During my time in university I have experienced the power of collaborative learning myself. We were about 15 students attending a class together. Our professor was one the advisors to the German Government. One thing he enjoyed most was thinking loud in front of this class. The class was officially scheduled for 90 minutes. This did not stop this famous professor to elaborate all aspects of the topic of the class during his lecture in a “dramatic” monologue while walking up and down in front of us. Needless to say that his type of lecture could last until 3 to 4 hours without break. Leaving most of us puzzled what his key message was and what to learn in respect of the final exam at the end of the semester. Not to mention that it was impossible to keep the attention level during this time in the classroom. I still wonder today how I was able to manage not to fall asleep.
Another obvious fact was that there was a large percentage of students who failed the final exam for this class.
The only way I thought about how to survive the exam was to form a study group. This seemed to be a good idea as then all the students of this class attended the study group. I remember some of them questioning at the beginning if studying together will be effective. By the end of the semester we were all fully engaged in this group and prepared the upcoming exam together. The result was better than imagined – None of us failed.
Now I found a landmark study by Richard J. Light, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “Light discovered that one of the strongest determinants of students’ succes in higher education – more important than the details of their instructors’ teaching styles – was their ability to form or participate in small study groups. Students who studied in groups, even only once a week, were more engaged in their studies, were better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own.” Seely Brown, John;Adler, Richard P.: “Minds on Fire – Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0” Page 18