Question 3 (Jan 24, 2008)

Read the following article and answer the questions (20 points):

click on this link to go to the article…

Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking

1. What are some of important issues discussed in the article? (5 points)
2. Do you agree with the overall theme of the article? Why do you say so? (5 points)
3. Suggest an alternative viewpoint to tackle the issues discussed in the article. (10 points)

5 thoughts on “Question 3 (Jan 24, 2008)”

  1. 1] What are some of the important issues discussed in this article?
    The term Collaborative Learning [CL] refers to an instruction method where students at various learning levels work in small groups to achieve a common goal. The success of one student may help others to be successful in understanding of the presented material. This helps to promote critical thinking in individuals and in return critical thinking is more profound in CL group work. Although CL has been studied at primary and secondary levels, there is little emperical evidence to suggest that it will work at the technical college level, partly becasue most of the research is done in the non-technical fields such as literature. The present article examined individual learning versus collaborative learning in a college technology classroom. There were two seperate groups of the IL group and the CL group . The study suggested that the mean of the post test scores were slightly higher in the CL group versus the IL [individual learning] group. The reasoning for this is becasue students are more likely to engage in critical thinking as a group than as individuals.
    #2 Do you agree with the overall theme of the article?
    Yes, I agree with some of the information in the article becasue i believe that although there are many factors in learning, group dynamics plays an integral part in learning. Group dynamics works hand-in-hand with the overall cooperative learning experience to enrich each individual in a CL learning environment. Therefore, I agree that CL enhances critical thinking versus IL. CL learning in a group atmosphere enhances critical thinking because we as individuals cannot share the overall opinions of our classmates about a topic. Individuals in a group must be able to explain there answers verbally to their classmates leading to other possible solutions other than there own. As result, the original answer may or may not be correct, thus leading to other more complete possibilites. A CL group helps to reduce the overall anxiety an iondividual answer, because a more complete answer can be derived.
    #3 In order to tackle the issues discussed in the article, future studies are needed to investigate the vast parameters associated with the CL process. These parts might include: the character of the group, changes in class mood, similarities of people in the group, individual differences, motivation, multiple intelligences, sensory preferences [auditory, visual, kinesthetic][, learning level of the group, type of teacher
    [ explainer[present], involver[practice], enabler[producer]], Overall, students must be allowed to confront new challenges using their past experiences without the dominance of a teacher/giver of information.

  2. Previously, researches said that the students who learned collaboratively could achieve higher levels of thoughts and retain information longer than the students who work quietly as individuals. However, since the subjects of most of these researches are primary or secondly levels, not college level, Gokhale examined the effectiveness of individual learning versus collaborative learning among college students in enhancing drill-and practice skills and critical-thinking skills. He found out that;

    1. Even the university level, by learning collaboratively such as discussion, clarification of ideas, and evaluation of others’ ideas, students could enhance their critical thinking skills.
    2. Independent learning and collaborative learning are equally effective if the purpose of the learning is just gaining factual knowledge.
    3. To make the collaborative learning be effective, the teachers should serve as a facilitator for learning not transmitting information.
    4. Under the collaborative learning, students feel more relaxed and make problem-solving easy.

    (2) Yes, I agree. I also see the development of critical thinking among students when they study collaboratively. For example, when I taught Japanese literature to Year 4 and Year 5 Japanese students (8-10 years old), I often used 4 role sheets. In this task, students were divided into groups of 4 and each student had his own role (vocabularies, making questions, drawing important part of the story, find the theme of the story). After they completed their roles, each group members presented and discussed about their roles and shared the ideas. Through this discussion, students could develop their thinking skills. Also, under the comfortable environment with group members, they could ask freely each other and learn together. However, I believe that if the teachers use collaborative learning, they have to give clear explanation about the purpose and expectation of the study. Otherwise, students will be just confused.

    (3) As it mentioned in the article for the future research, I also believe that the race (ethnicity) of the students can be the big factor for the effectiveness of collaborative learning. Since Asian students are used to study independently and quietly in their countries, to work collaboratively with others often make them feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. Two of my Year 7 students came from Japanese school to NIST. Since they were not used to do group activity or collaborative learning, when they moved to NIST, they were very embarrassed about our learning style. Since NIST implements IB curriculum including PYP (Primary Year Program) and MYP (Middle Year Program), it’s very important for them to learn to think critically and work collaboratively with others. Since Japanese learning style is listening and memorizing, they had never learned how to think critically. Though I think that collaborative learning can develop students’ critical thinking, I, myself, basically feel more comfortable when I study independently. So, I think it is important for teachers to consider students’ cultural background when they use collaborative learning. Learning can be happened when the students feel secured. If they feel uncomfortable about their learning environment, the effectiveness of learning will be less. Also I believe that the group composition can be the important key factor for the success of the collaborative learning. I am still struggling what is the best effective grouping, I usually use mixed ability group with the same ratio of different sexes. Since the students discuss together and usually high achiever help low achiever, both of them can develop their learning. (I believe Emily can give suggestion about grouping strategy.) Preparing comfortable atmosphere is very important for students when they work collaboratively. As a facilitator, teachers should explain clearly about the rules (respect others, work collaboratively) of collaborative working.

  3. 1. The article “Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking” outlines the principles behind the idea of collaborative learning and reports on a study that compared students who learned independently with students who learned the same material collaboratively. Some important points about collaborative learning that were raised were:
    › Shared learning allows students the opportunity to engage in discussion, take responsibility for their own learning and become critical thinkers
    › Students need to be able to think creatively, solve problems and make decisions as a team in the work place, all of which are developed through collaborative learning.
    › Students become more responsible not only for their own learning but for the learning of others as well.
    › The size of the group that the students work in is very important to ensure that there is a range of thinking skills and expertise, whilst everyone has the opportunity to participate.
    › Key features must be group goals and individual accountability.
    › Students who worked collaboratively performed significantly better on the critical-thinking tests than the students who studied independently, while both groups did equally well on the drill-and-practice test.
    › Collaborative learning is beneficial if the purpose of instruction is to enhance critical thinking and problem solving, however either method of instruction is effective in gaining factual knowledge.

    2. I agree with the content on this article, however as it was published in 1995, I feel that with the changes in approaches to teaching over recent years, the study may have had different results (in favour of collaborative learning) if it was more recent. With more and more curricula taking a collaborative approach to teaching and learning, and with assessment for learning being a key focus, I think that the students of today may panic when put under the stress of teaching themselves as it is not a style with which they have been educated. Students definitely feel less threatened if they are allowed to take responsibility for their own learning, and then feel empowered when they are able to teach this learning to another student. On occasions students are able to explain to fellow students much more effectively than a teacher can, and this is where collaborative learning is invaluable. However I think that it is the teacher who has the hardest job, as they have to provide the students with the skills to work effectively with one another, but they are no longer the imparter of knowledge – this is a role change that some teachers have found hard to accept!

    3. From the viewpoint of a parent, collaborative learning may be seen as an easy option for the teacher. Traditionally the teacher is the leader of the class who is the fount of all knowledge, and the students are the jugs into which they pour this knowledge. For most parents, school meant sitting in rows, listening to the teacher and then re-writing what the teacher said or doing page after page of equations. It is often hard for parents to understand the value of using the children’s prior experience and linking new learning into this, which is essentially what collaborative learning, is. The students bring with them, to the groups, a wealth of experience which they relate to the task and share with their peers in order to gain a better understanding. The teacher acts as a facilitator enabling the students to become good group members. Many parents expect each child to have to work by themselves as this is the only way that shows that they fully understand, and that this must be shown by some form of written work. Adjusting parents thinking to understanding that collaborative learning is much more relevant and realistic to the real world takes time. Parents also struggle with the concept of there being different learning styles. It was not a concept that had been introduced to the classroom when they were at school – in their day, all students listened and learned. Many parents find it hard to accept that their child may need to move around to effectively learn, or may need to listen to music, or may need to draw everything as a diagram. It is often the parents who believe that today’s methods of teaching and learning are too flexible and unstructured, and they can be the biggest obstacle that teachers come up against….maybe they need re-educating.

  4. Answer to the question 3:
    1. The major point of this article is that collaborative learning is more effective and useful at all levels of education. And the issues discussed in this article are follow:
    a. the collaborative learning enhances the levels of students’ cognitive thinking and creativity, promote students’ critical thinking, and at the same time it improves the students’ long term memory of information more than individual learning;
    b. in collaborative learning the success of one student may help others to be successful in understanding of the inputs;
    c. the collaborative learning is not only useful and effective at primary and secondary schools but also useful and effective at higher education based on researches because students are more likely to engage in critical thinking as a group than as individuals (see a.);
    2. Yes, I strongly agree with the overall theme of the article based on my personal experience of being a student and a language teacher. When I was a student at primary and secondary schools, I often felt more comfortable working with classmates than alone in classes. Working with others enabled me to use the maximum capacity of my energy and brain for the tasks, and at the same time my brain was more often stimulated by my partner/s’ questions and opinions. Even now in collages, I still found working with ones whom I trust and know well is more effective and productive than working alone. For instance, I often have discussions with my friends and classmates about course assignments through out the process of writing, which help me to think critically and comprehensively. In general, I found myself more productive and cleaver when I work with others whom I trust than I am alone or work with someone whom I have low level of trust and accountability. Therefore, as a facilitator, teachers should encourage the collaborative learning with clear instruction or rubrics based on the students’ needs in classes.

  5. 1. What are some of important issues discussed in the article? (5 points)

    ›The study is an examination of the effectiveness of individual learning versus collaborative learning in respect to drill-and-practice versus critical thinking
    ›The demographic was concise and specific
    ›The employment of methods was ‘chalk and talk’ and test-oriented
    ›Considering the factors the author did, the testing was fair and probably suitable for this demographic
    ›No significant difference in learning between individuals versus groups in ‘drill and practice’ results
    ›Significant difference in learning between individuals versus groups in critical thinking results
    ›Results agreed with the learning theories proposed by proponents of collaborative learning
    ›The peer support system makes it possible for the learner to internalize both external knowledge and critical thinking skills and to convert them into tools for intellectual functioning.
    ›Participants in groups felt it was easier to assimilate material and stimulate a critical thinking process; reduced anxiety with problem-solving, often through humour; but felt negatively about the group structure because some felt they were often explaining material which wasted a lot of their own learning time.
    ›If the purpose of instruction is to enhance critical- thinking and problem- solving skills, then collaborative learning is more beneficial.
    ›For collaborative learning to be effective, the instructor must view teaching as a process of developing and enhancing students’ ability to learn.
    ›Future research studies need to investigate the effect of different variables in the collaborative learning process.

    2. Do you agree with the overall theme of the article? Why do you say so? (5 points)

    I find it hard to disagree with the findings of this article. It demonstrates a scientific study prepared in order to support or refute the findings, statements, theories or hypothesis of the proponents of collaborative learning. By lack of another discourse, I am to at least be neutral and at most agree with the overall theme of this article and the way that it is presented.

    Anuradha A. Gokhale sets out to prove or disprove a theory. He follows a regimented process in doing so. He supports all of his claims with substantiation and proof that is compared to empirical evidence. Essentially, this article delineates Bloom’s Taxonomy (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation) through its strategies and methods of application.

    Because of the nature of it being so factual, it is hard to argue with the findings. The argument could, however be with the basis upon how the findings were gathered; who he used as his demographic; what kind of pretest and posttests were given; why they were not parallel; whether more or less people used in this type of study would skew the results; what gender, age and race he used and what ratios; how the tests were administered; what predisposition to specific learning and testing styles the subjects had; and many other factors. But for the purpose of this study, and to try not to be too argumentative this article justifies its purpose. Since “the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability” (Karl Popper, 1982.) this proves the article’s dissertation to be justifiable. We need to reflect that it does not have to be perfectly accurate to be scientifically useful.

    3. Suggest an alternative viewpoint to tackle the issues discussed in the article. (10 points)

    There were a number of issues that came to mind when I read through the findings of this article:

    ›I might use a parallel pre and posttest as a gauge as well in this testing process. This might give a more rounded understanding of what is happening with the results of the tests. This parallel testing would coincide with, not replace, the testing that is already set in place.

    ›I might consider other ratios for scoring versus 50% individual – 50% group. Though these numbers seem fair at first glance, they seem to me as too simplified and rounded. They do not account for someone who is low-level getting a higher mark then they should and someone who is a high-level getting a lower mark then they might otherwise. To combat this issue, I might allow for and have weighting within the groups themselves as a component for grading criterion, which would also cover a critique about poor accountability

    ›Alpha-types can cause problems: These people can often have a negative impact on group learning. They may try to take the role of the leader when the rest of the group does not want, respect or agree with what they are saying or doing. This can be demoralizing to the whole group and may cause unnecessary de-motivation. Therefore group dynamics are also a major factor when considering whether or not to apply collaborative learning techniques. The teacher needs to be well aware of what is happening in the group and needs to reflect again to accountability. As discussed in class, the use of systems of accountability can be employed (e.g. Use numbers from a deck of cards that are handed out to determine how many questions a group member is allowed or should reply to)

    ›Gender is a major consideration with regard to collaborative learning. Research shows that in science, and perhaps in other areas of the curriculum as well, group learning may be LESS equitable for girls than autonomous learning. Group learning may reinforce stereotypes, biases, and views of science and math as a male domain. Male students may discredit females, and the classroom may become a microcosm of the “old boy” network that has frequently discouraged women and minorities from participating in certain curricular activities. (Cohen 1986; Sadker et al. 1991; Linn and Burbules 1993)

    ›Race and geographical demographic or upbringing must also play a significant role in a collaborative learning environment for two reasons: the student may not be used to learning in a collaborative environment, the student may feel an act of oppression in such a group

    NOTE: to combat both Gender and Racial issues it may be worthy of argument to separate groups to avoid diversity (all female or all racial minorities) While this may struggle against one issue, it may bring rise to another, which is the usefulness of a diverse learning group which gives students new perspectives in regards to getting better at critical thinking and problem solving (synthesis, analysis and evaluation)

    While these are some causes for concern with Collaborative Learning, by no means am I stating that it should not be used in practice. As with many other methods of teaching and in order to appeal to the interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences of learners, I do suggest that Collaborative Learning is used in conjunction with many other types of learning motifs.

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