Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
How students learn, both generally and within their subject/disciplinary area(s)
Group collaboration is the process of working together with a group of people to achieve a common goal during class time. In the context of learning in higher education, in-class group collaboration can involve students working together to complete projects or other learning activities during class. Group collaboration can be an effective way to learn in higher education because it allows students to share ideas and perspectives, work together to solve problems, and learn from one another in real-time. It can also promote social skills, such as communication, teamwork, and conflict resolution, which are important in many fields. To facilitate group collaboration in higher education, instructors might assign group projects or activities during class, encourage students to work together in small groups during class, or create structured activities or discussions that encourage students to collaborate with one another.
Group collaboration involves people working together toward a common goal.
A tonne of high-quality studies supports group work.
Group work leads to large learning gains in psychology (when not accompanied by group assessment) (Tomcho & Foels, 2012).
Moderate learning benefits for science, technology, engineering, and maths students, but also benefits for persistence and attitudes to the subject (Springer et al., 1999).
It appears to also help students transfer learning onto other problems (Pai et al., 2015).
Students learning with technology also do better in small groups than individually. They're also more perseverant, but do take longer to complete tasks (Lou et al., 2001).
Collaborative learning can have moderate effects on critical thinking (Abrami et al., 2008; Reale et al., 2018; Tiruneh et al., 2014).
Make task interdependent, brief, and minimise judgment
Group learning works better when...
Students are interdependent
Groups work together for a brief period (1-3 classes) rather than the whole semester
Contribution to group activities is not scrutinised
It works because group work promotes 'co-construction'.
Basically, it operates via a high level of active learning (Chi & Wylie, 2014). The best type of individual learning comes from students 'constructing' knowledge, connecting new material to what they already know. Working in groups not only promotes this process internally (e.g., by trying to explain your understanding to peers) but also helps to fill in gaps (e.g., by identifying and correcting misconceptions) (Chi & Wylie, 2014).
Collaborative learning is one of the most researched topics in higher education and, time-and-time-again, it comes up trumps.
All of the meta-analyses that inform this evidence summary tell the same story and their quality scores well against the GRADE criteria. There are some slight differences in their findings because they all look at slightly different things, but the fact remains that we can be confident about this evidence.
Abrami, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Surkes, M. A., Tamim, R., & Zhang, D. (2008). Instructional interventions affecting critical thinking skills and dispositions: A stage 1 meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 1102-1134.
Chi, M. T., & Wylie, R. (2014). The ICAP Framework: Linking cognitive engagement to active learning outcomes. Educational Psychologist, 49(4), 219–243. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2014.965823
Lou, Y., Abrami, P. C., & d’Apollonia, S. (2001). Small Group and Individual Learning with Technology: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 71(3), 449–521. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543071003449
Pai, H.-H., Sears, D. A., & Maeda, Y. (2015). Effects of Small-Group Learning on Transfer: a Meta-Analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 27(1), 79–102. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-014-9260-8
Reale, M. C., Riche, D. M., Witt, B. A., Baker, W. L., & Peeters, M. J. (2018). Development of critical thinking in health professions education: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, 10(7), 826-833.
Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., & Donovan, S. S. (1999). Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69(1), 21–51. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543069001021
Tiruneh, D. T., Verburgh, A., & Elen, J. (2014). Effectiveness of critical thinking instruction in higher education: A systematic review of intervention studies. Higher Education Studies, 4(1), 1-17.
Tomcho, T. J., & Foels, R. (2012). Meta-Analysis of Group Learning Activities: Empirically Based Teaching Recommendations. Teaching of Psychology, 39(3), 159–169. https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628312450414