Just My Thoughts: Collaborative Learning

Teaching College Comp.
Class Log #4

The clip of ‘Do the Right Thing’ we watched in class as different groups helped me to understand the collaborative learning process better than the essays we have read in class. It was interesting to see my different classmates perspective on the issues that the movie brought to life. I enjoyed the assignment of first writing what we saw, how we felt, and then ultimately how we came to terms with the clip. I remembered the professor said in a first year classroom, he would let the conversation run and facilitate the discussion using one of the many points that were written on the board from the groups. One problem that I grappled with in undergraduate was speaking up in an appropriate manner. The opposing group was ready to defend their argument. They said their share and I spoke my peace. Luckily, the class empathized with my experiences, which better help them understand the clip from the perspective of someone not like them. This ties back to what I grappled with in undergrad. I didn’t know when to speak up. I didn’t know how to voice my opinion in a non-offensive manner.

However, in class now I do not have to grapple with addressing racial issues in class, but with someone with my background who is a first-year college student may have the same issues I had. They may have trouble speaking up especially if they are one of two black people in a room of about 20 students.

In a collaborative learning environment, how do you incorporate that voice that is seldom heard such as the black freshman that may feel daunted to speak up and represent his entire race in a classroom designed to draw and learn from everyone’s experiences? I think letting the class talk in smaller groups helps, but a collaborative learning environment should build confidence and relationships with student-to-student interactions before in-class assignments such as this are done in class.

Brufee describes the influence of peer reviews in classrooms. Students engaging in conversation build positive relationships. This is interesting because it takes some authority away from the teacher, making the students feel a little more important or assertive when discussing their peer’s work.

Moreover, the type of conversations that lead to writing that Brufee explains in “Conversations of Mankind” would not happen if that were a conversation with the professor. Students of all ages, since the beginning of the education system, have always felt inferior to the professor. Collaborative learning is needed in tackling a practical problem in the classroom. There were things I disagreed with; for example, Brufee says, “Furthermore, any effort to understand and cultivate in ourselves the kind of thought we value most requires us to understand and cultivate the kinds of community life that establish and maintain conversation that is the origin of that kind of thought.” Basically, to think as individuals we must think collectively. I think that we must be aware of the collective, but not necessarily think of the collective.

Brufee did have some interesting things to say; for instance, the way we talk determines the way we think and the way we write. This sounds good, but I think it is the collective or society that determines the way we talk, think, and ultimately write. I do side with Brufee when he says, “collaborative learning models how knowledge is generated, how it changes and grows.” Over time collaborative learning can be the perfect model, but that is also its biggest challenge as well because learning is always changing whether formal or informal.

John Trimbur in his critiques of collaborative learning stated, “Replacing the real world authority of consensus with a rhetoric of dissensus can lead students to demystify the normal workings of discourse communities.” This is explained as having the collective criticisms become transformations. Collaborative learning has been fundamental in my education since high school. It is hard to fathom that these techniques were debated and were not around since the start of education. Collaborative learning opens up a lot of windows for students who need feedback that isn’t the authority figure. The teacher is a symbol of a grade. The peers are a symbol for ways to get the highest grade. If I had to argue a side, I would be pro-collaborative learning. The peer reviews that have been done thus far in class were partly so successful because they were done by my peers rather than the professor.