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Collaborative Learning

Adina Glickman

One of the biggest transitions from high school to college is going from being a solo learner to being a collaborative learner. I’m not talking about “group work” where you and 3 other students get together and bang out a two-minute video on History of Guam over a weekend. I’m talking about studying, learning, doing problems, and preparing for exams with other people who are studying, learning, doing problems, and preparing for exams.

Why might it be such an awkward transition?

  • Because most high schools would have you believe that learning together is cheating. (And while in some cases that may be true — read about Stanford’s Honor Code — it’s not usually the case.)
  • Because when you’re new, you don’t know what’s considered cool. Heads up: all the most experienced students will tell you it’s very cool to be part of a study group.
  • Because if you believe in myths about Stanford having a competitive culture, the idea of helping anyone else out or being helped by anyone is like giving away state secrets.
  • Because who wants to be the one who says they’re geeky enough to want to turn social time into study time. Hello? We are Nerd Nation over here. Geek it up on studying, folks!
  • Because no one wants to appear to be putting effort into learning cause we’re all geniuses here, right. Um. No. ALL learning takes effort. (If you can prove me wrong, I’ll buy you dinner.)

So yes, if you’re asking a friend for the answer just to turn the assignment in on time and you don’t really learn anything about the concept, that’s not collaborative learning; it’s cribbing.

So Adina, what IS collaborative learning?

  • Talking through concepts to make sense of them, and having people ask you questions so you can justify your logic.
  • Testing each other.
  • Practicing the foreign language you’re learning with others.
  • Reading each others’ lecture or reading notes to see what you/they missed and filling in the gaps.
  • Reading the same thing and talking about it.
  • Reading different things and teaching each others about what you’ve read.
  • Peer editing a paper.
  • Add to the list! Tell me your good ideas!
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