Making Your Classroom A Community

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Collaborative learning encourages students to rely on one another to accomplish tasks that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish individually. This peer-to-peer learning style fosters deep thinking in the classroom and has been shown to help students retain more information, develop their critical thinking skills, and form a social support system. 


Retain More Information: 

In psychology, the term “cognitive load” is used to refer to the amount of information that an individual’s working memory can retain at one time. This theory was developed by Australian psychologist and professor John Sweller, who says that instructional methods must avoid overloading students’ working memories with activities that don’t directly contribute to learning since working memory has a limited capacity. 


When students are encouraged or required to collaborate on assignments, the stress of their cognitive loads is lessened, as the responsibility of sharing and producing knowledge is shared among group members. This collaborative memory bank is much more efficient than relying on an individual’s memory, and as a result, each member of the group has more cognitive resources to use for processing and retaining new information presented by their peers. 


Build Skill Sets: 

In order to function as a team, individual members of a collaborative learning environment need to be able to solve interpersonal problems, negotiate, develop creative strategies, and make collective decisions. All these skills contribute to enhanced critical thinking skills that are becoming increasingly more important in the workplace.  


A 2018 LinkedIn study found that a tightening labor market and the short shelf life of some skills have contributed to many skill gaps in the workforce, and these gaps should be filled by well-educated individuals who have benefited from collaborative learning. In the same study, LinkedIn found that executives believe that training for soft skills should be a top priority for talent development. The top three most important skills for employees to learn? Leadership, communication, and collaboration; all skills that can be directly formed in a collaborative learning environment. 


Grow a Social Support System: 

These days, human connection is hard to come by, and students and workers crave the ability to communicate with their like-minded peers. Now that most interaction is virtual, it’s easier than ever to connect individuals from different educational, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Collaborative learning environments need to take advantage of this benefit in order to expand teams’ connections and form social support systems. 


According to Forbes, networking is an essential aspect of building a career, but the idea of connecting with professionals can be intimidating for some students. By creating collaborative learning communities, professors can give students the interpersonal skills that they need to feel confident in reaching out to potential employers, mentors, and peers.  


Let’s Get to Work: 

The benefits of collaborative learning are clear and although most people are in isolation due to COVID-19, learning virtually shouldn't have to mean learning alone. Students will benefit socially, academically, and professionally from a cooperative learning environment, and DS3 has the digital tools any professor needs to foster a collaborative virtual classroom.