Collaborative learning sounds very attractive and there have been quite many studies about it. It has been considered as a good way to deal with the challenges about how to motivate students and how to keep them active. Usually, it involves groups of students working together to solve a problem, complete a task, or create a product [1]. When collaborative learning is carefully designed, there are many potential benefits for students, such as enhanced Problem-solving Skills, Self-management Skills and Oral Communication Skills, Critical Thinking, and improved Social Interactions and Supports Diversity [2]. And since collaborative learning occurs peer-to-peer, students can feel more comfortable and be more active. When collaborative learning becomes an educational approach, it implies that it is implemented by teachers and could have some specific purpose. For this reason, I call it planned collaborative learning.

Actually, collaborative learning is not a new concept. I guess it should have been existing since the first school appeared. It is very common that students study together in a small group. When someone has problems, he/she can discuss with others and get some help. This should be the initial format of collaborative learning. This can be called voluntary collaborative learning as students study together voluntarily. They form the group by themselves and are quite clear about what they can expect from the others. Such a kind of collaborative learning is very simple and easy to be accepted. However, since it is not structured and supervised, the benefits could also be limited.

Let’s go back to the planned collaborative learning. Even though the benefits are multiple, the performance or the effectiveness of the forced collaborative learning may heavily rely on how the activities are designed and the involvement of students. Such activities need to be facilitated by teachers. Students can easily get lost if there is no proper supervision. However, I think we should not expect too much from the collaborative learning, since students are planned to join, their involvement could be low due to many issues, such as willingness, confidence, trust, confidentiality etc. The situation can be even worse for online collaborative learning, in which students need to face strangers. It is not uncommon to see that some students don’t want to study in a group. If the planned collaborative learning cannot provide what they expect, the outcome will be poor.

To summarize my point, there are different methods of learning with different advantages. For students, in different stages and when studying different subjects, the adopted methods can be different. And a method that is suitable for one person may not be suitable for the other. So the role of teachers should focus more on helping students find the problem in learning and figuring out the solution. For sure, knowing more methods and have critical thinking about different methods are always helpful to find the method.



My concerns on collaborative learning