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What is Collaborative Learning?

Collaborative Learning = Student-led
Lecture = Teacher-directed

Collaborative learning involves students working together—in pairs or small groups—to create, explore concepts, come up with solutions, and ultimately further their understanding and skills. Most AAU classes are already highly interactive, in the sense that students create work that is evaluated by the teacher and class.

Collaborative learning involves shifting the class process from interaction that is primarily between teacher and students to one in which students also interact intentionally and productively with one other to build knowledge and abilities. In this way, the teacher acts as a guide or choreographer rather than the sole source of knowledge. Collaborative learning and lecturing are opposite polls on a continuum, where one relies heavily on student participation and the other is generated by the teacher.

Effective collaborative learning has the following features:

  • Advances the learning outcomes of the course and generates deeper understanding rather than simple transmission of information.
  • Mirrors the teamwork required in creative professions.
  • May be informal and brief (a quick group brainstorm) or more formal and prolonged (collaborative problem solving, case studies, simulations, or presentations).
  • Requires engaged participation of all group members.
  • Encourages students to be autonomous, articulate, thinking learners, while, at the same time, being accountable to the team.
  • Encourages students to invest in mutual, communal achievement rather than individual, competitive outcomes.
  • Students learn by teaching one another.


Benefits of Collaboration and Group Work

“We concentrate on finding people with breadth, depth, communication skills and the ability to collaborate. If you have those attributes, we can teach you the tools.”

As the excerpt above suggests, collaborative skills such as teambuilding, interpersonal communication, delegation and time management are some of the most important for the success of future artists.

  • Collaborative learning strategies

  • Promote learning from multiple viewpoints.
  • Refine students’ abilities to give and receive feedback.
  • Foster creativity and new insights.
  • Motivate students by giving each individual an active role to play.
  • Provide practice with problem solving in a group.
  • Require students to interact, which helps them process new knowledge and deepen understanding.
  • Create a cooperative environment for learning.


Collaborative Learning at Academy of Art University

Using collaborative learning techniques in your class does not require any changes to your syllabus. Regardless of what’s in your syllabus, you can give students some of the responsibility for investigating, discussing, and presenting aspects of the course content by using pair and small group activities. Here are three examples of collaborative learning activities that can be adapted for any course.

  • Students in a studio course are assigned to teams for the duration of the term: cohorts sit together in class to share materials and do their work, and meet together outside of class to do projects.
  • In a design course, students have been quiet in the large group critique, so the instructor puts them in groups of four to provide feedback to one another in preparation for a visit from an outside critic.
  • In an advertising course students are put into teams to create a marketing campaign for a particular product.