Think of that time in class when a group project was announced. The teacher said, ‘pick a partner’ and almost instantly you knew who yours was. An idea of fun kicked in and the project activity was certainly looked forward to. While some learners enjoy group activities, some do not. But, beyond the component of fun, co-learning benefits all learners.
Co-learning implies learning with peers and so simply put, group projects. Two types of learning which deal with groups are- collaborative and cooperative. The two differ from each other based on the absence (collaborative) or presence (cooperative) of an instructor. So, group projects as part of curriculum facilitated by teachers are a form of cooperative learning. Collaborative learning rests the authority of the project and its discussion with the group itself. The benefits of co-learning are common to both.
Co-learning breeds new ideas and skills. Working with others exposes learners to different methods and styles of learning. The horizons of learning are widened as new perspectives are given room. The problem at hand is understood more deeply and through different angles. The solutions listed are numerous and more thorough.
To learn with other learners is to place individual learning in the larger context of a group. Every individual’s insight is a contribution to the group’s understanding which in turn, impacts every individual’s learning. Every individual is thus part of something bigger than themselves. It instils responsibility of task, a sense of contribution and
Co-learning promotes development of interpersonal faculties, inculcating among learners the ability to work with others. One learns to listen and empathize with their fellows in times of need. They learn to express discomfort and assert themselves respectfully.
Learners learn to support each other and share responsibilities to attain mutual goals. There is recognition of one’s strengths and weaknesses; our own weakness is someone else’s strength which effectively amounts to learners with varied strengths working together.
Another key learning is resolution of conflicts. The differential experiences, capabilities and preferences of learners may often clash among themselves creating a tough atmosphere. In a group project, with a deadline and an expected outcome, conflicts need to be resolved to make any progress. Hence, one learns to compromise and negotiate.
So, learning in groups is fun and laden with benefits. The playful jest lightens the possible stress, a laugh or two lifts the spirit, the workload is shared, and numerous skills unlocked!