Friday, December 9, 2016

Is Group Work Collaboration?

Group, Together, Teamwork, Icon As noted yesterday, group work and collaboration were considered the same thing when I was growing up but it is not, really.

Group work is defined as grouping students together to complete a specific assignment but there may or may not be collaboration involved.

In addition, groups may not even be cooperating let alone collaborating.  Do you think of cooperating as collaborating?  I did up until a couple years ago because they referred to group work as cooperative learning.

Cooperative learning is defined working together towards a shared goal by dividing the work up while collaborating is working and thinking together towards a shared goal. So collaboration requires a more complex interaction than cooperative learning.

Cooperative learning often has a leader or manager who assigns tasks so that each person is expected to complete a part.  The leader controls the rate at which things are done and members do not need to like each other or be able to work together because they can work alone on their part. 

In collaboration, members must learn to work together because they are all working on the end product.  There is no one leader so the group as a whole must learn to make sure the work is completed because they are sharing power.  Although collaboration is great for creativity, people must also be flexible because they are working together rather than alone.  If a member is not flexible, they may find it difficult to collaborate.

So which is better?  It depends on the circumstances because both types of learning are important to use.  Cooperative learning teaches students how to work in a project based situation with a manager who is in charge and each participant has a specific role designed to help create the final product much like a sports team.  So there is accountability for the individual parts and for the final product.

In other situations, collaborative learning is important because it teaches them to work together and communicate at every stage of the process to create the final product.  It requires negotiation, the ability to let go of your idea because it may not be the best one to use, communication, and a shared vision step by step much like people who work together to produce a commercial.

In reality, graduates need to work under both circumstances because work does not require people to one or the other all the time.  I've worked places where I needed to do both at various times depending on the situation? 

In answer to the question asked in the heading, yes it can be depending on the requirements of the situation but without the requirements being set, then no, its nothing more than a free for all because both collaboration and cooperation need parameters to work.