The terms "Collaborative Learning", "Cooperative Learning", and "Team-based Learning" are often used interchangeably, although they have slight differences in meaning and implementation practices.

Done well, cooperative learning can make the learning experience very enjoyable for both students and teacher and also result in marked improvements in learning. A joint study conducted by CMU, MIT and Union College showed that the collective intelligence of groups exceeds the cognitive abilities of individual group members. Other work by M. K. Smith et. al. (Science, vol 323, p. 122, 2 January 2009) and Chandralekha Singh (American Journal of Physics, vol. 73, no.5, p. 446, May 2005) show that students who work in groups can solve problems that none of the indiviiduals could solve on their own.

But many students dislike cooperative learning because of their past negative experiences with it. This is often because their instructors have used this method without putting into place the proper structures.

Necessary conditions for successful cooperative learning

Successful cooperative learning occurs when instructors make sure they have put into place structures and processes that ensure the following:

Part of the purpose of collaborative work is to help students become aware of, and develop, the kinds of interpersonal social skills required to work productively with others.

In addition to the above considerations, there are some other important issues that have to be considered before implementing cooperative learning.

Some links to other sources containing useful information on cooperative learning implementation

Collaborative Learning. This link takes you to a very good site on this topic that addresses the above questions. It explores all the important issues that arise when you use cooperative learning, and gives you lots of valuable suggestions.

Team-Based Learning. Baylor University link has a site that has a particular application to medical education.

This link is to a long article by Ted Panitz, a very enthusiastic advocate of cooperative learning, who has marshalled all the research and benefits to be had from using it in education.