Why Classroom Collaboration Is The Key To Lifelong Learning

Classic ‘instructional’ models for the classroom have tended to concentrate on individual processes of learning, but in the interests of readying students for the world of work, collaboration is playing an increasing role in education.

After all, there are many more careers that require team-work than there are solitary professions, and – crucially – there’s strength in numbers. But collaboration is more than just co-operation; it can be used in the entire learning process, from the teacher teaching the class to the students educating one another. At its core is the need for every student in the class to be given the opportunity to contribute and play an active role in the project.

The collaborative setting is an ideal environment for constructing knowledge and learning. By giving students the time and the environment to discuss what they have learned and complete tasks that apply the skills or knowledge, they will develop a deeper understanding of their work and are more likely to take an active interest. Put simply, they use it so they don’t lose it.

I believe that collaborative learning has the potential to unlock a new era in education. By students directly contributing and working together to learn, education could be redefined. It’s about supporting, guiding and strengthening the impact of the learning journey, rather than simply determining its path.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of using software to support this has been with MoviePlus. Making a video naturally encourages students to collaborate; one will direct, one will be the cameraman, one will edit, etc. and the teacher simply needs to facilitate the natural order for the students.

The tools should take on a background role in this sort of scenario rather than becoming part of the learning curve for students (if the software is challenging to use then we risk collaboration taking a back seat while students get to grips with the technology). Software is always at its best when it’s accessible and digitally rich, enabling students to create something together without asking the teacher for help each step of the way.

Ultimately, in this scenario, the students have a body of work presented in a format that resonates with them: high-definition film footage. Their feedback is instant and self-assessment is easy – if it’s not a good effort then the digital generation will be the first to spot it!

Serif’s free online teacher resources cover a wide range of cross-curricular topics and provide fresh new ideas on collaborative projects. Visit http://educationresources.serif.com for more information. Cover image courtesy of Becker College


  1. Caitlin

    August 25, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Collaboration in the classroom is not the same as collaboration in the workplace. First, students are forced to be in the classroom. There is a wide range of ability and willingness to work. Second, in the workplace if someone is not pulling their weight, they will be tossed out (at least of the group). In the classroom, a group is stuck with the members it has. Finally, most classroom collaborative projects do not have an assigned leader with the authority to make final decisions or assign parts of the task to members of the group. It is rare in the workplace to have a collaborative process without one person to answer to even if that person tries to work on an equal basis within the group.

    • Vickel

      August 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      @Caitlin while acknowledging there are differences between working in a collaborative environment in school and workplace. I guess the main concept behind collaborative learning in school is ‘building the skills’, preparing the students for when the rubber hits the road.
      Briefly expanding on ‘building the skills’ is as described in this blog as life long learning – it’s about learning how to learn. If you acquire this, I would like to think you’ll be able to handle almost every possible situation. It’s about thinking beyond the classroom.

  2. Tiziana Ciccone

    August 29, 2012 at 6:23 am

    “Learning how to learn” is the key to education. A classroom that fosters a collaborative environment is laying the foundation for this. There is never an equal balance in group work but there is much to be gained by encouraging children to participate, exchange ideas, collaborate, argue, dialogue etc… The possibilities are endless!

    Adults should take notes!

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  4. Frank

    September 4, 2012 at 6:13 am

    today I visited a classroom (community college) full of 16 students all busy working on their parts of a team project – probably groups of 4, so competing projects sharing the same room.

    the level of engagement was palpable – this is their final semester of 3, and the transformation from bored ‘why do I need to learn this’ students to engaged foot-tapping focus was wonderful to see.

    I’ve heard even giving school kids an ambitious team project – ‘you work out how to do it’ – can achieve terrific engagement and results.

  5. Adriana Arias

    September 12, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    1. So when you need help in or on something you have people to help you.
    2. so you can gain trust on other people in you classroom.
    3. It well help students be encourage to collaborate with other people.
    4. When you have to do a project for somthing it is easies to collaborate with other then just trying to find out what it is about the project is about.
    5. Students well feel more trust if they collaborate with others.
    6. Parents can help their child collborate if the try to help them out it may even help them in school.