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Vergara, Aaron Charles S12-18

EngAcad 04/02/19

Position Paper on Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning, also coined as cooperative learning, is a broad term defining a wide

range of academic approaches that involves the collective effort of students in order to form a

mutually accepted solution. This process revolves around academic learning gained through

intellectual experiences, which are developed by student peer discussions rather than the typical

teacher-centered lectures given in classrooms. The method has gained widespread attention and

has been utilized by various schools and universities as a useful strategy for students to address

academic competencies in their learning curriculums. However, it is also stated that this teaching

method has negative drawbacks, such as interpersonal conflicts, scapegoating, and free-riding,

which in return, minimizes the productivity levels expected from a collaborative work. Although

today’s academic curriculums utilize collaborative work as an efficient way of developing

educational prowess, it is evident that the method is highly flawed, discouraging students from

effectively addressing their academic competencies.

As designed, collaborative learning experiences aim to provide a significant contribution

towards academic progress among students. Some will argue that collaboration is highly

important, as it encourages mutual involvement that aims to achieve common goals (Slavin, 1983;

Sharan et al. 1984). Hence, with the presence of cooperation, higher levels of intellectual output

will be formed compared to an individualist’s work (Vygotsky, 1978). However, despite the said

beneficial effect of effective collaboration, it is not guaranteed that every participating student will

have the same mutual mindset of involvement in order to create the optimal solution. Viewed by

Alexander, Rose & Woodhead (1992), collaborative group works are unproductive, as it leads to

unhealthy discord among students, giving birth to disagreements, and misunderstandings. The
dissension caused by obstructive individual, competitive, and collaborative behaviors results to

an unbalanced work force distribution that places hardworking and motivated students in a work

load disadvantage. Despite this, the pedagogic approach indiscriminately judges students by the

collective output without weighting the work of the individual, causing group hate and fatigue (Holt

et al, 1997).

Cohen (1997) stresses that disagreements are healthy if it does not lead to interpersonal

conflicts. Disputes on an interpersonal level occurs when a member or group of members act in

a way that is opposed to each other, showing a series of disagreements between ideas and

principles. This type of exchange in a collaborative setup disregards the beneficial purpose and

aim of the process, as it denies cooperative work and understanding among co-members towards

a common goal (Rahim, 2010). Furthermore, interpersonal conflict in a school setting increases

due to the amount of young teenage students that display an immature and disruptive behavior.

These behaviors cause significant interruptions on collaborative efforts, hindering the progress

and lowering group work productivity (Ministry of Education, Guyana, 2015). This also encourages

more students to perform the same immature act, following a phenomenon which is called the

“Bandwagon Effect”, a psychological phenomenon that conforms people into doing something

because other people are doing the same thing (Kenton, 2019).

Having collaborative groups does not always guarantee success in accomplishing

academic competencies, and these group failures increase the tendency of group members

passing the blame to other weaker group members (Ames,1984). The scapegoating process is

based on the “Scapegoat Theory”, where a person or a group of people are held responsible for

the faults due to reasons of expediency and maintaining a positive self-image (Hammer, 2007).

Such act can cause misunderstandings and peer pressure that can negatively impact one’s self-

confidence and performance in doing a task and can heavily impact the collaborative mindset of

a student. Galton’s study (1980) have shown that victims of scapegoating appear in cooperative
groups but usually works in a non-collaborative manner. This shows that the act of passing the

blame to others negatively affects one’s ability to effectively cooperate in academic learning.

Another familiar issue presented by group collaboration is the concept of “free-riding”. Per

Ola Börjesson et al. (2013) described free-riding as a situation where one or several members of

the group contribute little to none on a collaborative group work that giving equal grade to all

members would be highly unfair. Free-riding also correlates to loafing, an act where students do

not take responsibilities on their designated role, no matter its size (Isaac, 2012). Students expect

that collaborative learning should be fair and group work must be shared equally, but the presence

of free-riding and loafing reinforces distrust and hate among group members, making

collaborative group efforts less likely to occur. The results of the Social Loafing Tendency

Questionnaire developed by Ying et al. (2014) proved the negativity of social loafing towards

group performance, showing significant negative individual performance when brought with a

group related condition.

The flaws of collaborative learning are highly visible and detrimental to a student in

effectively addressing academic learning competencies. For this reason, significant steps must

be taken to minimize the drawbacks of this learning strategy, especially as it is used by various

institutions. A reassessment of collaborative learning effectiveness should be performed in every

school in order to identify the necessary preparations and adjustments needed for a better

execution of the process. A proper probation of cooperative activities should also be performed

to counter negative acts of interpersonal conflict, scapegoating, free-riding and loafing. These

actions are essential in order to set a precedent for schools and students, minimizing the

downside of collaborative learning for a more effective way of addressing academic


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