150 paper

Collaborative learning: Some possibilities and limitations for students and teachers

Matt Bower, Debbie Richards
Computing Department
Macquarie University

Collaborative learning has become recognised as a means of encouraging deep learning and a key technique in problem and experienced based learning. For Computing students collaboration is not only a learning strategy but a learning outcome. While this is not a new idea, there appears to be reluctance on the part of teachers and students to create and take those opportunities. This paper seeks to revisit the possibilities that exist for collaboration ranging from team based work to peer review in the hope of motivating a change in culture and practice. We include discussion of these strategies together with highlights from student surveys regarding student dispositions towards collaborative learning. We note that the perceived overheads and logistical difficulties, to students and teachers, will often discourage the use of collaborative tasks, but that the educational outcomes achievable through collaborative learning exceed those possible when students work in isolation. Particular attention is given to technological approaches for facilitating collaborative learning. While the discussions that follow relate to computer science education specifically, it is intended that many of the approaches and associated issues will apply to other learning domains.

Keywords: collaborative learning, groupwork, team-based learning, computing, computer supported collaborate learning