Y’ALLAH LET’S WORK TOGETHER: COLLABORATIVE LEARNING IN THE UAE
American University of Sharjah (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Collaborative learning draws on the strengths of the group. It offers support to confused students, so that through mutual help a clearer understanding is achieved. According to Siemens, collaborative learning leads to the “amplification of learning and understanding through the extension of a personal network” (2004). In L2 classes, it can provide chances for students to explain concepts to each other or justify their points of view in their L1, a process which is often quicker and more efficient than using their L2. And it may also tap into culturally familiar communication and learning styles.
Assessment can be more flexible in the collaborative environment as the process invites formative assessment of a kind which students can be empowered to use productively. Self and peer assessment fit well with the collaborative approach to learning and can assist students to better understand assessment criteria (Pombo, Loureiro, Moreira, 2010).
Although collaborative learning has been made more flexible by the advent of various IT tools, the choice of tool depends on student characteristics and computer access. However, even when computers are scarce, collaborative learning is also a worthwhile approach in the classroom.
But do students, who may have come from a largely knowledge transmission model of learning and teaching, have confidence in collaborative learning? This research gathers the perspectives of freshman students in a writing class in the UAE, a country where oral traditions are strong. Similar to other researchers, the responses show that the students are comfortable with the support side of collaborative learning, but it is not considered a universal good.