Collaboration Can Have Powerful Effects On Student Learning

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Collaboration is the “mutual engagement of participants in a coordinated effort to solve a problem together.” Collaborative interactions are characterized by shared goals, symmetry of structure, and a high degree of negotiation, interactivity, and interdependence. Interactions producing elaborated explanations are particularly valuable for improving student learning. Nonresponsive feedback, on the other hand, can be detrimental to student learning in collaborative situations. Collaboration can have powerful effects on student learning, particularly for low-achieving students. However, a number of factors may moderate the impact of collaboration on student learning, including student characteristics, group composition, and task characteristics. Although historical frameworks offer some guidance as to when and how children acquire and develop collaboration skills, there is scant empirical evidence to support such predictions. However, because many researchers appear to believe children can be taught to collaborate, they urge educators to provide explicit instruction that encourages development of skills such as coordination, communication, conflict resolution, decision-making, problem- solving, and negotiation. Such training should also emphasize desirable qualities of interaction, such as providing elaborated explanations, asking direct and specific questions, and responding appropriately to the requests of others. Teachers should structure tasks in ways that will support the
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