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Facilitating Effective Collaborative and Cooperative Learning

written by: Michelle McFarland-McDaniels • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/11/2012

Teaching students the four foundational principles of successful relationships will enable them to derive maximum benefit from collaborative and cooperative learning activities.

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    Collaborative and cooperative learning activities provide students with opportunities to work synergistically to construct knowledge while developing the skills necessary to work effectively in teams. The benefits of these approaches are well-known, and they are considered highly effective teaching strategies.

    Creating an environment wherein effective collaborative and cooperative learning can thrive is challenging, but it can be done. Johnson, Johnson and Holubec (1993) identified five essential components of cooperation: positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, individual and group accountability, interpersonal and small group skills, and group processing. These are crucial characteristics of successful collaborative and cooperative learning teams.

    In order to derive maximum benefit from collaborative and cooperative learning experiences, students need to develop the skills necessary to work successfully in groups. These are the same skills that are necessary to engage in mutually satisfying interpersonal relationships of any nature (e.g., platonic , familial, romantic) and productive team-based work groups. All successful relationships have four foundational principles in common. These principles are cooperation, communication, consideration and compromise.

    You can facilitate effective collaborative and cooperative learning in our classroom by teaching your students the Four C’s of Successful Relationships. Here is how they can be applied to collaborative and cooperative learning experiences:

    Cooperation-Students must be invested in working together productively to set goals, create objects and perform tasks. This means all members of student teams need to be welcomed, valued and respected. They must also be prepared to make vital contributions to the team’s success and accept responsibility for the team’s outcomes.

    Communication-All members of student teams must communicate with each other effectively and respectfully. Students need to be taught how to address and respond to each other appropriately. They need to know how to balance being assertive enough to precisely convey their ideas and opinions with being tactful and diplomatic enough to avoid offending and alienating teammates. Achieving this balance is critical to developing harmonious, functional learning teams.

    Consideration-Members of learning teams need to exhibit consideration for each other. Teammates need to demonstrate a proactive awareness and regard for each other’s feelings. In other words, they need to conscientiously refrain from engaging in behavior that is disrespectful, hurtful or that demeans their team members as people or devalues their contributions to the learning team.

    Compromise-Disagreements and conflicts will inevitably arise during collaborative and cooperative learning activities. Students need to understand the importance of empathizing with others, being willing to acknowledge the validity of other perspectives, win-win negotiation and making personal concessions in order to achieve team goals.

    When you teach your students to apply the Four C’s to cooperative and collaborative learning experiences, you will not only help them develop the skills necessary to work effectively in groups, you will also prepare them to build successful personal and professional relationships for life.