What is collaborative learning and how does it help my child?

What is collaborative learning and how does it help my child?

Instead of taking the kids shopping or going to the movies, consider imparting your specific skills and knowledge to them on some weekends. Get your friends’ and neighbours' kids to join in and learn as a team. It is much more fun!

What is collaborative learning?

Collaborative learning is an educational approach that involves groups of learners working together to solve a problem, complete a task, or create a product. It is based on the idea that learning is naturally a social act. It is a joint intellectual effort to maximise learning and foster cooperation. It is a process of shared creation and production, and shared understanding of a project.

What are the benefits of collaborative learning?

Pre-schoolers can be given a common task such as building a sandcastle, making a kite or a lantern. I would personally encourage parents, mothers or even fathers to assume the role of teachers and engage your children in collaborative learning.

Instead of taking the kids shopping or going to the movies, perhaps you might want to consider taking turns to impart your specific skills and knowledge to your children on some weekends. Get your friends’ and neighbours' kids to join in and learn as a team. It is much more fun!

As a teacher, I have often enjoyed seeing the children accomplish a common task such as identifying and categorising the characteristics of dinosaurs, and listing all the reasons why they love reading about dinosaurs. I notice that they learn how to cooperate, take turns to talk, depend on their friends for ideas, gain confidence in expressing their own views, and then assume group accountability when they present the completed task to me.

collaborative learning

Specifically, I would like to highlight the following benefits:

1. Collaborative learning teaches kids to work well with others.
It provides opportunities for them to notice differences, and for the teachers to assist in helping them work out their differences to reduce inevitable conflicts arising from different personalities.

2. Collaborative learning is a celebration of diversity.
Children learn from others, understand that there are different ways of telling a story or expressing opinions. It is an excellent learning environment, where children develop a more balanced and rounded perspective.

3. Collaborative learning promotes interpersonal development.
It teaches children to relate and communicate, and develop relationships with their peers and adults. They learn to work together, develop social skills and intelligence through the interactions in group learning.

Find out how collaborative learning nurtures children's multiple intelligences on the next page.

How does collaborative learning provide opportunities to nurture the multiple intelligences of your children?

According to Howard Gardner (Frames of Mind, 1983), a psychologist and professor at Harvard University and Co-Director of Harvard Project Zero, "An intelligence is the ability to solve problems, or to create products, that are valued within one or more cultural settings." He distinguishes the multiple intelligences as follows:

1. Verbal-linguistic intelligence: The child displays well-developed linguistic skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words.

2. Mathematical-logical intelligence: The child is able to think conceptually and abstractly, and able to discern logical or numerical patterns.

3. Musical intelligence: The child is able to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timbre.

4. Visual-spatial intelligence: The child is able to think in images and pictures, and to visualize accurately and abstractly.

5. Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence: The child is able to control bodily movements and to handle objects skilfully.

6. Interpersonal intelligence: The child is aware of the presence of others in social contexts, and is able to respond appropriately to the moods, motivations, desires and expectations of others.

7. Intrapersonal intelligence: The child is aware of himself or herself, and is in tune with his or her inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes.

8. Naturalist intelligence: The child is able to recognise and categorise plants, animals, and other objects in nature.

9, Existential intelligence: The child is sensitive and is interested in discussions on the meaning of life, how life comes about and where we go when we die.

According to Gardner, all children possess these nine intelligences in different proportions. Each child has a different intellectual composition. These intelligences, located in different parts of the brain, can work independently or together. More importantly, education can be used to improve these nine intelligences.  

collaborative learning

How should teachers and parents apply the multiple intelligences theory in collaborative teaching?

1. Give the children in the learning group opportunities to identify and develop their intelligence profile based on their needs, interests and talents

2. Help the children see their respective strengths in relation to others and learn the importance of collaborative work.

3. Motivate the children to explore and to become a specialist in their area of interests and talents as this leads to increased self-esteem.  

4. Explain to the children that the different intelligences are equally important and valued in society as it frees them from having to follow a traditional path to achieve success in life as dictated by their upbringing.

5. Assure the children that they are equally intelligent as the others in class.

6. Help the children to manage their learning better to enable them to hone their individual strengths.

7. Help the children to become balanced individuals and to find a place for themselves in society.

8. Collaborative learning and the development of multiple intelligences can enhance your children's well-being. However, there is a critical language that has to be spoken in engaging your children.

In the last 12 weeks with my pre-schoolers, I have been persuaded that the fundamental language that children know best is the language of gentleness and approbation. Children are 'knowing' beings, and they feel free, and are keen to participate as soon as they are assured that they are loved and valued for who they are and what they bring to the group.

I encourage all parents to start initiating small learning groups within your social circles. You do not have to worry about gathering children of specific abilities or personalities or even age groups to come together. Experiment and then we can start a conversation going on how best to nurture and nourish the precious little ones under our care.

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