What Is It

Collaborative learning helps students learn to work and solve problems alongside their peers and sharpens their understanding by encouraging learners to listen to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Approaches include study groups within a course, team-based assignments and writing, and cooperative projects and research (AAC&U, n.d.). True collaboration requires team members to work together to complete a task, rather than breaking a large task into smaller components that each member completes independently.


Why It Matters

Done right, collaboration can improve learners’ long-term retention of knowledge, help them develop critical thinking skills, and improve motivation and ownership of learning. Collaboration is also a key skill in many workplaces, so using it in higher education settings prepares learners for the ways they’ll work with others after college.   


Apply it

  1. Create class norms for collaboration. Openly discuss with learners what characteristics make a good teammate. Invite them to reflect on which of those characteristics they consider personal strengths–and which are areas for personal growth. 
  2. Use a rubric. A rubric clearly defines the behaviors and skills instructors expect learners to use during group assignments. Providing a collaboration rubric, like this one from AAC&U, can demystify the process for students who might have limited experience working in collaborative groups.  
  3. Make tasks challenging and relevant. Help learners focus on products rather than grades and develop healthy interdependence by giving them collaborative tasks that are rigorous and engaging.




American Association of Colleges and Universities. (n.d.). High-impact practices: Collaborative assignments and projects.

Scager, K., Boonstra, J., Peeters, T., Vulperhorst, J., & Wiegant, F. (2016). Collaborative learning in higher education: Evoking positive interdependence. CBE Life Sciences Education, 15(4), Article 69.

Tschannen‐Moran, M., & Woolfolk-Hoy, A. (2000). Collaborative learning: A memorable model. The Teacher Educator, 36(2), 148-165.


Cite This Resource

Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation. (2023, January). Collaboration [Teaching resource].


Updated 2/2023