What is collaborative learning? Theory, examples of activities (2023)

What is collaborative learning?

After reading this guide, you will have a better understanding of collaborative learning.

You will receive practical advice on how to improve and implement collaborative learning in your organization.


  • The definition of collaborative learning
  • Collaborative Learning vs. Cooperative Learning: What's the Difference?
  • The benefits of collaborative learning
  • Examples of collaborative learning activities
  • Collaborative learning theories
    1. Vygotsky's theory of social development
    2. Piaget's theory of cognitive development
    3. Piaget versus Vygotsky: What's the Difference?
    4. Kegan's Theory of Cognitive Development
  • Research and articles on collaborative learning

The definition of collaborative learning

collaborative learningIt is the educational approach of using groups to enhance learning through collaborative work. Groups of two or more students work together to solve problems, complete assignments, or learn new concepts.

This approach actively involves students in processing and synthesizing information and concepts, rather than relying on memorizing facts and figures.

Students work with each other on projects, which they must collaborate on as a group to understand the concepts presented.

By defending their positions, restating ideas, listening to other points of view, and articulating their views, students will gain a fuller understanding as a group than as individuals.

What is collaborative learning? Theory, examples of activities (1)

Collaborative Learning vs. Cooperative: What's the Difference?

There is some confusion about what the difference is between these two types of learning.

In fact,Cooperative learning is a type of collaborative learning., so at first glance the two might look similar.

The difference between cooperative learning and collaborative learning is that in cooperative learning, participants are responsible for a specific part of their own learning and success, and also for the group as a whole.

They must use their knowledge and resources to ensure that all team members understand the concepts they are learning.

The roles and structure of cooperative learning are predefined and often compared to the cast and crew of a theater production: the success of the show depends on all the interconnected roles supporting each other, but there is a director who closely oversees the project.

To think of collaborative learning in terms of roles within an organization, in software development, a group of junior developers are tasked with learning a new framework and then developing part of a program while using it. Each developer has their own code to develop, but their work will only be successful if everyone learns and does their part correctly. Although each person has a separate role in the work, the entire group has an interest in each other's success.

In collaborative learning, individual participants must also take responsibility for their team's learning and success, but their roles, resources, and organization remain in their hands. There is no director to administer the rules of engagement, so the group must be self-directed.

The benefits of collaborative learning

Why use collaborative learning? Because every organization can benefit from having an energized and informed workforce.

There are many benefits to collaborative learning, both for the organization as a whole and for individual learners.

The organizational benefits of collaborative learning

1. Develop self-management and leadership skills.

When people are tasked with working together to achieve a common goal, they have the opportunity to develop high-level skills.

While they have to organize, assign, and teach, they are learning how to manage themselves and others while leading productively.

2. Increases employees' skills and knowledge

When employees engage in collaborative learning, they are developing a wide range of skills and knowledge.

Not only will they strengthen their existing skills by having to teach others, but they will also learn new skills from other employees.

This reduces the need for formal training while encouraging employees to continually improve their skills in familiar concepts and engage with new ones.

3. Improve the relationship between teams and departments

When people have limited contact across teams, it's hard to foster connections and teamwork.

Collaborative learning across teams forces people to develop new connections and find ways to work together.

This can be especially beneficial for organizations that rely on remote workers, as it can be difficult to foster strong connections between them.

4. Improves knowledge acquisition and retention

Studiesshowed that the use of collaborative learning can lead to greater participation and better retention of knowledge.

The collaborative learning process allows participants to reach higher levels of thinking and information to be retained for much longer than when learning in a non-collaborative environment.

5. Improve employee retention and promote workplace engagement

Employees who have the opportunity to learn new skills tend to be more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to pursue other opportunities.

Satisfied employees are more productive and engaged in their work, leading to greater efficiency and performance.

The individual benefits of collaborative learning

1. Make learning a truly active process

The student must organize his thoughts, present a cohesive argument to prove his point, defend his point to his peers, and convince others that his argument is correct.

This active involvement means that the individual learns and retains more knowledge.

2. Promotes learning from the perspective of others

Students benefit from hearing diverse points of view.

Studies show that when a person is exposed to diverse points of view, especially from people with different backgrounds, he learns more.

3. Teaches you to think critically and quickly

The student must quickly synthesize the answers and, if he feels that his argument is lacking, adjust his ideas as he goes along.

People learn to think critically and quickly as they absorb new information and adjust their own point of view as new ideas are presented.

4. Promotes listening to criticism and advice

The student will also hear others talk about their ideas, offering their thoughts for or against their peers' arguments.

This dynamic approach means that students gain a fuller understanding of the subject as they have to consider it from all angles.

5. Develop public speaking skills and active listening

Individuals learn to speak well in front of an audience of peers, listen actively, challenge ideas, and build a framework of ideas together with others.

This greater social comfort will help people both socially and at work.

6. Improve cooperation

When given a specific objective, students are more likely to engage in thoughtful discussions with each other, increasing both understanding of the topic and mutual esteem.

Examples of collaborative learning activities

There are many ways to promote collaborative learning within an organization:

1. Evaluation of training systems

Within teams or departments, pair newer and older employees.

Ask them to work together to assess the training systems currently in place, assess any gaps in the system, and develop recommendations on how to effectively update training to better serve the organization and its employees.

2. Troubleshooting between teams

Gather several teams and present them with a problem to solve.

It could be how to develop a new feature for a product, what changes need to be made to existing software, or instituting a new training program.

Describe what results you would like to see in general terms and let the teams work.

At the end, the teams will present what they have developed, justify their choices and outline their plans for carrying out the task.

3. Development of new products

When it comes to developing new products, collaborative learning can be a huge asset.

Teams can work together to identify relevant niches, brainstorm solutions and create product concepts.

After introducing their products, a Q&A session can help develop the idea further as they defend their ideas, respond to criticism, and hone their pitch.

4. Explain concepts to other departments

Have departmental teams create a presentation that showcases their work to other departments.

They should present the work they do, the problems they solve, and present some ongoing concepts they are working on.

Other departments will participate in a Q&A session, offering the benefit of their expertise to help solve current issues while learning more about how the organization works as a whole.

5. Build a collaborative learning community

A collaborative learning community is an environment that encourages working together to solve problems, prioritizes open communication, and provides people with many opportunities to learn and teach others.

An organization that chooses to provide these opportunities on a regular basis will create a collaborative learning community where people will actively participate in collaborative learning.

Good examples of collaborative learning activities will have clear instructions, a stated objective, medium-sized groups of three to five people, and flexible rules so that groups can experiment for themselves and work with open communication.

Collaborative learning theories

While there are some differences between theories of collaborative learning, as a whole, collaborative learning is based on the concept that learning is a natural social act and that learning occurs through talking, trying to solve problems, and trying to understand the world of the subject.

To begin with, we'll look at early theories of collaborative learning, which were concerned with how children learn. Later theories took into account how adults continue to develop cognitively throughout their lives.

Vygotsky's theory of social development

Lev Vygotsky's theory of social learning emphasizes the importance ofsocial interactionfor the development of learning and cognition.

He believed that community was an important factor in the process of creating meaning and knowledge.

Vygotsky's theory approaches learning from a sociocultural point of view, arguing that individual development does not occur without being informed by social and cultural contexts.

He proposed that speech plays an important role in the development of thinking, with conversations with more knowledgeable people increasing understanding and cognition.

An important aspect of Vygotsky's theory of social learning is thezone of proximal development.

This is the idea that if you visualize what a person can and cannot do as zones, then between those zones is a third zone, known as the zone of proximal development. This is what a person can learn, but needs guidance to be able to do so.

It is in this area that new competences are found, in the process of being developed. When a person has access to others who will teach him, he will learn skills that are in his zone of proximal development.

Vygotsky also developed the concept of the More Knowing Other (MKO).

More informed Otheris a person who already has the knowledge or experience that the student is seeking. It could be a parent, a teacher, or an older adult, but it could also be a partner.

It is through interactions with this person that a student can see desired behaviors modeled or receive important information.

Vygotsky called this a collaborative dialogue, as the learner seeks knowledge, internalizes the information provided by the more informed Other, and then uses this information to guide his own actions.

More Informed Others allow the student to operate within the Zone of Proximal Development.

Piaget's theory of cognitive development

Jean Piagetset out to understand how infants and children develop their understanding of their world and how they become capable of using reason and thought to develop hypotheses.

His theory states that as children grow, they build an understanding of the world around them, experience discrepancies between their understanding and their experiences, and then correct these discrepancies by reorganizing their thought processes.

Piaget developed the concept of 'schematics', which he defined as units of knowledge, the building blocks that allow humans to organize knowledge and understand complex concepts.

He defined a schema as “a cohesive, repeatable action sequence that has component actions that are strongly interconnected and governed by a central meaning”.

He believed that there are some patterns that are innate, like the suckling response of newborns, and others that are acquired through experience.

For Piaget, a person's cognitive development was directly related to the number and depth of their schemas.

As children develop, they use their schemas to process the world around them through assimilation and accommodation. In assimilation, a child uses an existing schema to deal with a new object, situation, or interaction. Accommodation is when a child discovers that their existing schema doesn't work for the new object, so the schema is changed.

Piaget believed this was due to the need for balance, which in turn drives development. Equilibrium is the state in which a child's existing schemas can handle most of the new information in the process of assimilation. When this does not happen, imbalance will begin and the child will feel uncomfortable. The child will respond to this by seeking to adapt, through the adaptation process, and will master new knowledge through this process.

For Piaget, the processes of assimilation and accommodation require an active learner, as the child must seek to discover the problem-solving skills he needs. In this process, the child must interact with physical and social environments to learn.

Piaget's four-stage process of cognitive development

Piaget also presented a four-stage process of cognitive development, which he believed must occur before learning could begin.

1. Sensorimotor

From birth to two years, it is the phase in which the child learns to form mental representations.

This is when the child will develop object permanence.

2. Pre-operational

From two to seven years old, it is the development of symbolic thinking.

3. The concrete operational stage

From ages seven to eleven, it's the beginning of using logic to figure things out in your head rather than having to learn concepts physically.

4. The formal operational stage

Beginning at age eleven, it is a stage where full logical cognition is possible, including the development of complex hypotheses.

Piaget versus Vygotsky: What's the Difference?

While both Piaget and Vygotsky agreed that cognitive development occurs in stages and is rooted in both nature and nurture, they differed on some key points.

  1. Piaget believed that a child drives their own cognitive development, as children have an innate tendency to adapt to new experiences, while Vygotsky believed that social interaction is what drives children's cognitive development.
  2. Piaget thought that children learn best when they can use self-discovery and active learning, and Vygotsky thought that instruction and guidance were the key to a child's learning.
  3. Vygotsky also postulated that different cultures and time periods have an impact on cognitive development, while Piaget thought it was the same universally.
  4. Piaget also thought that although developmental stages are more or less defined, children will only learn when they are ready, and Vygotsky believed that development could be accelerated using the zone of proximal development and other more informed ones.

An essential difference is that Piaget thought that language was the result of cognitive development, Vygotsky thought that language was the key to cognitive development.

There is evidence that a child exposed to guided learning within Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development shows greater understanding than a child who learns only within Piaget's discovery learning framework, according to one study.study carried out in 1990 by Freund.

Kegan's Theory of Cognitive Development

The developmental theories discussed above focus on children's cognitive development. Previously, cognitive development was thought to end around age 25, but some believe it is a lifelong process.

Roberto KeganHe postulated that it is possible for people to continually evolve the systems they use to create meaning, transforming the way they interact with the world.

He has developed five stages that emphasize the transition from onesubject(I am) forobject(I have) frame.

According to Kagan, thethematic boardit does not allow self-reflection, as it is too close for objectivity to happen. It can include beliefs, behaviors, and assumptions about the world.

Heobject moldingit allows a person to step back from the concept, reflect on it and consider it objectively. This transitional structure exercise, according to Kegan, stimulates cognitive development.

In a nutshell, Kagan theorized that becoming an adult means transitioning to higher stages of development.

This means developing a sense of independent identity and acquiring the traits associated with wisdom and social maturity.

A highly developed adult is in control of his behavior, self-aware and able to more effectively manage his relationships and the social factors that affect them.

The five stages of Kegan are:

1. Impulsive mind

This phase is early childhood, where impulses drive action.

2. Imperial Mind

Subject: These are needs, interests, desires
Object: Has impulses, perceptions

This is the phase of adolescence, although some adults remain here.

Relationships are transactional and self-interest is the driving force behind all behavior.

Actions are driven by external consequences rather than internal belief systems.

3. Socialized mind

Subject: It is reciprocity, interpersonal relationship
Object: Has needs, interests, desires

This is the stage most people are in, according to Kegan.

This stage is dominated by external sources such as other people, groups and the society around us as a whole, and what they think of us.

The culturally prescribed way of life is fundamental to a socialized mind, regardless of personal desire.

4. Authoritative mind

Subject: It's self-definition, personal autonomy
Object: Has reciprocity, interpersonal relationship.

At this stage, a person is able to self-define.

They are not swayed by society's opinions and will decide for themselves who they are, what they stand for and how they should behave.

5. Mind that transforms

Subject: It simply is
Object: Has self-definition, personal autonomy

Kegan credits thatonly 1% of adults reach this stage.

At stage 5, the sense of self is not static, but is capable of constantly adapting and reacting as new information, interactions, and experiences are processed.


In an organization, it's ideal to give your employees the tools to transition to higher stages.

Fostering growth within an organization has many proven benefits, including increased performance, increased employee retention, and increased employee satisfaction.

Transitioning to the higher stages involves curiosity, critical thinking, and openness to new ideas and concepts, desirable traits for curating in a workforce.

Research and articles on collaborative learning

  1. Collaborative Learning in the Workplace: Practical Issues and Concerns
  2. Collective Learning at Work: Important Behaviors for Sharing Knowledge
  3. Improving collaborative learning and global project management in small and medium enterprises
  4. A theory of change: key concepts for understanding the work of Robert Kegan
  5. Lev Vygotsky
  6. Jean Piaget
  7. collaborative learning
  8. The benefits of collaborative learning
  9. Active and collaborative learning
  10. Collaborative Learning: What is it?
  11. Part 1: Growing Up: Kegan's Theory of Adult Development


What is an example of collaborative learning theory? ›

The following examples are among the most well-known types of collaborative learning: Think-pair-share: Give students a discussion prompt, question, short problem, or issue to consider. Individuals work briefly on a response.

What is an example of collaborative activity? ›

Collaborative activities are any activities where learners are working co-operatively in pairs or groups. For example: Pair or group discussions. Completing shared tasks in a pair or group, e.g. matching, sorting, ranking.

What are the examples of activity based learning? ›

Besides this, puzzles, games, role play, skits, story-telling, demonstrations using real objects, taking students on an educational tour, playing a subject-related video, and showing a documentary in the classroom are all examples of activity-based learning/teaching methods.

What is the collaborative learning theory in the classroom? ›

Collaborative learning theory involves peer-to-peer learning that fosters deeper thinking in the classroom. Collaborative learning theory suggests that group learning helps students develop their higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management and leadership skills.

What are some examples of using social learning theory? ›

Examples of social learning theory include imitation of others, observational learning, and vicarious reinforcement. For example, a child may learn how to ride a bike by watching a sibling or friend do it, or someone may learn how to dress by observing how others dress.

What is a simple example of collaboration? ›

Some examples of how collaboration skills look in the workplace include: Communicating updates to your manager to solicit feedback. Recognizing other team members for their hard work. Sharing insights and helpful tips with team members to improve group processes.

What are examples of collaboration strategies? ›

5 Collaboration Strategies to Elevate the Performance of Your Product Team
  • Create an environment for fresh ideas that get credit.
  • Enable a willingness to open communication and honest feedback.
  • Define clear goals and know what to expect from them.
  • Involve everyone in solving problems to encourage progress.

What are the five learning activities? ›

The following is an overview of the five phases of the 5E Model.
  • ENGAGE. In the first phase of the learning cycle, the teacher works to gain an understanding of the students' prior knowledge and identify any knowledge gaps. ...
  • EXPLORE. ...
  • EXPLAIN. ...
  • ELABORATE. ...

What are the 4 learning activities? ›

The four core learning styles in the VARK model include visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic. Here's an overview of all four learning style types.

What is an example of an activity? ›

Some example of leisure activities include: Going for a Hike. Playing a Video Game. Reading a Novel.

What are the two types of collaborative learning? ›

6 Major Types of Collaborative Learning
  • Think-pair-share. Think-pair-share is one of the most common types of collaborating learning. ...
  • Informal collaborative learning groups. ...
  • Formal collaborative learning groups. ...
  • problem-based learning. ...
  • Collaborative base groups. ...
  • Jigsaw collaborative learning.

What does a collaborative learning classroom look like? ›

Collaborative Classroom Defined

The group tables, shared table-top displays, and wall displays with unrestricted lines of view, are the most common characteristics of the collaborative classroom.

What is collaborative learning strategies? ›

Collaborative learning strategies provide the frameworks and step-by-step processes to facilitate interdependence among group members, active participation, interactive dialogue, and cocreation of academic products, all of which are hallmarks of collaborative learning.

What are the 5 steps collaborative learning process? ›

You will probably remember the five phases for cooperative learning described earlier, in the "Exploration" section. They are (1) forming a question, (2) identifying goals, (3) creating a rubric, (4) assigning a specific assessment task, and (5) reflecting to adjust. These provide a good framework for your lesson plan.

What are the four characteristics of collaborative learning? ›

New Learning and Thinking Curricula Require Collaboration

Successful learners share four characteristics: They are knowledgeable, self-determined strategic, and empathetic thinkers. Research indicates successful learning also involves an interaction of the learner, the materials, the teacher, and the context.

What is the role of the teacher when using collaborative learning as a strategy? ›

Collaborative teachers encourage students' use of their own knowledge, ensure that students share their knowledge and their learning strategies, treat each other respectfully, and focus on high levels of understanding.

What is an example scenario of social learning theory in the classroom? ›

In the classroom, social learning theory can be used to help students learn by observing and imitating the behavior of their peers or teachers. For example, if a student sees another student raise their hand to ask a question, they may be more likely to do the same.

Can you think of an example of the social learning theory at work? ›

There are many distinct forms of how social learning theory is applicable to the workplace – group discussions, learning mentorships with leaders, sharing expertise with colleagues, role plays, and replicating the behavior of leaders.

What are the 4 components of social learning theory? ›

These four concrete stages of social learning within social learning theory include attention, retention and memory, initiation and motor behavior, and motivation.

What is an example of collaboration in everyday life? ›

Examples of collaboration skills at work

Brainstorming ideas or solutions to a problem with your team. Keeping an open line of communication between management and employees. Coming to a consensus about common goals and solutions. Giving credit to team members for their contributions.

What is an example of collaboration question? ›

Tell me about a time when you worked closely with colleagues to achieve a certain goal. What was your specific role? Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a coworker on a project. How did you resolve the disagreement and what was the outcome?

Which is the best example of responsible collaboration? ›

Consulting resources that a group member suggested for the group project is the best example of responsible collaboration. This action shows that you are open to the ideas and contributions of other group members and are willing to consider their suggestions.

What are the three 3 important aspects of collaboration? ›

Ok, so what are 3 important skills for teamwork and collaboration...
  • Workplace communication.
  • Respect for diversity in the workplace.
  • Build trust with employees.

How do you ask for collaboration examples? ›

I'm [name] from [company name]. I sent you an email [duration from when sent] that I think could benefit us if we partner up. I've come across your work and enjoyed it [maybe mention one particular project]. I thought you would be interested in partnering for this project because [give reasons].

What is an example of a collaborator? ›

Collaborators are any third parties that work directly with your company to support or assist in the development or execution of a strategy. Some common examples of collaborators include vendors, warehousers, and consultants.

What learning activities are? ›

Learning activities are the resources that help in achieving the learning objectives of an eLearning program. It is only when a learning program is engaging and immersive that it will promote better learning. Learning activities motivate a learner to participate more actively in a learning program.

What are learning tasks and activities? ›

Learning Tasks should build on previous activities and avoid being repetitive, they should enable students to engage with and develop their skills, knowledge and understandings in different ways. Meaningful activities engage students in active, constructive, intentional, authentic, and cooperative ways.

What is the learning activities and strategies? ›

Active learning engages students in learning, using activities such as reading, writing, discussion, or problem solving, which promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content. Active in-class learning also provides students with informal opportunities for feedback on how well they understood the material.

How do you create learning activities? ›

  1. Step 1: Analyzing needs for implementing an active learning strategy. ...
  2. Step 2: Identify topic and questions. ...
  3. Step 3: Identify learning objectives & outcomes. ...
  4. Step 4: Plan and design the activity. ...
  5. Step 5: Identify sequence of learning events. ...
  6. Step 6: Evaluate and assess.

How do you choose learning activities? ›

In selecting learning activities, two general principles should be followed. First, they should include some from each of the three categories listed above: Information and Ideas, Experience, and Reflective Dialogue. Second, they should rely on direct rather than indirect learning activities as much as possible.

What is a learning activity in a classroom? ›

Learning activities, as the name suggests, are activities designed or deployed by the teacher to bring about, or create the conditions for learning.

What are a list of activities? ›

An activity list is a document that includes all the scheduled activities that are part of a project. Each activity includes one or more tasks that, once completed, allows everyone working on the project to move on to the next stage. Each activity has a clearly defined start date and deadline.

What are the three types of activities explain with examples? ›

Economic activity varies in nature according to the three economic sectors namely, the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. Primary sector activities revolve around raw materials, whereas the secondary sector relates to production and refinery, and the tertiary sector is founded on services.

What are most common activities? ›

"Cooking & baking" and "Reading" are the top 2 answers among U.S. consumers in our survey on the subject of "Most popular hobbies & activities". The survey was conducted online among 59,934 respondents in the United States, in 2022.

What is collaborative learning simple? ›

“Collaborative learning” is an umbrella term for a variety of educational approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers together. Usually, students are working in groups of two or more, mutually searching for understanding, solutions, or meanings, or creating a product.

What is collaboration theory? ›

Collaboration theory is comprised of the acceptable general principles and abstractions that have been generated by observing the phenomenon of multiple individuals or entities working together to develop a strategic alliance.

What are the 5 models of collaborative teaching? ›

They include: one teach, one support; parallel teaching; alternative teaching; station teaching; and team teaching.

What is an example of teacher collaboration? ›

Some examples include encouraging mentor/mentee relationships, making time for teachers to engage in mutual classroom observation, providing teachers with technology to collaborate when they're not in the same space, or making it clear that collaboration and creativity are something that you support.

What are two characteristics points of collaborative learning? ›

Key features of collaborative learning

It begins with meaningful tasks that involve students participating in negotiating roles, responsibilities, and outcomes. Collaborative learning is different from delegated group work. It actively encourages learning and focusing together, rather than delegating parts of a task.

What are the four types of collaboration in education? ›

Within this continuum, four types of teacher collaboration are described: 1) storytelling and scanning for ideas; 2) aid and assistance; 3) sharing methods and materials; and 4) joint work.

What is an example of collaborative learning in workplace? ›

Examples of collaborative learning activities in the workplace include: New product development. Explaining jobs or concepts cross-functionally. New employee onboarding.

What is an example situation of constructivism learning theory? ›

Examples of Constructivist Classroom Activities

Allow pairs of students to teach each other. Learners pose their own questions and seek answers to their questions via research and direct observation. They present their supporting evidence to answer the questions.


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