Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cooperative Learning or Collaborative Learning - the PYP Exhibition

We had a PYP Exhibition meeting today. Our Grade 5 students are now in their groups and know what they want to investigate for the PYP Exhibition. The Exhibition is a transdisciplinary inquiry into real-life issues or problems and is the culminating project of the PYP where students have to demonstrate their engagement with and synthesis of the essential elements of the PYP: knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action. It's a celebration of their learning throughout the PYP and an opportunity for them to demonstrate the attributes of the learner profile. The PYP Exhibition calls for collaborative learning.

I have done a fair bit of reading lately about the differences between collaborative and cooperative learning. Both involve active learning as opposed to passively receiving knowledge, however cooperative learning is more about students working together in groups to achieve a specific end product or goal determined by the teacher, whereas collaboration gives the responsibility to the students to determine what the final product will look like, with guidance by the teacher mentors of each group. The PYP Exhibition is truly collaborative learning as students first choose issues that interested them, and are then put in groups across all the 5 Grade 5 classes with other students who share their interests. Learning comes about through dialogue among the students and with outside "experts" and they decide themselves what the final product will be. This dialogue also helps the students to appreciate multiple perspectives.

In the PYP Exhibition it is the process that is most important (the final product is only started in the last 2 weeks of the unit). Because it is collaborative learning, the teacher mentor transfers authority to the group and the investigation is open-ended - this truly empowers students to work as a team and ensure all group members learn, but it also encourages them to be independent as each student's performance is monitored and assessed by the mentors.

This year the students are blogging about the process. The class teachers have also set up Netvibes where resources can be shared and a calendar posted with deadlines. As an IT teacher I am not going to mentor an individual group, but instead I will mentor all the groups that decide to use technology as part of their final product. Maybe some groups would like to make a movie or a podcast, others might like to make a web page, a Glog or a Prezi. Some students may like to use VoiceThread. I anticipate many groups will chose to use Web 2.0 tools this year and I'm excited to see what they choose.

Photo Credit: Collaboration by ChrisL_AK


  1. Enjoyed your post, as always. We have our first exhibition this year (at Year 6, as that's the final year of primary school in Aus). Will encourage teachers and students to think about the difference between cooperation and collaboration. Thanks!

  2. We often use collaboration and cooperation interchangeably, but as you correctly point out, these actually have a different focuses.
    I would love to do something similar here where students are free to go about self directed learning.

  3. I have just stumbled upon your blog in the midst of trying to find research/information on collaborative group sizes in the PYP Exhibition... how big groups should be to facilitate good collaborative inquiry-based learning? Do you happen to know of any good resources on this topic?