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Connecting Collaborative Learning to Problem Based Learning

Connecting Collaborative Learning to Problem Based Learning

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson, you will understand how the collaborative elements of PBL support communication, creativity and critical thinking in the classroom. You will understand what collaborative learning and PBL look like in the classroom.

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Hello, I'm Tricia Fyfe, and today I will be discussing a lesson with you on connecting collaborative learning to problem based learning. In today's lesson we will discuss the following questions. How do the components of collaborative learning connect to the problem-based learning classroom? And also, what do these connections look like? So let's start by talking about what does learning look like in the problem-based learning classroom.

Problem based learning entails giving the students a complex, challenging problem and asking them to work towards solutions together in a collaborative environment. We ask our students to connect content knowledge and what they know to real-world problems. Problem-based learning usually gives students intrinsic motivation, where solving the problem is the motivation to learn.

As we go through this lesson today and make connections between collaborative learning and problem-based learning, it's important to remember that the 21st century learning skills of communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration, or the four C's, are essential.

In this lesson, I'll go through what collaborative work looks like, and throughout that process, I will connect both these 21st century learning skills, as well as the ISTE standards for students that we discussed in a previous lesson. So what does collaborative learning look like in the problem-based learning classroom?

In collaborative group work, students are given authentic problems, and they're working as a team to find solutions for these problems. This might look like giving our students the prompt or question, how can we reduce local homelessness. Students will act as city or county residents and business owners to develop innovative solutions to help reduce local homelessness.

This part of collaborative group work connects to both standards one, two, and four, and also the 21st century learning skills of collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Each member of the team is assigned or selects particular roles. For our lesson, we might have our students work in groups of 4, where one student is the leader, one is the recorder, one is the checker, and one is the webmaster.

A tip for this might be to consider having groups fill out and sign a contract with role definitions. This will ensure that groups take full responsibility for each other. This part of collaborative group work connects with standard one, and also the 21st century learning skill of collaboration. Collaborative group work is interdependent, and the students need to communicate with each other.

This communication is essential. Students will work towards a solution together. For this assignment, we would have our students brainstorm ideas. What are solutions for homelessness in our community? And we would do research on the different members, both city and county, as well as business owners and what different perspectives might be.

We would discuss and maybe interview and communicate with different business owners and members from the city and the county. This part of collaborative group work comes back to standards one, two, three, and four, and all four C's or 21st century learning skills, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. Students will use technology for their research and also to publish their work.

For this part of collaborative group work, digital literacy skills are being used. We might have our students use technology such as the internet, Google docs, PowerPoint, Skype, blogs or discussion boards, podcasts, YouTube, and many other tools to research solutions for homelessness and also create presentations that will be shared at a community forum.

The use of technology as a resource and tool, and their use of digital literacy skills goes back to standard number five from the ISTE student standards, as well as critical thinking from the 21st century learning skills. The use of technology to build and publish presentations goes back to standard six and number one, as well as creativity and communication from the 21st century learning skills.

It's important to note that it is possible to sometimes consider giving students a choice in both the selection of their team, as well as their problem or question. This might lead to greater levels of student inquiry and motivation.

So let's discuss what we learned today. We talked about the questions, how did the components of collaborative learning connect to the problem-based learning classroom as well as, what do these connections look like.

And I walked you through a sample activity that included collaborative group work, and the different parts of collaborative group work, and how each of those parts of collaborative group work went back to both standards from the ISTE standards for students as well as those for 21st century learning skills. Keeping in mind both those standards, as well as those 21st century learning skills, is really essential for teachers as we teach in the collaborative learning environment.

Now let's take a moment to apply the ideas that we've talked about in this tutorial and answer the following questions. What might the challenges be in teaching using both collaborative learning and problem-based learning approaches? Can you think of a lesson that fits into each of these environments?

Thanks for joining me today as we discussed connecting collaborative learning to problem-based learning. I hope you're able to use these ideas as you prepare to teach lessons in your own classroom.

As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you may want to explore the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. This is where you'll find links to research that's chosen to help you deepen your learning and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill set.

Notes on “Connecting Collaborative Learning to Problem-Based Learning”


(00:00- 00:21) Introduction/Objectives

(00:22- 00:50)  Learning in the PBL Classroom

(00:51- 01:20) 21st Century Learning Skills

(01:21- 04:29) Components of Collaborative Group Work and Connections

(04:30- 05:10) Recap

(05:11- 05:59)  Reflection


Additional Resources

Does Active Learning Work?

This article by Michael Prince is a review of the research that examines the effectiveness of Problem Based Collaborative Learning.

Connecting PBL and STEM… 40 Free Engaging Resources to Use in the Classroom

Michael Gorman illustrates how to connect Problem Based Learning to STEM and provides useful strategies and resources. There are 40 apps and web based tools reviewed for teachers interested in implementing PBL connected to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in their classrooms.