Does collaborative learning really work? How often do we wonder whether our child has clearly understood the concept taught in school! Sometimes we even wonder whether our child is a slow learner, whether he is being left out in the class. All these thoughts compel us to think that maybe the teacher is not able to pay individual attention to our child. Maybe it is such a large group that is why he is not able to stay focussed, maybe he feels underconfident amongst all the other bright students who are proactive and keep on answering in the class. This drives us to think that our child requires one-on-one coaching to understand the concepts and we seek out solo classes. But let me ask a question right there; how do we know that this decision is correct, what if we have wrongly assessed the situation as a parent and have been unable to identify the actual problem.
Each child is unique
Well, let me tell you that the solution to the above situation is toilsome but achievable. Let us begin by understanding the problem. Before that, we need to remember first that every child is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this. All thoughts expressed above are indeed thoughts of most of the anxious parents of today but the reasoning may not be true entirely. How do we prove that? Let us consider the first scenario that when our child is not able to perform well in class, we will indulge him in solo learning. Let us compare the advantages or rather the only advantage of solo learning to that of collaborative learning. We think that during solo learning, the child remains focussed and isn’t distracted at all as the teacher has 100% attention is on our child. (Although in the upcoming para, you will understand how untrue this is.) We also think that the child will understand better. Now, here is where we are making a mistake as a parent. Puzzled, right?
Solo vs collaborative learning
Let me elaborate this with an example straight from my class. There was a student whom I used to teach. His parents preferred solo learning so the child used to come for 1 hour-long class every alternate day. The classes went on as usual but somehow I could see that the child had a lot more potential. Something was missing, he lacked the drive to answer promptly. His overall performance improved but I wanted him to be more active and prompt in my class. All this was very difficult to convey to the parents but I told them that although their child’s performance is good there is still scope for better. I asked them to agree for collaborative learning and try it out for the next semester that is 3 months. They agreed and to everyone’s surprise, there was a tremendous improvement in his performance in the final semester exams.
Children need a bit of competition
So what caused the change? The teacher was the same, the teaching method was the same, the student was the same and his understanding of concepts too was the same. The only difference was the number of students in the class.
Here, we need to dive deeper into the child’s psychology. When there were more students, my student knew that his teacher’s attention is getting divided amongst the other students as well. Earlier, his teacher would only ask him questions which he may or may not choose to answer. But now she will ask the student who raises their hand first or who is more prompt. This incentivised him to be active in a class all the time- The attention of the child improved.
The next very significant development induced by collaborative learning is the sense of healthy competition. When all the students in the class have understood the concept, they want to be the best. This automatically enhances their learning skills. I would say that they get a boost in their self-confidence as well. Although there is a very thin line here which the teacher has to maintain between the students so that no one in the class feels undermined or overpowered by the others. It is the teacher’s sole duty to provide equal opportunity to all the students in the class. Once this is done, the class will run smoothly.
Benefits of collaborative learning
Another very important factor that solo learning can never provide – but collaborative learning enables without much effort is the power of being creative. When a child hears the answers of the other students, it urges him to think of another solution, to become more creative. Collaborative learning will also teach your child to be patient and wait for his turn, which solo learning has no means to provide. There are children who are always eager to answer all the questions, sometimes they don’t even have the patience to wait for the teacher to complete. But when there is a small group of students, they learn to be more patient and better mannered. We all know that this will help in their mental and psychological growth in the long run.
Despite having listed all the advantages of collaborative learning over solo learning, I know this question must still be bothering us as parents: how can a teacher possibly pay individual attention to my child in a class of 50 students? I had earlier emphasized the point that although collaborative learning is advantageous, the group has to be small. With a small group, it becomes easier for the teacher to pay attention to all the students equally and nobody lags behind. At Lido learning, we lay much emphasis on this concept. A class cannot have more than 6 students in total. This is the ideal class strength for collaborative learning.