Students work in Cooperation or Collaboration?by Thomas Fowler-Finn on 03/02/15
Students are being asked more often in the classroom to work in pairs and small groups. But how often is the student discussion that takes place simply cooperative versus truly collaborative? Cooperative discussion occurs when students help each other to get their individual work done by telling one another the answer, showing each other how to do the work, explaining what needs to be done, taking turns or parts in the assignment, or doing the work for each other. One student often acquiesces or simply accepts what another offers. Assignments at the recalling or understanding levels of Bloom's Taxonomy make collaborative discussion impossible to achieve. Collaborative discussion becomes more likely when students are applying knowledge or skills to solve a problem, jointly analyzing or evaluating each other's work (perhaps using a rubric), or creating a product. Collaborative discussions are characterized by students exchanging points of view, persisting to question each other and understand versus acquiescing, contributing original ideas while knowing their ideas are valued by their peers, extending learning, and completing assignments that reflect the thinking and ownership of all discussants. Collaborative discussion enables conceptual understanding, deeper learning, and engagement of the mind.