Teacher: I know you people preach active, collaborative learning in classroom, but I thought I have tried, it just didn’t work in my class. So, I don’t waste my time.
Student: Many so-called discussions in class are just a tactic that teachers use to kill time; but I wonder why I would participate in some discussions but not others… and why some of them were helping me learn but not others.
Is collaboration all powerful or is it all a waste of time? If the answer is not an either-or, clear-cut one, what factors in the use of collaborative learning activities push and pull students away from participating and hence from learning? Do we have to be very familiar with the nomenclature of latest research in motivation or learning environment design in order to harness the use of collaborative learning? Is there anything we can learn from students’ critical voice on their experience of useful or sometimes ‘useless’ discussion to inform our practice?
The piece of work is not an ambitious act to find trends with large samples and structured experimental design from a researcher-teacher perspective of how collaborative learning works; instead, it takes a light turn of tapping into the ‘anonymous experts’ mind’ – our students – to hear and learn from them how they experienced successful collaborative learning activities.
The take-home message is clear (read the article to find out!); also, the project requires us to humbly attend to our students’ needs, at the end we find this exercise mutually (student-teacher) elevating. We hope you share the same feeling after reading the article.
Wincy Wing Sze Lee and Min Yang (Education University of Hong Kong)