The role of the teacher during collaborative learning

A systematic review of the role of the teacher during collaborative learning in primary and secondary education suggests that several types of teacher guidance can be positive. However, the challenge for the teacher is to support interaction between pupils without taking control of the moments in which opportunities to learn arise for pupils.

The review, carried out by Anouschka van Leeuwen and Jeroen Janssen, included both qualitative and quantitative studies (n=66) conducted in primary and secondary schools, and looked at the relationship between the teacher’s role and the processes and outcomes of collaboration among pupils.

The authors found that feedback, prompting, questioning and transferring control of the learning process to pupils were all effective strategies for collaborative learning. The review concludes that when guiding collaborative learning, teachers should try to not only focus on the content of the task, but also on how pupils approach the task and the strategies they use for collaboration, and should let pupils know that help is available without imposing this help.

Source: A systematic review of teacher guidance during collaborative learning in primary and secondary education (February 2019), Educational Research Review, volume 27

Computer-supported collaborative learning

Juanjuan Chen and colleagues recently performed a meta-analysis on the effects of computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL).

Using 425 empirical studies (all of which used a controlled experimental or quasi-experimental design) published between 2000 and 2016, researchers found several main characteristics to examine: the effects of the collaboration itself; the effects of computer use during collaboration; the effects of extra technology-related learning tools used in CSCL, such as videoconferencing and sharing visuals with team partners; and strategies such as role assignment and peer feedback.

Collaborative learning itself positively affected:

  • Knowledge gain (+0.42)
  • Skill acquisition (+0.62)
  • Pupil perceptions of the experience (+0.38)

The use of computers, when combined with collaborative learning, positively affected:

  • Knowledge gain (+0.45)
  • Skill acquisition (+0.53)
  • Pupil perceptions (+0.51)
  • Group task performance (+0.89)
  • Social interaction (+0.57)

Lastly, extra technology-related learning tools during CSCL positively affected knowledge gain (+0.55), as did the use of strategies (+0.38).

Source: The role of collaboration, computer use, learning environments, and supporting strategies in CSCL: A meta-analysis (December 2018), Review of Educational Research, 88(6).