24 April 2022

Image of Summer Term - 25th April 2022

Whole School CPD Focus:

Oracy for Writing

Walkthru Cluster:

Mode B Teaching



Collaborative Learning: General Principles




Collaborative learning: this strategy has many connotations and teachers’ understanding of it is variable to say the least. Some of you will be thinking, ‘oh yes, that’s Kagan; we did a CPD on that ten years ago!’ Other readers might be thinking, ‘well that’s group work and I do lots of that.’  Research suggests that collaborative learning can yield significant learning gains.  Students can support one another by sharing the cognitive load of engaging with new materials and they can also provide feedback in a low-stakes manner. However, as we all know, collaborative learning can often be incorrectly defined as unstructured ‘group work’ which can be highly ineffective.  Sherrington’s Walkthru simplifies the practice of collaborative learning and relies on the following proviso: ‘the success of a group task depends on the success of each individual’.


So, what are the five steps for embedding this Walkthru?


Stage one: establish individual learning goals

Before starting, every individual students should have a clear outline of their goals in terms of knowledge, skills and understanding they must acquire.  This could be the same for all members or may be different for each individual.  It is, however, crucial that the group task supports each individual to meet their learning goals.


Stage two: establish a role for each member of the group

Rather than handing out pre-prepared cards with abstract roles on them, involve students in the process of establishing specific roles for each individual.  This might be something that students can do themselves – by agreeing between them – or the teacher may need to do this.  In doing this, no one (or two) members of the group should dominate and nobody can ‘opt out’ whilst everyone else does the thinking for them.


Stage three: group success depends on individual success

Establish success criteria for the group, which embeds the need for each individual to have met their learning goals.  This could be achieved in various ways.  For example, each group needs to give equal time to each member in giving presentations; each person’s score in a knowledge test will be added up or must be above a minimum level; each participant must complete their piece of the problem in order to solve it.  Accountability is key.


Stage four: monitor group behaviours

As well as monitoring that the task is being completed (in terms of outcome), ensure that the behaviours of the group are monitored during their activities.  Ground rules for behaviours should therefore also be established at the start of a collaborative learning activity. These may include things like: turn-taking, ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard, making sure that no one dominates the discussion, asking questions to involve others, etc. As this Walkthru becomes embedded, so too will the behaviours.


Stage five: check individual and group outcomes

On completing the task, review performance at group and individual level. Does everyone now have secure knowledge of the material? Have they all individually improved their fluency? Did the group function well as a unit? Did the collaborative aspect succeed in supporting the success of individuals?  Did students learn more by working together?  If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, then the collaborative task has not been implemented effectively.

As with any approach or strategy, it takes time to embed.  However the research around collaborative learning is strong.  The EEF concludes the effects of collaborative learning are slightly higher in secondary schools (+6 months) than primary schools (+5 months). In its summary, it suggests: ‘The evidence indicates that groups of 3 – 5 is most effective for collaborative learning approaches – there are smaller positive impacts for both paired work and collaborative learning activities with more than 5 pupils in a group. There is also some evidence that collaborative learning approaches are particularly promising when used to teach science.’ It is therefore clear that this strategy is worth embedding.  


Previous blogs and Walkthrus in this cluster:

  • Applying our CPD to-date (no Walkthru)


CPD Cascade

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Posted by Rachel Long

Category: Teaching and Learning Digests

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