Learning in University

In university, finding peers to deepen learning together becomes even more important than in high school or earlier education. Not only group work in class but also club activities, study groups with friends, and other opportunities for cooperative learning become more common, and effectively creating these opportunities is the secret to successful learning in university.

Benefits of Cooperative Learning

Increased Motivation

While it is important to work hard on your own, there are times when it leads to laziness. Learning together with peers can make it easier to maintain motivation. Furthermore, seeing friends who have ideas you don’t or can do things you cannot, might inspire you to think, “I should work hard too!”

Clear up Misconceptions

You might think you “understood” something in your head, but have you ever been unable to explain it clearly to a friend? Cooperative learning reveals areas where you thought you “understood” something, but actually did not fully grasp. Not just thinking alone, but explaining out loud to someone else and having them question you, can deepen your understanding.

Expansion of Ideas

In the process of learning together, you might come across ideas and discoveries you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. Meeting ideas you wouldn’t have encountered alone can be one of the most enjoyable moments in cooperative learning. To have these enjoyable encounters, it’s crucial to gather members with diverse knowledge and experiences and discuss in an equal and relaxed atmosphere.

Enhanced Critical Thinking Skills

Passive acquisition of knowledge is not enough in university learning. Actively scrutinizing and doubting whether information is truly “correct” and verifying it on your own is crucial. Even what’s written in textbooks isn’t always “absolutely correct.”
In the academic world, “correctness” is always provisional and updated as research progresses. The process of determining what is “correct” is also a form of “collaborative learning” within the larger community of researchers. The academic world requires the ability to constructively criticize each other’s ideas.

Key Points of Collaborative Learning

Creating a Comfortable Space for Discussion

For participants to actively engage in “Collaborative Learning,” creating an environment where it’s easy to express opinions is essential. Therefore, it’s vital to break the ice to create a conducive atmosphere, using “icebreakers”, especially when people meet for the first time. Introducing oneself with games or other activities to ease tension and get to know each other’s names and personalities can be effective.

Sharing Objectives and Goals

Even if everyone gathers to start learning together, if everyone’s opinions are scattered in different directions, it won’t lead to constructive learning. It’s important to share the purpose of why you need to learn together and clarify the goals of what to achieve or decide within that time, or how far to get by the end of the session. If you lose sight of the objectives and goals during the process, make sure to stop and check.

The Role of a Facilitator

In a learning group, someone needs to act as a facilitator, keeping track of the overall progress, organizing discussions as needed, asking questions, and adjusting or changing the flow. The facilitator also ensures that all participants can participate in the learning by encouraging those who have not spoken to speak. On the other hand, if a participant deviates significantly from the main topic or talks at length, the facilitator may need to tactfully limit their contributions to keep the discussion on track. The facilitator’s role is to actively draw out participants’ ideas, focus everyone’s attention in a unified direction, and create a calm and constructive atmosphere.

Visualizing the Content of Cooperative Learning

It’s important in a cooperative learning setting to share the content and flow of the discussion with everyone. To “visualize” this information, write or draw it on a whiteboard or document for shared access. This process, known as recording (primarily writing with text and symbols) or graphic recording (using drawings and illustrations), makes it easier to generate and organize ideas when the flow of discussion is visible to all participants.
However, it’s impossible to capture all information without omission when visualizing; speaking speeds far exceed writing or drawing speeds. Therefore, try not to miss any keywords or use symbols to record as simply as possible.
However, altering the speaker’s expression too much in the process of summarizing, holds the danger of distorting the intended message. When visualizing, it’s crucial to proceed while confirming with the speaker how best to capture their points.