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Learning Science Principle #3: Meaningful Collaboration
Research shows that learners engage, try harder & achieve more when they have opportunities to work with peers & instructors.
✏️ Learning Design Tips
Enabling learners to “co-construct” understanding with one another is proven to be more effective for learning than activities where students learn from an expert instructor.
Instead of defaulting to lecture, think about how to maximise opportunities for learners to actively construct knowledge in groups, e.g. reading a text and then self-explaining it back to someone else (Chi & Wylie, 2014).
Learning together prompts learners to think about what they are doing and how they are learning. It creates connections across the group which helps to drive engagement with the subject & helps build motivation to stay and learn ((Johnson & Johnson, 1986; Freeman, Anderman & Jensen, 2007).
Opportunities to hear multiple perspectives are proven to help deepen and enrich individual learning. It also provides a forum for cognitive processing, allowing learners to compare what they know to other perspectives and ideas in order to help them refine their own understanding & internal mental models (Springer et al., 1999).
Think about how you can build in meaningful opportunities for your learners to be exposed to and connect with both their instructor and one another throughout your experience.
In async scenarios this can be achieved through tactics such as: the instructor increasing their presence & connection through video & audio content, tone of voice, using learners’ names, providing feedback (recorded or responsive) and hosting Q&As / virtual office hours to respond to and connect with learners.
Example 1: Accounting 📈
You want your learners to be able to analyse a balance sheet. Provide an opportunity for your learners to review some related content (e.g. a good or bad example) and agree collectively whether it is a good or bad example and why.
Example 2: Sales 💰
Have students work together to create a script for a client meeting, mapped to the buyer’s specific profile and budget, then share to the group. Alternatively, have students create the scripts individually and then receive feedback either from peers or instructor or — even better — both.
Example 3: Medicine 🩺
Share an interview (video, audio, text based) with a doctor who explains their thought process as they respond to an emergency, profile their patients and decide on a suitable treatment.
Provide a similar but different scenario and have students work in groups to negotiate their thought process, decision & response. If group work isn’t possible, have each student share their response and lead a discussion (sync or async) drawing out different perspectives & approaches to drive cognitive processing.
🥷 Ninja Tip > Design for Disagreement…
Learners debating, disagreeing with one another, or offering critiques can help one another amend their own thinking and develop a deeper understanding of the content.
Maximise opportunities for learners to come up with competing points of view to draw out disagreement and enable cognitive processing.
E.g. have different students read up on different theories of organisational leadership and set them a task to convince the instructor & rest of the class that their approach is the best way to hit a fictional organisation’s goals.
🧪 The Science Bit
Chi, M. T. & Wylie, R. (2014). The ICAP framework: Linking cognitive engagement to active learning outcomes. Educational Psychologist, 49(4), 219–243.
Freeman, T. M., Anderman, L. H. & Jensen, J. M. (2007). Sense of belonging in college freshmen at the classroom and campus levels. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75(3), 203–220.
Johnson, R. T. & Johnson, D. W. (1986). Encouraging student/student interaction. Research matters — to the science teacher. Reston, VA: National Association for Research in Science Teaching.
Springer, L., Stanne, M. E. & Donovan, S. (1999). Effects of small- group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69(1), 50–80.