Learning Collaboratively: Working Together or Hardly Working?

At some point, whether in a work or scholastic environment, we all are faced with collaborative learning. Even in kindergarten, we would sit around the reading table and take place in round robin reading (one student reads while the others listen). While many students eagerly waited to be called on for their opportunity to read, others would be banging their head on their books listening to an extremely slow reader.  At times tedious, this style allowed children to pick up tonal qualities, styles and concepts from other students. In today’s college education system, many have the opportunity to participate in online learning. These classes not only allow for an ease of operation in a busy schedule but give us to grow from other students by participating in group discussions. Both of these instances use the tool of collaborative learning. Though seemingly beneficial, how many individuals actually take the time to absorb what others have to say? Do you ever feel like the reading group child banging their head against their beginner’s book?

Collaborative learning is growing in today’s society. Along with scholastic groups, internet based social groups are also out there. With booming technology, blogs and free discussion are everywhere. Technology is not only allowing us to voice our opinions but socialize and network with others in our field or preference.

When absorbed correctly, collaborative learning can be beyond beneficial. Hearing the ideas and information of others allows room for an overall greater span of knowledge. But how much is too much when it comes to collaborative learning? Every personality is unique and composed with a different learning style. Some will know a greater amount of information about a topic than others. With any group, there are the leaders and the followers, the overachievers and the underachievers. The trouble comes when these roles are cast in multiples. Comments or posts given by two very strong leaders or conflicting viewpoints may not only cause stress, but make the group weaker as a whole. If you have a good group, the learning is amplified but for the most part collaborative learning based settings do not let you pick and choose. Collaborating as a group will be successful if and only if other members are willing to participate. Even while training a new group of employee’s at work, the information shared is your ticket to success. One member has the power to make or break any collaborative learning situation. Causing distractions, a lack of communication or motivation are just some of the possible downsides to potential group members. Learning to get along with the diversity of others is great, but when grades or deadlines are on the line, times get tough.

The next time you are stressing over a school discussion board or arguing a point in an entertainment based chat room, try taking a moment to appreciate the opportunity. Technology has given us a plethora of programs and devices that not only make life simpler but allow us to use our freedom of speech. Though it may seem like a flashback to reading time in kindergarten, embrace that you are an adult and have the power to take the lead at any time. Though collaborative learning may be a frustrating roll of the dice, the overall experience and knowledge you receive from a group environment is your choice.

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