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Three Benefits of Collaborative Learning in the Classroom

Olivia Jones
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The education landscape has seen many changes over the last several decades. Technology has upended so many of the norms of education and brought more possibilities to the classroom than ever thought possible. More widespread and affordable access to educational technologies has led to a decline in so-called traditional learning. This style change in education is leading to more collaborative learning in schools, which better takes advantage of the unique opportunities technology affords.

What is Traditional Learning?

Close your eyes and imagine a standard classroom setup. Chances are you’ve thought of traditional learning. Maybe several lines of students are sitting silently at their desks, listening to a teacher lecture.

Traditional learning is in-person instruction that is prescriptive and rules-oriented, where the teacher controls the class direction and shares information with the students directly. Instruction happens in class and students practice what they learn outside of class with homework and other exercises. Traditional learning usually also involves standardized testing of some kind. Many of us grew up with traditional learning. What other options are out there?

What is Collaborative Learning?

Collaborative learning flips traditional learning on its head by letting students guide the course of their education through collaboration with classmates. It promotes problem solving and active engagement over the traditional model of sitting quietly and listening while a teacher shares information. Collaborative learning fosters curiosity, student engagement, and decision-making skills.

What Does Collaborative Learning Look like?

South Euless Elementary School in Texas used collaborative learning while participating in the national back-to-school coding competition called Go Bananas! Throughout the month of September, students worked together to have the most yellow-lit stomps from the Unruly Splats coding games. Students created personal stomp goals and cheered each other on as each of them racked up stomps. Ultimately, all their hard work paid off and South Euless won the first place title in the nationwide competition with over 184,000 stomps. 

“The students might feel like they’re in recess, but they’re learning how to code,” said Ms. Elledge. “Instead of sitting in front of their computers, the kids are running around the classroom. It’s a different way to introduce students to coding that might inspire kids who wouldn’t have been interested in computer science otherwise.”

Students were thrilled when their limited edition Yellow Splat trophy arrived. Check out their reactions.

3 Benefits of Collaborative Learning in the Classroom

1. Self-regulation and responsibility

Collaborative learning helps students develop the ability to regulate and respond to their own emotions by challenging them to work in a different way. When working in a group, students have to find where they fit with their peers and take responsibility for their own education. In a collaborative environment, in which students explore the subject matter on their own and in groups, students independently develop the patience and clarity to work through difficult problems.

When students develop this ability to self-regulate through difficult situations, they become more capable of stepping into leadership positions. This in turn opens up opportunities for student-led learning, an education style that lets students work independently and develops skills like problem-solving and collaboration.

2. Social skills and teamwork

It takes time and practice for students to learn how to work with each other and resolve conflicts. Collaborative learning in the classroom gives students the opportunity to learn and strengthen these social skills by pairing students together with a common goal. The collaborative format allows students to learn from each other and experience the give-and-take of a productive team. Though working in a team can be anxiety-inducing at first, eventually it gives students the resilience to make mistakes and feel more comfortable opening up to others.

3. Communication skills

Collaborative learning in the classroom requires students to engage with one another to work out problems and learn new material. That’s why it’s helpful in developing students’ communication skills. Teamwork requires discussion, active participation, and occasionally even debate between students. Students can practice these skills in this low-pressure environment, which makes using those communication skills during formal school assignments less intimidating.

Collaborative Learning Activities

Voting Splats

One code, three voting simulations! Using three popular methods of voting (single, electoral, ranked), students vote for one of the Unruly characters to be their future school principal. Voting Splats is a great opportunity to have a discussion about how different voting systems lead to different results. Get ready for some lively debates and tough decision-making! Let’s rock the vote! Download the voting Splats lesson plan here.

a collaborative learning game called vote splats
Students cast their vote from the Unruly character above!

Adding Up 

Students can use Splats to practice simple addition! Students work together to find combinations of numbers on Splats 1-4 that add up to the number designated on Splat 6. Practicing addition can fit in the traditional learning style, but as an alternative, Adding Up uses gamification to increase collaboration, student engagement, and joy in the classroom. 

Marty Cryer, a Technology teacher from Wells Elementary, uses Adding Up as a collaborative learning tool. Her students take turns working together to solve the next problem shown on the board. 

Unruly Brain Breaks 

We know how important social-emotional learning is to student development. That’s why we’ve created a lesson plan full of games to support social-emotional learning. It’s perfect to use as an icebreaker activity or during a stretch break. These activities promote social and emotional skills like self-regulation, teamwork, social skills, and decision-making.

One activity in the Brain Breaks lesson plan is Monster Maker. Students break into groups of three and collaborate on building a Frankenstein by drawing different parts of the body. One player draws the head, one player draws the torso, and one player is responsible for the bottom third (whatever that may be)!

A collaborative learning game called monster maker
Here is the code used to determine what each player will draw.

By using collaborative learning in the classroom, you give your students an opportunity to have agency in their own education, and to learn skills like teamwork, communication, self-regulation, creativity, and collaboration. Using games in collaborative learning makes the process even more fun and engaging for students. If you’d like to learn more about how you can gamify the learning process with Splats, download one of our lesson plans.

Unruly Studios makers of Unruly Splats, programmable, stompable floor tiles that help kids learn fundamental coding skills through recess-style play. Best for elementary and middle school students from PE to science or coding class, a great addition to the classroom for active STEM coding and play!

Learn more about Unruly Splats: https://www.unrulysplats.com/
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