largely ignored when it comes to the way we work and learn. Up until recently, it was believed that learning and working were tasks best performed in a private, individual setting. Collaborative learning was something that occurred in limited amounts, such as in group projects or training seminars held sparsely throughout the year.
However, today many educators and businesses are beginning to break away from this kind of thinking. More and more research is revealing that there is marvelous value in collaborative learning. Collaborative learning helps support higher level thinking, increases retention, improves relationships, and strengthens leadership skills. Such evidence has given rise to a whole new type of learning space, full of life, laughter, and activity.
But for those who are unfamiliar, questions may arise around this new way of working and learning, such as what is collaborative learning and how does one create a collaborative learning space? Below, we’ve provided some insight that we hope you may find useful.
What is collaborative learning?
Collaborative learning is what occurs when two or more people get together and try to learn a new concept or skill through a joint intellectual effort. It can take place almost any setting, including at school, work, or home. Activities that facilitate collaborative learning vary widely, however they all share one thing in common – they focus more on the learners than the facilitator.
Traditional styles of teaching and training place heavy emphasis on what the instructor is doing or presenting. Learners are expected to memorize and regurgitate material. In a collaborative learning environment, this kind of mentality is abandoned. Instead, learners work together to apply concepts and reach a common goal. In this way, they figure out how to solve a problem or come to a conclusion instead of being told what to do or think.
Benefits of Collaborative Learning
Collaborative learning has benefits for both learners at the individual level as well as communities and organizations as a whole. Some of the advantages include improved social interactions, higher rates of productivity, improved communication skills, improved satisfaction, better retention, development of leadership skills, diversity understanding, improvements in mood, and more.
How to Create an Environment that Supports Collaborative Learning
If you peek into a coworking office or a collaborative classroom, you’ll notice right away that they are major differences in the way that these spaces are designed. Furniture is arranged and selected to support collaboration. Learners gather in groups. Easy access to materials and resources is provided to support learning. A collaborative learning space hums with activity and laughter.
In order to create a collaborative learning environment, it’s crucial that you design your space in a manner that supports collaboration. Rows of desks or cubicles do not support conversation and collaborative learning. Instead, create areas where learners can gather in groups. Add rolling desks and tables so that furniture can be easily moved and rearranged. You may even want to consider adding a makerspace to your learning environment.
Once you’ve created the perfect space, don’t forget to adapt your current procedures to support collaboration. This may mean changing your teaching style or altering processes for completing a task.
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