Cooperative v. Collaborative Learning – What’s The Difference?

Cooperative v. Collaborative Learning – What’s The Difference?

Cooperative and collaborative learning have been around for eons. Essentially since people began teaching other people, collaborative learning strategies have been utilized and students have been educated with cooperative learning strategies. The main goal of both of these types of learning is shared knowledge and teamwork. Groups of students work together, either with little instruction or with a set of guidelines and standards to abide by, in order to create a project, find a solution, or solve a problem. The main tenets of both cooperative and collaborative learning are shared authority and peer interaction. No student is in charge of the group work any more than any other student, and teamwork and student-to-student interaction is key to the success of the project itself and the learning of the group.

What are the biggest similarities between cooperative and collaborative learning approaches?

A lot of people in education use these two terms interchangeably, and they are quite similar in a lot of ways. They both focus on group work and shared authority over the project. They both stress personal responsibility for the students over what they are doing and their final product. They both provide students with opportunities to learn from each other and take ownership over the collective effort they put into their work. The goal of many cooperative and collaborative learning strategies are identical: to help students learn teamwork, to help students improve their time management skills, to improve students’ communication, to support task management skills, and to encourage respect of different opinions and ideas.

What are the biggest differences between cooperative and collaborative learning approaches?

Differences between collaborative and cooperative learning strategies are primarily nuances, but they do have slight differences that may make one or the other better suited to a particular learning environment. Cooperative activities are ones where students simply work in groups, typically doing tasks assigned to them by an instructor. These are often common group work activities, such as peer review exercises, think-pair-share, round robin, jigsaw activities, and the like. Cooperative learning strategies require all students to do similar work as every other student, just with a different topic or lesson. So within cooperative learning, students all essentially play the same role. However, within collaborative learning, students take on different tasks than their peers and take more authoritative roles than in cooperative learning. Collaborative learning strategies involve significantly less direction and oversight from the instructor, and they involve much more delegation and organization by the students. Collaborative learning strategies typically consist of open-ended projects and assignments in which the students must decide on a topic or a problem, create a task list to complete, and ultimately get to an end-product with little to no direction from their teacher. It involves much more personal responsibility, organization, and actual collaboration than cooperative learning strategies require.

What are the biggest challenges presented to students by these two approaches?

The primary challenges associated with any type of group work come from unwilling students and a general lack of effort. Some students are quite introverted or shy and will always prefer to work by themselves. However, these students should be encouraged to step out of their comfort zone during collaborative and cooperative learning activities so they can improve their communication skills, enhance their learning, and better prepare themselves for life after high school. The other big issue that comes with cooperative and collaborative learning involves a lack of effort by some students. Most group projects seem to bring about a large inequality in terms of effort and collaboration—a few students do the majority of the work while others sit idly by without contributing.

SDVS Can Help Your Student Succeed with Various Learning Strategies 

It’s important for every student to experience a variety of learning strategies so that they are better prepared for the future. Here at SDVS, even with our online schooling environment, our incredible teachers provide excellent opportunities for students to diversify their learning experiences to get the most out of every lesson in every class they take. We utilize the most effective cooperative learning strategies, the most innovative collaborative learning strategies, and the most personalized individual learning strategies to help your student succeed both now and in the future. Contact San Diego Virtual Schools today to learn more about personalized learning and our online schooling opportunities.