Collaborative Learning: Why Transforming Classrooms Into Collaboration Rooms Can Make A Big Difference

Why Collaborative Learning Is Important 

With 315 million students, India has the largest student body in the world. In perspective, all Indian students combined would form the fourth largest nation in the world. Riding on these stupendous figures, the Indian education sector is also witnessing a boom of sorts. The education sector is currently valued at a whopping $70 billion, of which K12 forms the biggest segment valued at $40 billion. In the last 8-10 years, education in India has been undergoing the most radical transformation, thanks to some key factors such as the advent of digital technologies, rise of investments from the government, as well as private investor communities and innovative learning experiments carried out by start-ups, NGOs, researchers, and experts.

However, with so much happening on the educational landscape, it is surprising that almost everyone is missing out on something very basic, something very simple, but with a far-reaching impact: Our classrooms. Even as schools and colleges scramble to tap on to the most modern learning techniques and technologies, our classroom structure remains archaic. Rows of desks aligned in a single file facing the blackboard, led by the teacher. An arrangement that only allows for student-teacher communication, with little or no room for collaborative learning.

3 Benefits Of Collaborative Learning

Educators and school administrators have traditionally believed in keeping student interactions minimal ensuring that there is little chaos and teachers are able to control the class easily. This argument holds true in scenarios when the education model has teachers read to the class from a single textbook and assign the same task to every student. Digital education is turning this on its head. Textbooks have now been replaced by devices and content is customized for each student. From a model that promoted a blanket approach to education, to a device-driven personalized learning norm, this transformation is fundamental. And this calls us to move away from the old theatre-style seating to a more cohesive cluster-style seating. Dividing each class into multiple smaller groups benefits everyone involved – students, teachers, and schools:

  1. Students can learn more from their peers and develop the habit of working in teams.
    This is a crucial factor in students’ professional course for the future. Also, big computer screens in each group promote reading adult-level text.
  2. Teachers can assign different tasks to each group, depending upon their abilities.
    They can also deliver customized content for each group to ensure personalized learning.
  3. Shared devices can lower the cost considerably and accelerate the process of getting the school online.
    1:1 computing is still a distant reality for a country like India, where schools have low purchasing power and can struggle to provide a device to each child.

Pioneering education researcher Sugata Mitra’s concept of setting up SOLEs (Self Organized Learning Environments) drives home the idea of encouraging and embracing child-driven learning. Classrooms need to turn into spaces that encourage self-organized learning and learning from and teaching each other, which is the most valuable way to learn.

A simple change to the classroom can make a big difference to the way children think about schools. If classrooms allowed students to learn the way they want from their own friends, they would be much more excited about schools and learning.

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