Edited version of this blog is published on Express Tribune on 29th June, 2012
According to the Charles Darwin collaboration is the key for progress. In his famous quote he said "It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." Getting inspired by the talks of Dr Ashraf Iqbal, Sugata Mitra and Ken Robinson, I had tried to implant collaborative learning in my classes to check, can it work in our educational system or not? And what could be the methodologies to bring it into our educational system.
Presentation by Ken Robinson
Presentation by Sugata Mitra
For an individual person who tries to implant collaborative learning in the class, seems as the one working against his own job. Being at the lower end of education system i.e. only as a teacher, I am unable to change the whole system, what most I can do is to make a space for collaborative learning within my class keeping the whole original system intact.
During my 18 years of education, one and half year of working as a developer, I have seen various methods of collaborative learning and have tried them during my three and half years of working as a university teacher but most of them fail at some stage due to the system overall. So I am trying to list them out and want suggestions for newer methods.
Group Presentations or group assignments: Group presentation or group assignments are the most commonly used methods to bring collaboration among the students. Idea behind group presentation is that students sit together, prepare one topic, discuss on that and present what they have learned in their gathering. But in semester system (our education system at university level) this idea does not flourish or work properly. The biggest reason, as described by most of my students, is the lack of time. On an average, daily they have to take a test. During whole semester, they have to take six subjects and in each subject they have to give four quizzes, 4 assignment and 2 lab assignments so they always remain overloaded. So as soon something come in a form of a group, most of the member of the group put the entire burden on one or two members and start preparing for other tests.
Open book group tests: The other method which I have seen in various pedagogical presentations and lectures is the open book group test. But to my surprise, most of the teachers and even student do not like them and always remain afraid of it. Teachers hate this method because making the question paper for these tests are not straight forward and student fear this because they think they might get some question which is unsolvable.
Group based semester projects: The method that had mostly worked to some extent among my students was the group based semester projects. They also suffer with the same problems as that of group presentations and assignments but still by working together with class fellows on a project for at-least 4 months they learn comparatively more.
In order to summarize, I would say almost all methods of collaborative learning need time and relax environment where student can discuss and come to one conclusion. In semester system we bombard student with too many tests in a short span of time which gives little time for them to learn and collaborate. Only choice left to them, is to get isolated and go for cramming which the test obsessed system demand from them. As far for a teacher is concerned, an easy way to do a job is to not alter the predefined system or to do experiments :).