FACILITATORS AND INHIBITORS ALONG THE ROAD TO COLLABORATIVE LEARNING (CL)
As the term suggests, Collaborative Learning involves both the individual and others in the process of learning. This could be in the context of everyday personal life or in a work place. Indeed, it can happen anywhere, often without us even consciously realising it is taking place. Think of interactions in shops, on public transport, in the street, lending a hand in loading a car, giving directions, and children playing … the opportunities are endless.
Here, however, we are concentrating on specific aspects and for desired outcomes. That of developing the quality of teaching and learning to help individuals and countries as a whole to reach their full potential. The main emphasis is on schools, the people and actions that take place in them and the opportunities and constraints under which they work. This would include their venues, the educational and cultural mores and curriculum they are expected to follow, governmental policies, management and financial and time considerations.
So it involves teachers, their students, school and district management, education support and evaluation providers, policymakers, the community, including importantly parents, in promoting, understanding and supporting learning.
But, you may ask, why Collaborative Learning? Aren’t there and haven’t there been other methods of learning and teaching? Experience strongly suggests the opportunities for learning are greatly increased when sharing thoughts and experiences with others. Think of the old adage of ‘two heads being better than one’; research seems to bear this out.
Though Collaborative Learning, as suggested above, does sometimes just ‘happen’ there are a number of strategies that can both help (facilitators +) and hinder (inhibitors –) how rocky the road of any individual or team will be for those starting out, or indeed, wanting to get even further ahead on the route.
As with most corporate undertakings these cover both positive and negative behaviours, involving what can broadly be described as:
- Curricular Requirements
- Cultural Factors
The EFFeCT paper, written by Joan Stephenson and Teresa O'Doherty, considers each of these in turn and points to materials that will help to develop and/or overcome issues that may arise.
The context in which CL takes place is all important. Many of the precursors necessary to promote and sustain the acceptance and practice of Collaborative Learning are missing in some contexts: sometimes in national or regional education policy, in schools, or in the person involved in formulating and supporting school education, the physical buildings and in the practitioners themselves.