Students who have participated in group projects understand the basics of collaborative learning. As they work together, they also learn from one another. At Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Excellence, “collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct,” (Ref 1) and its future teachers are taught techniques of student-focused instruction. Students who learn in cooperative environments can transfer the lessons of the classroom to real world scenarios where collaboration is often demanded.
One of the lessons of collaborative learning is peer interaction. As college students progress through their academic careers, they will be called upon more and more frequently to review the work of others and put their work before their peers. Peer review is at the foundation of academic and professional research. Whether students are reviewing literature on a particular subject or placing their own research against existing work, they must be willing to adapt and expand their ideas as new evidence is unearthed. It is only through the collaboration of ideas that new ones can be formed.
Altered Learning Environments
When students first step aboard the 137-foot Roseway, most have no idea how to sail. By the time the seventh and eighth-graders disembark, however, they are able and confident sailors. Innovative learning environments such as the classroom aboard the Boston schooner Roseway offer students unique opportunities to use collaborative learning in unusual settings. And the students quickly discover that it is only through teamwork that they can effectively steer and sail the 88-year-old vessel and embrace the lessons she may offer.
Despite the plethora of parenting books on the market, every parent knows that there are some things you just can’t learn from a book. While moms and dads often ask their own parents for worthwhile instruction on how to handle their offspring, many also turn to commiserative peers going through the same things they are at the same time. Putting great minds together on such tough topics as potty training and tantrums may seem an unlikely use of an educational technique, but there is something quite comforting about knowing you’re not alone as you learn your role of new parent.
The advertising campaign, the sales pitch and the software development all require workers to come together and toss their ideas into the intellectual fray. The brainstorming techniques students often learn in the classroom work equally effectively in the boardroom. Companies large and small understand the benefit of bringing great minds together and do so in droves. Outside of their own workforces, companies often send employees to collaborative conferences where professionals meet to discuss ideas and network. And with internet access available around the globe, collaborative idea-sharing is boundless. In 2009, three companies partnered to fund a global competition soliciting new ideas to solve traffic congestion. The iCarpool.com winner faced some 115 competitors from 20 countries. The most intractable problems of the 21st century may well be solved through this sort of global collaboration.
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