Monday, September 23, 2013

Collaborative Learning in the Classroom

Created by David Alexander, Graduate Teaching Assistant at the CTL & Phil Becker, TechFellow at the CTL

As a faculty member, you spend hours preparing your lectures to deliver to your students. And then you deliver the lecture, and it goes over well with the students. The students interact with the faculty member and other classmates. But other times it may be difficult to motivate students to interact in the classroom. Actually, more classroom interaction can be facilitated by integrating collaborative learning into an instructional design.

Collaborative learning enables students to not only learn the material themselves, but it also allows the students to teach each other. Collaborative learning is a great way for students to work on interpersonal skills, work within a team, promote cognitive development, and improve the learning experience, and it is a fun way to break up the normal classroom routine.


One simple activity that faculty members can use in their classroom to facilitate collaborative learning is called “think-pair-share” (TPS). TPS is a fun way to engage students and for them to interact with each other. The faculty member poses a thought-provoking question to the class and then allows a minute or two (or longer for more complex questions) for the students to think about the questions and write down their own thoughts. Then the faculty member pairs (“pairs” can also be a small group based on the size and set-up of the classroom) the students up for them to discuss it. Finally, the groups discuss their answers with the rest of the class facilitated by the faculty member. Based on the complexity of the question posed by the faculty member, this activity can last 2-3 minutes or longer. But this is a quick, fun way to get students to learn and interact.


A similar activity to TPS is called “catch-up.” In this activity the faculty member stops at pre-determined transition points during the lecture. Then students have the opportunity to get into pairs or small groups. The students then compare notes to compile a list of clarifying questions. The faculty member then allows the groups to ask their questions. It is a great way to review material within a section before moving on to another topic.

Note Taking Pairs

One final activity that can be implemented into the classroom is called “note-taking pairs.” In this technique, students are paired up, and they have to discuss, amongst themselves, the main concepts from the lecture. With this exercise students have the opportunity to review the quality of their notes while receiving reflective feedback from their peers.

There are many more activities that can be done in the classroom to integrate collaborative learning. Faculty members just have to continue to find innovative ways to engage the students. Collaborative learning helps to improve and enhance classroom dynamics. Have fun with it, and the students will continue to enjoy their learning experience.


Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence. (2013). Collaborative learning: Group work. Retrieved from

Starting Point. (2013). Cooperative learning techniques. Retrieved from

Starting Point. (2013). Think-pair-share. Retrieved from

University of Illinois. (2013). Instructional strategies for online courses. Retrieved from LEARNING

No comments:

Post a Comment