The job of a teacher is excruciatingly difficult, not only because of the necessity to introduce a massive amount of information to a large number of people with unique background knowledge but also because of the necessity to ensure their further progress. Namely, as a teacher, one has to create a setting where learners are inclined to continue the process of education independently and are enthusiastic about the development of literacy and related skills. For this purpose, multiple engagement strategies have been created. Involving learners in the process of explaining the material to each other and assisting each other on a personal level is, perhaps, one of the most common tools in promoting the development of learning agency and independence (Fu & Hwang, 2018). However, with the focus on students’ independence, two different approaches toward promoting it along with the emphasis on the cooperation between learners have emerged. While the concepts of cooperative and collaborative learning might sound similar, the differences between the two are also quite vivid. To ensure that one uses the specified approaches to the maximum of their utility, an educator has to realize that collaborative learning prioritizes working in a team remotely, whereas cooperative one promotes the ability to solve specific problems during the collaborative learning process.
The similarities between collaborative and cooperative learning mostly lie on the surface due to the connection that the two strategies have. Specifically, both approaches to learning imply that students should work in groups (Fu & Hwang, 2018). The specified aspect is crucial since it suggests that teamwork should be maintained even during the remote learning process, which may represent quite a challenge. Namely, due to the limited opportunities for communication that most remote tools provide, namely, the lack of physical contact and the ability to use non-verbal language, the outcomes of such collaboration are quite difficult to control (Fu & Hwang, 2018). Nonetheless, both approaches have been used for traditional and especially remote types of learning with impressive success (Fu & Hwang, 2018). Therefore, there are substantial similarities in the ways of applying collaborative and cooperative learning.
In addition, both collaborative and cooperative learning processes imply a significant degree of independence and the ability to develop agency in students. With the promotion of teamwork, the role of a teacher has reduced to that one of the observers and the supporting party, whereas students can enjoy the entirety of the learning experience as purely individual (Fu & Hwang, 2018). Although the educator will need to participate in the process of managing the learning and introducing corrections into its course, the general sense of agency that it will provide to learners is ubiquitous for both types of approaches.
Another important point of connection between the two frameworks is the approach toward managing arising problems. Namely, the conflicts that may emerge within a team can be handled constructively and objectively without unnecessary delays. Indeed, since both collaborative and cooperative learning strategies imply the emphasis on communication and the dialogue within a team, open discussions of the sources of discord and discontent will become available to all those involved (Fu & Hwang, 2018). As a result, confrontations within a team will be resolved faster and will emerge less frequently due to improved communication.
However, apart from the specified similarities, the collaborative and cooperative approaches have multiple points of difference. First and most obvious, one needs to mention that, unlike the collaborative framework, which stands on its own as a separate learning strategy, the cooperative one represents a specific instance of the collaborative approach, during which participants engage in the active management of a particular task or resolution of a certain conflict. The specified difference defines the latter strategy as a subcategory of the collaborative one, which constitutes a tremendous difference between the two (Fu & Hwang, 2018). The specified difference brings up the question of whether the cooperative learning strategy can be used on its own or whether it has to be represented solely as a subset of collaborative learning.
In addition to the specified tremendous difference, there is a variety of nuances between the collaborative and cooperative approaches. Specifically, in the collaborative approach, a teacher typically selects a specific student as a team leader, while the rest of the participants are provided with specific tasks associated with the implementation of the project. In contrast, the cooperative approach does not suggest that a team leader has to be appointed; quite the contrary, the focus on teamwork within the specified environment implies that every participant will need to use leadership skills at some point to advance the project (Fu & Hwang, 2018). At the same time, the emphasis on working together toward the common goal by distributing responsibilities evenly remains the priority and the main framework for the cooperative learning process, which sets it, miles apart from the collaborative strategy.
Finally, the cooperative framework typically represents a situation in which students are divided into smaller groups, whereas in the collaborative learning environment, students usually form larger teams. The specified nuance is quite obvious due to the relationship between the collaborative and cooperative learning types, yet it is worth noting as the prerequisite for the differences in the attitudes and atmosphere within the team. Specifically, cooperative learning implies greater connection and better rapport between learners due to a more consistent dialogue (Fu & Hwang, 2018). Overall, the collaborative learning framework offers the benefits of a smaller team, yet it also possesses the disadvantages of one.
The differences between collaborative and cooperative learning frameworks are quite numerous, yet the main one is that cooperative learning represents a subdivision of the collaborative one, implying that students should work in teams on solving a specific problem or managing a certain task. The specified nuance might seem as irrelevant, yet, as an educator, one should remember the importance of working together while having unique individual tasks and the significance of collaboration as a part of a major project that students have to complete as a team. Therefore, collaborative and cooperative teaching approaches should be utilized when introducing students to group projects and the specifics of teamwork. Namely, the approaches under analysis will guide learners through the challenges associated with working as a team, while emphasizing specific issues associated with a corresponding teaching strategy. Namely, the collaborative framework will invite learners to embrace the opportunity of teamwork on a larger scale and see their roles and responsibilities interwoven into the fabric of the entire project. In turn, the cooperative strategy will help them to focus on their tasks and complete them successfully to contribute to the management of a team project. Overall, the strategies in question can be seen as equally important and needed for the promotion of learners’ independence and ability to work in a team.
Fu, Q. K., & Hwang, G. J. (2018). Trends in mobile technology-supported collaborative learning: A systematic review of journal publications from 2007 to 2016. Computers & Education, 119, 129-143.