Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

How to Unleash the Power of Collaborative Learning

By Sidney D'Mello — April 21, 2021 1 min read
How do I use collaborative learning to engage students?
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

What are some new ways I can use group activities to help students learn?
According to the science of learning, students learn better from interactive activities where they talk, act, deliberate, and reflect compared with passive and (superficially) active behaviors, such as taking verbatim notes while listening to a lecture. Asking open-ended questions, peer teaching, and group problem-solving are some of the most effective ways to promote deep learning. Collaboration also helps students develop interpersonal and teamwork skills, which are key 21st century competencies.
Here are three ways to unleash the power of collaborative learning:
Transform assessments into learning opportunities. In an artificial intelligence course I teach, I use “power of two” quizzing. Immediately after submitting their individual quizzes, students complete the same quiz again, but this time working with a peer to provide a team response. Though this can lead to more grading, the ensuing discussions and deliberations are well worth the effort.
Employ online games to engage students. Remote collaborations can be effective when centered around well-designed group activities. For example, my colleagues and I conducted a virtual summer camp where students from across the country teamed up to play Physics Playground, a highly engaging learning game that leverages the power of play to boost students’ creative potential.
Use artificial intelligence (AI) to facilitate small groups. Teachers can’t be everywhere at once, so when it’s time for breakout groups, some students might struggle, go off task, or disengage. Looking into the future, our new NSF National AI institute for Student-AI Teaming is addressing this challenge by developing “AI partners"—intelligent systems that help teachers to facilitate collaborations with small groups of students in an ethical and equitable manner.
Don’t be afraid of the messiness that results from collaborative activities. Learning is a contact sport, and encouraging and supporting students to discuss, explain, reason, negotiate, and problem solve is challenging but immensely rewarding.

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Trauma-Informed Practices & the Construction of the Deep Reading Brain
Join Ryan Lee-James, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, director of the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy, with Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD., Vital Village Community Engagement Network; Neena McConnico, Ph.D, LMHC, Child Witness to Violence Project; and Sondra
Content provided by Rollins Center & Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Addressing Disparities of Black Students with Disabilities
Nearly two years of the pandemic have taken a toll on our nation’s students – especially those in the Black community and who are living with disabilities. But, as they say, in every crisis comes
Content provided by Easterseals

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion A 6th Grade Class on Racism Got Me Ready for the Rest of My Life
Every student should have the opportunity to learn about race, writes a college freshman.
Cristian Gaines
4 min read
Illustration of silhouettes of people with speech bubbles.
Teaching Opinion The Classroom-Management Field Can’t Stop Chasing the Wrong Goal
And, no, new social-emotional-learning initiatives aren’t the answer, writes Alfie Kohn.
Alfie Kohn
5 min read
Illustration of children being cut free from puppet strings
Daniel Fishel for Education Week
Teaching Photos What School Looks Like When Learning Moves Outside
One class of 5th graders shows what's possible when teachers take their lessons outside.
1 min read
Teacher Angela Ninde, right, works with students in their garden at Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Va., on Sept. 7, 2021.
Teacher Angela Ninde, right, works with students in their garden at Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Va.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
Teaching Opinion Wanted: Students to Write About This School Year
Classroom Q&A is inviting teachers to have their students write about their school experiences for publication here.
1 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."