Collaborative Learning Thrives at CEHHS

by Triveni Sheshadri

On the last day of the fall semester, students in Erika Daniels’ Applications in Youth and Child Development class milled about their classroom in University Hall as they took in the work of their peers. They checked out colorful poster boards, watched PowerPoint presentations and participated in an inventive game designed by a classmate.

The projects were part of Gallery Walk, a collaborative learning exercise where students shared with their classmates what they had observed in their semester-long service learning projects in preschools, elementary school classrooms and after-school programs.

Senior Jason Bandong scrolled through a PowerPoint presentation that summarized what he took away from his work with third-graders.

“I learned how technology is integrated into the classroom,” he explained to his classmate Jennifer Hickey. “I learned how to interact with young children. You have to be patient, lower yourself to their eye level when you talk to them.”

Jennifer Azhadi, a senior, said collaborative activities like Gallery Walk augmented her learning from textbooks and lectures.

“You get a chance to discuss what you have learned with your classmates,” Azhadi said. “I retain so much more information.”

Collaborative learning is thriving in many classrooms at the College of Education, Health and Human Services (CEHHS), giving students many opportunities to learn from each other’s experiences. Activities like Gallery Walk are credited with deeper learning, an appreciation of diverse perspectives and the honing of creative problem solving skills.

“Gallery Walk is incredibly fun,” said Daniels, associate professor of Literacy in the School of Education. “It is a visual representation of everything that they have learned, of the connections they observe in what they learn in the classroom and the real world. They walk around, ask questions of their classmates and discover the similarities in their experiences. The learning is really powerful.”

In Hyun Gu Kang’s kinesiology classes, students take quizzes individually and come together in groups to discuss questions.

“They are given a “scratch off” quiz sheet with answers,” said Kang, assistant professor of Kinesiology. “Students have to discuss and agree on an answer before scratching to see if their guess is correct. If it’s not correct, they have to discuss again. They benefit from having to discuss answer choices, which facilitates peer teaching.”

Kang also assigns group projects that involve study and protocol design, recruitment of participants, analysis of results and presentation.

“They benefit from having to make each of their parts fit into the whole picture, both in visual presentation and in content,” Kang said.

Laura Wendling, professor of Social Studies Education, weaves collaborative learning projects into many course activities. Her teaching credential students bring in artifacts like letters, photographs and medals to create a classroom museum. In another exercise related to collecting oral histories, pairs of students interview each other. At the end of reading chapters, students view and discuss their responses to questions that Wendling posts around the classroom.

“All these activities get students to ask questions. They are learning about each other, learning from one another,” Wendling said. “They are gaining new knowledge, finding new sources of information that’s not in the text book. We are creating a classroom community and an interactive learning environment.”

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