Why Aren’t ‘Trads’ Embracing Collaborative Learning?

EEF Toolkit – Collaborative Learning

If we are serious about evidence informed teaching and learning, why aren’t we using collaborative learning in our classes? There is decent evidence that pupils working together in well structured collaborative learning activities has a strong learning effect.

I think we hear the word: collaborative (or worse cooperative) and we think 1970s group work – teams of pupils making a dodgy poster. But that’s really not what collaborative learning approaches look like.

My holiday reading is a new book by Drew Howard and Jakob Werdelin – two friends of mine from Norwich.The book is called The Beginner’s Guide to Cooperative Learning and over the years, Drew and Jakob have developed and guided my thinking about collaborative learning and shown me the power of it in the classroom. It definitely isn’t traditional group work.

The key is the techniques – very highly structured activities which pupils uses over and over again with new and previously learnt content. They support retrieval practice, spaced practice, interleaving and elaboration: it’s all very cog-sci. The chapter on Rosenshine and Cooperative Learning is very helpful.

The book outlines a couple of techniques – which are all you need to start. I like Catch-1-Partner for retrieval practice, spaced practice and interleaving, and read-round for practising different reading strategies (in other words…, so far…, I predict….).

I think we’re missing a big trick by not using collaborative learning regularly – I’m happy to recommend Jakob and Drew’s book if you are interested in finding out more.


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