Collaborative learning (CL) is instruction that involves students
working in teams to accomplish a common goal, under conditions that include the
following elements (Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991):
- Positive interdependence. Team members are obliged to rely on one
another to achieve the goal. If any team members fail to do their part, everyone
- Individual accountability. All students in a group are held
accountable for doing their share of the work and for mastery of all of the
material to be learned.
- Face-to-face promotive interaction. Although some of the group work
may be parcelled out and done individually, some must be done interactively,
with group members providing one another with feedback, challenging one
another's conclusions and reasoning, and perhaps most importantly, teaching and
encouraging one another.
- Appropriate use of collaborative skills. Students are encouraged and
helped to develop and practice trust-building, leadership, decision-making,
communication, and conflict management skills.
- Group processing. Team members set group goals, periodically assess
what they are doing well as a team, and identify changes they will make to
function more effectively in the future.
Collaborative learning is not simply a synonym for students working in groups.
A learning exercise only qualifies as CL to the extent that the listed elements
Source: Johnson, D.W., R.T. Johnson and K.A. Smith, Cooperative Learning: Increasing
College Faculty Instructional Productivity, ASHE-ERIC Higher Education
Report No. 4, George Washington University, 1991.