The Difference in Cooperative Learning & Collaborative Learning


The benefits of working together are fairly obvious and this concept, for the purpose of learning, has been utilized for as long as we can remember; think Socratic Circles. It is reportedly founded on Socrates’ belief that lecture was not an effective method of teaching all students. This skill has been deemed an integral 21st-century necessity and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Now, more than ever, children need to learn how to work together.  Team work is more the norm in any work environment, and therefore should be used as often as possible in the learning environment. More work for the teacher? Initially yes, but once the process has been modeled and routines established, it can not only enhance learning two-fold, it can absolutely expedite learning. Cooperative vs. collaborative learning often causes a conundrum for teachers, the chart below was designed to help explain the difference in cooperative learning & collaborative learning from a visual standpoint.

There has been much written to help teachers differentiate between cooperative learning and collaborative learning. Deciding which approach suits the purpose and the final goal of a lesson is not always obvious. First, defining collaborative learning and cooperative learning and how they both contribute to pivotal knowledge building and critical thinking skills can be confusing. The purpose of both approaches is the same; to provide students opportunities to engage with each other in thoughtful learning. The underlying premise of these techniques is that learning is enhanced by peer interaction. The differences in cooperative learning & collaborative learning are outlined below:

Cooperative Learning is an instructional strategy that simultaneously addresses academic and social skill learning by students. It is an instructional strategy and has been reported to be highly successful in the classroom because of its increasing need for interdependence in all levels, providing students with the tools to effectively learn from each other. Students work towards fulfilling academic and social skill goals that are clearly stated. It is a team approach where the success of the group depends upon everyone pulling his or her weight.

Collaborative learning is commonly illustrated when groups of students work together to search for understanding, meaning, or solutions or to create an artifact or product of their learning. Further, collaborative learning redefines traditional student-teacher relationship in the classroom because activities can include collaborative writing, group projects, joint problem solving, debates, study teams, and other activities in which students team together to explore a significant question or create a meaningful project.

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There has been a shift from individual competencies to group competencies and a shift in both learning institutions and the workplace. Value is placed on how individuals can work as part of a team and this emphasis on team building should be an integral part of any learning environment.

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