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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Collaborative Learning: Small Group Learning Page

 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Aug 10, 2002 by Teacher Education
Overview: This website introduces the use of collaborative learning techniques and
strategies in teaching science and technology courses specifically.
Collaborative Learning (CL) encourages active student participation in the
learning process. It encompasses a set of approaches to education, sometimes
also called cooperative learning or small group learning. CL creates an
environment "that involves students in doing things and thinking about the
things they are doing" (1) and reaches students who otherwise might not be
engaged. The site includes descriptions by teachers from many disciplines of
their personal experiences with the use of collaborative learning, an extensive
section providing numerous strategies and techniques for using collaborative
learning in the class, an annotated bibliography, a section that explains the
conceptual basis of collaborative learning, and a FAQ addressing common concerns
that teachers have about collaborative learning.1
The National Institute for Science Education, College Level One Team
developed this site on Collaborative Learning in 1997. The site provides a
variety of instructional resources and ideas about how to incorporate
collaborative small group learning into your classroom. These resources are
primarily text descriptions. The site also includes ?stories? from teachers and
students about the advantages and disadvantages of collaborative learning.

(1) Bonwell, C., & Eison, J. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the
classroom (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1). Washington, DC: George
Washington University, p. 2.
Learning Goals: Identify the advantages and disadvantages of collaborative learning, understand
the processes involved in successful collaborative learning groups and implement
collaborative learning techniques in the class.
Target Student Population: The site is aimed toward instructors but can be used for graduate and
undergraduate students who are in programs or courses where they are expected to
learn about the instructional process because the site?s information can be
adjusted for different levels and/or students can be asked to discuss how the
information can be adjusted to their particular teaching situations. We believe
that the material presented is of particular value to current and prospective
teachers of secondary and elementary education. This is particularly true of the
extensive sections on collaborative learning techniques and rationale for
collaborative learning.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Students should have some familiarity with group learning, have a basic
understanding of lesson planning and group dynamics.
Type of Material: Reference/Resource
Recommended Uses: For use by faculty helping to set up collaborative learning environments and by
students who will be expected to plan and deliver instruction. Discussions can
be based upon different parts of the site. For example: students can discuss
what students quoted on the site had to say and how they would address problems
that those students identified or whether they disagreed with those students and
why.
Technical Requirements: Basic browser.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The materials and references provide a diverse range of coverage on the topic of
collaborative learning in small groups. Given the importance of developing
independent learners capable of life-long learning and critical thinking,
collaborative learning techniques are an important tool in the constructivist
learning repertoire. Additionally, as a greater awareness of the collaborative
nature of work in a knowledge-based and technologically- advanced economy grows
people need to learn the skills to work successfully in such contexts.
Collaborative learning techniques help to better prepare students for the
future. The quality of the references for sharing applications that are proven
effective is outstanding.

In addition to comparison of the traditional learning group and cooperative
learning, with both teacher roles and student roles clearly defined (including
references), this website also provides description of group dynamics, lecture
techniques, and specific collaborative learning techniques such as
think-pair-share, thinking aloud pair problem solving, jigsaw, peer editing,
and dyadic essay confrontation.

A very extensive annotated bibliography is provided which can be searched by
keyword, section or discipline.Concrete examples and anecdotes about
collaborative learning are also provided. In addition, the student comments
about collaborative learning are useful and can provide insights into areas that
need to be approached with forethought.
Concerns: The explanation about ?Doing Collaborative Learning? is brief and could contain
a bit more information to help a novice. The site has not been updated since
11/1/97 and thus contains no new information or resources since this time (e.g.
there is no information about facilitating small group work in online
environments). Most of the resources are from journal articles. Those web
based resource links that are provided have not been ?hyperlinked?. The search
engine for the annotated bibliography is no longer functional.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The site can be used in several different ways. The Stories section presents
some good cases of applying the principles to classroom instruction. nstructors
using this materials with students preparing to teach at the secondary or
elementary levels will want to supplement it with case studies involving
instruction at those levels. The resource section has an extensive set of
resources including links to other web sites on cooperative learning, one of
which is an excellent annotated bibliography, so this site is also useful for
teachers researching cooperative learning. This resource can also be used by
seasoned faculty members to add to their strategies for group activities, by
experienced teachers in advanced programs to add to their strategies, or as an
introduction to collaborative learning for pre-service teachers. Two other ways
to use the site are to have students learn about and design ways to incorporate
group learning into their teaching and use the site to help them develop an
understanding of the group activity process before implementing the use of group
learning activities in class. The Techniques (Doing It) and More Information
sections really contain some thoughtful insight and ideas on how to use
collaborative learning with students. A number of ideas and resources for
integrating collaborative learning into science related classrooms can be found
in the annotated bibliography.
Concerns: As stated earlier this web site was designed for college instructors of
mathematics, science, and technology so instructors using it in other areas will
want to have supplemental materials appropriate for their subject area. The
lack of current resources since 11/1/97 is a problem. It would be wonderful to
see the site updated to include synchronous and asynchronous cooperative group
work on the Internet.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The website is well-structured and easy to navigate. The home page serves as a
site map. Sections are clearly labeled as to their content. Each section has an
topical index which allows easy navigation to desired materials. Each of these
major sections contains a ?frames? navigation system ? which makes it very easy
to ?click through the sub-sections? without getting lost. There are also forward
and back buttons on each page that allows the user to travel ?linearly? through
the site. And, at the bottom of each page there are consistent iconic links to
the other major sections within the site.
Concerns: As this site has not been updated since 1997 there are several ?functionality?
issues. For example, the search engine on the index page and within the
annotated bibliography section does not work. The navigation system and icons
could also use some updating. For example, the home icon on each page should
also include a text link (e.g. Home or Return to Home) to make it easier for the
user to return to the index page.

Other Issues and Comments: