Collaborative Learning: What Does It Mean To You?

This week we examined, “What do you mean by ‘collaborative learning’?” by Pierre Dillenbourg. Despite being doubtful of the contents due to two typos in the first line of the document, I pressed forward. Within the sixteen page piece, the third section titled “The variety of meanings for ‘learning'” caught my attention the most.

In this segment, Dillenbourg defines the many different meanings that the term “learning” could have; more specifically, what the concept of “learning” means under the umbrella of collaborative learning. It’s a word that means different things to different people, something Dillenbourg makes clear.

The first generally accepted form of collaborative learning is any scenario in which you’re with another person in the same course and you share materials, knowledge, or information. This includes sharing notes or studying together in a group environment.

More specifically, collaborative learning can also be defined as joint problem solving; figuring out the meaning of a definition or how to do something.

Some see collaborative learning from a more developmental perspective; a process which occurs over years.

Common to many students, collaborative learning can also refer to group projects and assignments.

It’s clear to see that learning and collaboration simply go together. It’s nearly impossible to learn without any form of collaboration. We throw ideas off each other, we play, we learn.

Dillenbourg proceeds into more in-depth research on the topic, but I believe the concept is simple. It’s messaging back and forth with a friend while bouncing math homework problems off of each other. It’s laughing over ridiculous ideas while preparing a group presentation, talking about how impressed the professor will be and how the other groups will be blown out of the water. It’s spending late nights together getting on each other’s nerves, and silently loving it. It’s having a once-in-a-lifetime shared experience. It’s having symmetric roles. It’s college.

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