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,
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:
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.
Evaluation and Observation
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.