Collaborative learning (CL) is instruction that involves students working in teams to accomplish a common goal, under conditions that include the following elements (Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991):
- Positive interdependence. Team members are obliged to rely on one another to achieve the goal. If any team members fail to do their part, everyone suffers consequences.
- Individual accountability. All students in a group are held accountable for doing their share of the work and for mastery of all of the material to be learned.
- Face-to-face promotive interaction. Although some of the group work may be parceled out and done individually, some must be done interactively, with group members providing one another with feedback, challenging one another's conclusions and reasoning, and perhaps most importantly, teaching and encouraging one another.
- Appropriate use of collaborative skills. Students are encouraged and helped to develop and practice trust-building, leadership, decision-making, communication, and conflict management skills.
- Group processing. Team members set group goals, periodically assess what they are doing well as a team, and identify changes they will make to function more effectively in the future.
Collaborative learning is not simply a synonym for students working in groups. A learning exercise only qualifies as CL to the extent that the listed elements are present.
NOVA Solutions provides a variety of collaborative learning furniture solutions that help students and teachers reach their CL goals.