Collaborative learning is learning in which student input is sought during instruction. The use of class discussions and group projects is an example of this type of learning. Recent literature suggests that collaborative learning has advantages over a more traditional lecture presentation. The authors of this article explored whether collaborative learning was superior to traditional methods. They also wanted to know if collaborative learning is equally effective across students from all cultural learning orientations and across all learning styles. The authors defined cultural orientation as being either collectivist, or focused on the group, or individualistic with an emphais on the needs of the individual.
The authors gave a survey to 100 students enrolled in an introductory communication theory course during the end of the fall and spring terms at a university in Western NY. The courses were taught using a mix of 75% traditional lectures and 25% collaborative learning. The survey assessed student's cultural orientations, learning styles, and their reported level of satisfaction with the collaborative learning exercises. Experimentors also compared student grades on tests from the sections taught via collaboration to those from sections taught in a lecture format.
The results indicated that collaborative learning was more effective than lecture methods for students regardless of learning style or cultural orientation. However, the more individualistic students reported lower satisfaction levels with collaboration than their more collectivist peers. As lower student satisfaction resulted in lower group grades, it is important to try to improve class members' satisfaction during the learning process. The authors suggest ways to make collaborative learning more palatable to individulatistic participants by grouping students based on those that share the same cultural orientation, giving clear guidlines, and by assigning individual grades to each member of a group.