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Collaborative learning is an educational approach that promotes interaction among students, as well as between students and teachers.
Examples of Collaborative Learning
In a study conducted by Lage, Platt, and Tregalia, collaborative learning was incorporated into an introductory microeconomics course through the use of economic experiments in class through the promotion of group work in and outside of class, and through the integration of student presentations on economic topics.
Robert L. Moore, a professor of economics at Occidental College, incorporated a collaborative learning lab (CLL) into his introductory economics course. "The collaborative learning lab is where students, usually working in groups of three or four, take a series of short, written quizzes (called unit tests) that correspond to teach of six units in the course. When the class has completed the material in a particular unit students are urged to attempt one of these unit tests, which are taken outside of class at pre-arranged times. A unit test usually consists of about three or four questions or problems and takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete...(Moore 321)". Once students arrived at Moore's CLL, a specifically trained CLL tutor (typically a junior or senior economics student) would distribute the tests. Then once each group had time to discuss the questions and determine their answers, the tutor would designate which student in the group would present which question through a process of randomization. Moore used a process developed by Robin L. Bartlett "to overcome the free-rider problem in group work" with the use of a deck of cards. The tutor would distribute one card to each student for each question, and whichever student received the card with the highest value would be assigned to present that specific question. The students would then proceed to present their answers, and if each member of the group presented their answer to the tutors liking, each member of the group would pass. If not, an incomplete would be recorded for each student, and the group would be advised to take a similar test in the near future. For the CLL, there was no such thing as failing a test. Any number of attempts was allowed for the unit tests and credit was provided once the test was passed regardless of the number of attempts.
How to Incorporate Collaborative Learning
- Conduct economic experiments in class. Lage, Platt, and Treglia incorporated one economic experiment which consisted of the following: "For instance, a simple experiment consisted of holding an auction for a can of cola. Bidding began at five cents and increased in five-cent increments; count was taken of how many people wanted to buy the can at each price (33)."
- Promote group work. Encourage students to work in groups both inside and outside of the classroom.
- Integrate student presentations. Allocate a portion of class time to student presentations either concerning assigned material, such as worksheets and problem sets, or to specific economic topics related to the material taught in class.
The study conducted by Lage, Platt, and Tregalia produced positive results. After the course, a survey was conducted where students rated various aspects of the course on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). "The statement "The experiments illustrated basic economic concepts" received an average score of 4.2 (35)." In addition to this, the students' feedback comments included the following statements:
"I really liked the demonstrations and the group work - they helped me to really see the concepts, much better than a lecture would, and I could better visualize something I'd seen rather than heard-that was a big plus for tests (35)."
"As for the class itself, I loved the way it was run! The groups were very effective-it helped to have your peers explain things to you in a different way that sometimes made more sense. Also, it was easier to get to know your classmates and made for a very comfortable environment. I liked the "hands on" approach (35)."
Instructors also provided positive feedback after the study. "Both instructors also noted that students generally enjoyed working together and seemed to learn from having other students explain concepts in different ways...In general, students were more comfortable asking questions in class, probably because of the many opportunities for one-on-one interaction with the instructor...From the instructors' perspective, the course was considerably more stimulating to teach...(37).
The study conducted by Robert L. Moore also produced positive results. Moore produced a questionnaire after the course in which students were asked a number a questions using a 7 point scale where 1 was "not worthwhile" and 7 was "very worthwhile." Click below to see the selected questionnaire results.
Of the 210 students in the class, Moore received 176 of the questionnaires from which he was able to compile the data above. As the data demonstrates, the CLL was received positively by the students.
A key aspect of this study was the difference in results between male and female students. "For female students, the mean scores on the statements "I believe I learned more in this format," and "The experiments illustrated basic economic concepts" were higher than for men in our sample. In addition, on the average, female students self-reported greater satisfaction with the worksheets and in-class experiments. Both instructors also noted that women were clearly more active participants in class than in the traditional classroom (37)."
Inverting the Classroom: A Gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment Maureen J. Lage, Glenn J. Platt and Michael Treglia The Journal of Economic Education Vol. 31, No. 1 (Winter, 2000), pp. 30-43 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1183338
Teaching Introductory Economics with a Collaborative Learning Lab Component Robert L. Moore The Journal of Economic Education Vol. 29, No. 4 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 321-329 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1182922
Active and Cooperative Learning Using Web-Based Simulations Stephen J. Schmidt The Journal of Economic Education Vol. 34, No. 2 (Spring, 2003), pp. 151-167 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30042535