Collaborative or Cooperative Learning

Collaborative 0r Cooperative learning? What do they mean in terms of your classroom?

According to Panitz (1999),  collaborative learning is where  individuals are responsible for their actions, including learning and respecting the abilities and contributions of their peers. It is more student centred and is the best approach when knowledge is derived through reasoning and questioning.

Cooperative learning is where students work in a group to achieve a specific end product or goal. It is a more directive approach and is closely controlled by the teacher and is best suited to ‘Foundational  knowledge’, such as correct spelling, grammar, mathematics procedures, history topics etc. (Brufee, 1995).

Bruffee also states that the learning approach depends on the sophistication level of the students involved, with collaborative learning requiring more advanced student preparation, as well as the philosophy and preparation of the teacher.

Interpersonal And Small group Skills– Groups cannot function effectively if students do not have and use the needed social skills. Teachers teach these skills as purposefully and precisely as academic skills. Collaborative skills include leadership, decision making, trust building, communication, and conflict-management skills.

Collaborative Learning (Orr 1997)
Frequently, when students or teachers hear the phrase collaborative learning, they automatically assume a work group context, harken back to their own unpleasant experiences with work or study groups, and dismiss the notion of collaboration as an unworkable approach that attempts to transfer the burden of teaching from teacher to student. Such anxiety is worth noting because it represents an acute misunderstanding of what has become a most viable approach to teaching and learning.
Collaborative learning is based upon the following principles:

1.Working together results in a greater understanding than would likely have occurred if one had worked independently.
2. Spoken and written interactions contribute to this increased understanding.
3. Opportunity exists to become aware, through classroom experiences,of relationships between social interactions and increasedunderstanding.
4. Some elements of this increased understanding are idiosyncratic and unpredictable.
5. Participation is voluntary and must be freely entered into.

Reference: Panitz, T. (1999) Collaborative versus cooperative learning – A comparison of the two concepts which will help us understand the underlying nature of interactive learning. Retrieved from:


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