Instead of having teachers solely speak and lecture, collaborative reasoning focuses on allowing children to explore using different elements of learning and cognitive development. Specifically, as the Educational Psychology Review Journal explores, classrooms centered on collaborative reasoning allow teachers to act as facilitators of small student group discussions and investigations: “Collaborative reasoning discussions are intended to create a forum for children to listen to one another think out loud as they learn to engage in reasoned argumentation.”
Collaborative reasoning is designed to encourage independent critical thinking, as well as question fellow peers and sources. Through this type of pro-active learning, experts anticipate that collaborative learning can jumpstart student progress into modernity.
Traditional Learning vs. Collaborative Learning
Hoping to overcome the passive and dull methodologies of inactive classrooms, public schools across the country are embracing efforts to teach students using the philosophies of collaborative reasoning. Examining the need for this reform, Education Week argues, “The least effective mode of teaching and learning is still the most popular at all levels of instruction: teaching by telling, learning by parroting...When you tell it back to me the way I told it to you, I assume you have knowledge.”
Instead of demanding children to listen, memorize, and repeat information using rote cognition skills, many school leaders are shifting classroom instruction towards the values of collaborative learning, thus allowing students to share their own personal experiences, examples, and stories in a critical and conversational dialogue. In doing so, students are able to speak their ideas, listen to others, and ultimately reach their own supported conclusions. As children navigate this pathway, they are theoretically provided with a more in-depth opportunity for students to analyze their own values, as well as others' perspectives.
The Dynamics of a Collaborative Learning Classroom
Teachers often focus on specific learning strategies when incorporating collaborative reasoning principals into a lesson. Specifically, many teachers are striving to utilize collaborative reasoning to help guide students' development in four specific cognitive reasoning properties:
Teaching students how to critically read and evaluate a text
Teaching students to utilize a text in order to evaluate and consider multiple possibilities
Teaching students the value and skills of persuasion
Teaching children how to control a topic of conversation while sharing turns and respecting each others' ideas
To help teachers move away from the inactive methods of lecture and rote memorization, collaborative reasoning programs encourage students to become consistently active and personally accountable for their own evaluations and conclusions. As a result, students who may have “poor” academic records may encounter a new spark of inspiration.
In fact, as the Foundation for Critical Thinking articulates, in lecture-based classrooms, “The poor student alternates between passive listening and mindless recall, the ‘good’ student between good note-taking and clever cramming. The poor student becomes bored, alienated, or hostile; the ‘good’ student skilled at short-term mimicry.” By setting aside lecture and memorization approaches to learning, school leaders hope kids will learn using a more complex and advanced skill set, forcing students to challenge themselves far beyond the simple methods of note taking and repetition.
Further expounding on the benefits of collaborative learning, the Collaborative Reasoning Research Group, an organization based out of the University of Illinois’ Study of Reading, encourages the practice and implementation of collaborative models based on three fundamental principals about the educational, instructional, and developmental processes. Specifically, the organization argues that collaborative reasoning firstly allows for intellectual stimulation for all students. Secondly, the model fosters individual development through the social constructions of conversation and analysis. Thirdly, such approaches enhance students’ critical literacy skills while simultaneously boosting comparison and sound reasoning skills.
While some private schools, such as the Waldorf schools, already operate based upon collaborative reasoning, the philosophy shows great promise for the future of public school classrooms.