Why I am in Love with Collaborative Learning?

Actually I always believed learning on my own is the most effective way.

It was only at university where I had an opinion changing experience.

We were about 15 students attending a class together. Our professor was one of the advisors to the German Government. One thing he enjoyed most was thinking out loud in front of our class. The class was officially scheduled for 90 minutes. This did not stop this famous professor to elaborate all aspects of the topic in front of us in a monologue while walking up and down. Needless to say his lecture could last up to 3 or 4 hours without break. We estimated that he walked about a minimum of 10 kilometers during this time. Most of us could not figure out what his key message were and what to learn for the final exam. 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 not to fall asleep and start snoring. Have you made similar experiences ? (Leave a comment. Thank you.)

Another obvious fact was that there were a large percentage of students who failed the final exam.

The only way I thought to survive the exam was to form a study group. This seemed to be such a good idea that all of the 15 participants joined. Still some of them at the beginning were questioning 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.

When Mark Zuckerberg was busy founding Facebook a $15 Billion company while at Harvard the final exam in his art course were only one week away and he wasn’t prepared at all for it. “Zuckerberg did what comes naturally to a native of the web. He went to the internet and downloaded images of all the pieces of art he knew would be covered in the exam. He put them on a web page and added blank boxes under each. Then he emailed the address of this page to his classmates, telling them he’d just put up a study guide… The class dutifully came along and filled in the blanks with the essential knowledge about each piece of art, editing each other as they went, collaborating to get it just right… Zuckerberg aced the exam. But here’s the real kicker: The professor said the class as a whole got better grades than usual.” Reference: Jarvis, Jeff: What Would Google Do?, Harper Luxe, page 84.

This was my personal experience. Is there any scientific research confirming my personal success story?

There is a landmark study by Richard J. Light, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “Light discovered that one of the strongest determinants of students’ success 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,

But how does it actually work? What does Neuroscience say?

“Your Brain Needs Others”

Ellen Weber, Ph.D., director of the MITA International Brain Based Center in Pittsford, N.Y made the following observation.

“Weber’s recommendation to talk with someone about what you just learned derives from something that neuroscientists are learning more about—the brain as a social animal that needs interaction with others.”

“Because of brain-imaging technologies, we know that we use only 3 percent to 5 percent of our brains,” Weber says. “If you send me to your staff meeting and sit me there and talk to me, I use 3 percent of my brain, and that is the reason I hate being there and why I’m disengaged.””

“However, “If you stir up my environment meaningfully so that I can teach the person next to me something that I [just learned], I will use 90 percent of my brain,” suggests Weber.” Reference: http://www.shrm.org/hrmagazine/articles/0308/0308fox.asp

I am now the President of the corporate Toastmasters club in the company I am working for. Toastmasters mission is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth. During my short time I have seen people developing unbelievable fast. While they used a script in their first speech and showed signs of nervousness most of them did not use a script in their second speech and were comfortably standing in front of the audience. This is just another experience that proves how effective collaborative learning is.

I am now looking for programs to develop collaboratively team skills (effective team meetings, etc.). If you do know any such program or any other collaborative learning programs please leave me a comment. Thank you.

Further Reading:

The Fastest Ways To Learn Any New Language

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2 Responses to “Why I am in Love with Collaborative Learning?”

  1. Succeeding together in the online Time Exchange Network « Continuous Learning & Development Says:

    […] reading: Why I am in love with collaborative learning Crowdsourcing in Human […]

  2. Lui Says:

    Adding up to what you have perfectly pictured in your articicle, I guess you will enjoy reading about Mirror Neurons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron).
    I had the chance to meet one of the scientists who was determinant for this discovery (Prof. Giacomo RIzzolatti) and it is amazing how we are now getting scientific demonstrations for something that has been intuitive for many of us.
    Learning by doing and learning by watching others do are almost as effective. Therefore you’ve got to choose carefully who you are learning from!
    Implications are indefinite, and much is still to come. Our brain is an unknown territory.

    One aspect I would like to stress here is that social networks are amazing as far as you can expose youself to valuable ideas, experiences and datas. On the other hand some of them (such as fb) become, sometimes, a plethora of not-so-smart content (just to be politically correct) which is ok when it comes to time-killers (or better time-wasters) but they tend to draw all the attention and deistract from more important matters (IMHO).


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