Collaborative learning

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by Ignacio Ruiz.

‘Collaborative learning’ is a hypernym for a variety of approaches involving severalindividuals joining efforts to accomplish a given task. While doing so, students work in groups of two or more, negotiating information and mutually searching for understanding, solutions, etc. This idea isheavily rooted in Vygotsky’s views that there exists an inherent social nature of learning which is shown through his ‘theory of zone of proximal development’. [1]
Though Collaborative Learning mayvary its form and is practiced by teachers of different disciplinary backgrounds and teaching traditions, the field shares common assumptions about the learners and the learning process:
1) Learningis an active, constructive process: To learn new information, ideas or skills, students have to work actively with them in purposeful ways.[2]
2) Learning depends on rich contexts: Recent researchsuggests learning is fundamentally influenced by the context and activity in which it is embedded. [2]
3) Learners are diverse: Students bring multiple perspectives to the classroom. Differentbackgrounds, learning styles, experiences and aspirations. [2]
4) Learning is inherently social: Learning occurs when an intellectual synergy is produced and many minds come to bear on a commonproblem. This mutual exploration and meaning-making, leads to a better understanding on the part of students, and to the creation of new understanding for all of us.
‘Cooperative learning’, in theother hand, is a specific kind of collaborative learning. It represents, actually, the most carefully structured end of the Collaborative Learning continuum. In this, students work face-to-face and learnto work as a team on a structured activity, being assessed individually and also as a group.

[1]: Lee, C.D. and Smagorinsky, P. (Eds.).(2000). Vygotskian perspectives on literacy research:...
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