This is research evidence on the effects of collaborative learning on the educational attainment of pupils and students. Built on the synthesis of numerous quantitative studies from around the world, this summary touches on the global evidence and applies on the local evidence in low and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
Effective Basic Services (eBASE) Africa developed this summary taking into account, where necessary, prominent themes arising from key informant interviews (KII) and focus group discussions (FGD), particularly FGD with parents. Other local research evidence in this summary is acquired from a detailed and replicable search protocol used on a wide range (see technical development report) of research databases for relevant studies in low- and middle-income countries in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.
Definition of the Strand
Collaborative or cooperative learning can be defined as learning tasks or activities where students work together in a group small enough such that everyone is able to actively participate on a collective task assigned with clear objectives. This can be either a joint task where group members do different aspects of the task but contribute to a common overall outcome, or a shared task where group members work together throughout the activity. (Higgins, 2016). Although collaborative learning is not specific to a level of education, (Olanrewaju, 2019) defines this strategy as “a method of learning in which secondary school students’ team together to explore a significant question or create a meaningful project.”
Collaborative learning is seen otherwise as teamwork, group work or cooperative learning.
Why the strand is important
Collaborative learning engages every student in learning. As students work in groups, they receive increasing support from peer and teacher, which may boost their confidence as well as their understanding of the subject. Working in a group can also help students build trust and develop useful social skill. Collaborative learning appears a good strategy to level up students’ academic achievement and may be a promising approach for integration into school programs.
Research Evidence in Sub-Saharan Africa
In Sub-Saharan Africa, a number of studies have been carried out to examine the effectiveness of collaborative learning on students’ outcomes. A quasi-experimental study by Mbacho (2013) sought to determine the effects of a Jigsaw cooperative learning intervention on learners’ achievement in mathematics amongst form three secondary school students in Kenya. The study showed that two groups of students receiving the Jigsaw cooperative learning intervention performed better than two groups of students receiving conventional teaching. The study also found that girls and boys receiving the intervention performed just as well and there was no significant difference in academic achievements by gender (Mbacho., 2013). Using a similar non-equivalent control group study design, (Kibirige, 2016) utilized a pretest and posttest to explore the effects of cooperative learning on grade 12 learners’ performance in projectile motions (physical sciences) in South Africa. Results show that students in the experimental group outperformed students in the control group, with no difference in achievement amongst boys and girls in the experimental group.
Similarly, in a quasi-experimental study in Gombe state Nigeria investigating the impact of collaborative learning on pupil anxiety toward Mathematics as well as their achievement, 80 students (split into two classes) received either collaborative learning or the lecture method. The study suggests that students in experimental group had higher Mathematics learning achievement than their counterparts in the control group, with students with high anxiety for mathematics also showing greater gains than those with less mathematics anxiety (Olanrewaju, 2019). In another study in Port Harcourt Nigeria, the use of collaborative learning approach in physics teaching in secondary schools showed the potential of enhancing students’ achievement (Telima Adolphus, 2016). The study suggests that the better performance of students taught with the collaborative approach may be attributed to the collaborative efforts of students learning together in groups.
In an attempt to redress the poor performance in chemistry amongst students in Nigeria, (Arshad 2015) used a qualitative approach (observation and interview) to investigate collaborative learning and skills acquisition. 15 students and a teacher were selected from a junior secondary. Students were divided into 3 groups and went through a ‘Problem Based Learning Process’ using real life problems. Findings from the study showed an improvement in students’ problem-solving skills and learning outcomes. This included the improved ability to communicate, work in teams, and to a greater extent, their thinking skills. (Arshad, 2015).
In a qualitative study exploring the role of cooperative learning in attaining inclusive education in five schools in Tanzania (Mahona, Thobias, & Demetria, 2020) suggests that collaborative learning not only increases performance amongst students but also has a huge significance in promoting inclusive education among the pupils who hail from different backgrounds. The study concluded that cooperative learning was often necessary to overcome pupil language barriers, due to a shortage of teaching and learning materials or where schools were over capacity, and recommended training for teachers on cooperative learning strategies.
A 2018 mixed method study in Ethiopia looked at the impact of Peer Led collaborative students’ outcomes. 991 students were selected in six different public schools and data was collected using focus group discussions and questionnaires. Findings indicated that there were academic, psychological, and economic gains for students.(Feyisa Mulisaa, 2018). This study equally revealed that Collaborative learning approaches had more benefits to team leaders than for entire team members. However, this study highlighted a downside to the peer led collaborative learning approach as results also showed that the intervention made female students more vulnerable to sexual harassment. The researcher recommended strong follow-up and monitoring by school leaders, mentors and parents (Feyisa Mulisaa, 2018).
A qualitative study by (Chahilu, 2011) in Kenya on 130 preschool learners, suggests that group work was beneficial to learners as children were able to help each other and increase the opportunity for learning and achievement. It was also suggested that physical and material challenges could have repercussions on the effectiveness of group work.
A study in Zambia comparing the effectiveness of cooperative learning strategy and Traditional instructional method on pupils’ academic achievement and their motivation to learn in the physics classroom revealed that the use of Cooperative learning strategy do improve pupils’ academic achievement and motivation to learn was more effective than the Traditional instructional method (Adebayo & Kamanga, 2014).
In Nigeria, Gambari, et al., (2015) examined the effectiveness of computer-assisted instruction on Student Team Achievement Division (STAD) and Learning Together (LT) cooperative learning strategies on
Nigerian secondary students’ achievement and motivation in physics. Based on the findings, the use of computer assisted STAD cooperative teaching strategy enhanced students’ academic achievement, retention and motivation, particularly in physics.
Overall, the research evidence on the effects of collaborative learning interventions on educational outcomes in SSA is promising. As the evidence suggests, factors affecting academic achievement, test scores and performance vary from region to region and largely depend on socioeconomic situations in these regions.
However, some results support the assumption that grouping learners does not necessarily lead to better performance as other factors could play a role in improving learners’ outcome. This finding highlights the importance of implementing a well-planned approach to maximize the potential for learning gains.
There is the need for more studies particularly in Central and West Africa to ascertain the extent to which collaborative learning interventions affect attainment.
Impact, Security, and Cost of Local Evidence
The available evidence suggests some benefits of collaborative learning on educational outcomes. With only quasi-experimental studies, and qualitative surveys, the evidence is limited. A meta-analysis and or a systematic review, synthesizing the available evidence on the continent may further reveal the extent to which collaborative learning can impact attainment. Better still, a randomized experiment is highly recommended.
The cost of implementing collaborative learning in SSA, particularly in the Lake Chad Basin is likely to be moderate.
Collaborative learning, cooperative learning, Teamwork, Group work
Adebayo, A. S., & Kamanga, J. (2014). Comparative Study of Effectiveness Cooperative Learning Strategy and Traditional Instructional Method in the Physics Classroom: A Case of Chibote Girls Secondary School, Kitwe District, Zambia. European Journal of Educational Sciences .
Arshad, A. B. (2015). Collaborative Learning and Skills of Problem-based Learning: A Case of Nigerian Secondary Schools Chemistry Students. Canadian Center of Science and Education.
Bolaji., M. A. (2017). Effects of Collaborative Learning Styles on Performance of Students in a Ubiquitous Collaborative Mobile Learning Environment. CONTEMPORARY EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY.
Chahilu, J. L. (2011). Influence of class grouping on children’s performance in Mathematics in Preschools, in Changamwe Division. University of Nairobi.
Feyisa Mulisaa, S. K. (2018). The Roles of a Peer-Led Collaborative Learning Approach in Ethiopian Secondary Schools, . Bahir Dar j educ.
Gambari, A. I., Yusuf, M., & Thomas, D. (2015). Effects of Computer-Assisted STAD, LTM and ICI Cooperative Learning Strategies on Nigerian Secondary School Students’ Achievement, Gender and Motivation in Physics. The Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Science .
Higgins, S. a.-A. (2016). The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation. Durham Research Online.
Jimmy Zambrano, F. K. (2019). Effects of group experience and information distribution on collaborative learning. Instructional Science.
Jimmy Zambrano, F. K. (2019). Effects of group experience and information distribution on collaborative learning. instructional science.
Kibirige, I. a. (2016). The effect of cooperative learning on grade 12 learners’ performance in projectile motions, South Africa. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, no. 9 (2016): 2543 – 2556.
Mahona, J., Thobias, T., & Demetria, D. (2020). The role of Cooperative Learning in Attaining Inclusive Education in the Classroom, Creativity and Innovation in Secondary schools in Mwanza Region- Tanzania. International Journal of English, Literature and Social Sciences.
Mbacho., N. W. (2013). EFFECTS OF JIGSAW COOPERATIVE LEARNING STRATEGY ON STUDENTS’ ACHIEVEMENT IN SECONDARY SCHOOL MATHEMATICS IN LAIKIPIA EAST DISTRICT, KENYA. EGERTON UNIVERSITY.
Okebukola, P. A. (1985). The Influence of Preferred Learning Styles on Cooperative Learning in Science. Lagos State University.
OKEBUKOLA, P. A. (1986). The Influence of Preferred Learning Styles on Cooperative Learning in Science. Lagos State University.
Olanrewaju, M. K. (2019). EFFECTS OF COLLABORATIVE LEARNING TECHNIQUE AND MATHEMATICS ANXIETY ON MATHEMATICS LEARNING ACHIEVEMENT AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS IN GOMBE STATE, NIGERIA. Legacy University, Gambia.
Ortega-Auquilla., L. C. (2019). Using Cooperative Learning Strategies to Develop Rural Primary Students’ English Oral Performance . Canadian Center of Science and Education.
Telima Adolphus, &. D. (2016). Effects of Gender and Collaborative Learning Approach on Students’ Conceptual understanding of Electromagnetic Induction. Journal of Curriculum and Teaching .