Free collaboration may be a good way to invite ideas and brainstorm, but it does not always meet the learning objectives set out by the training team. One way to increase the effectiveness and productivity of collaborative learning is by engaging learners in well defined scripts. A collaborative script is in essence a set of guidelines for learners – on how they should form groups, how they should interact and collaborate, and how they should solve problems to produce actual learning.
Pierre Dillenbourg’s paper on ‘Blending Collaborative Learning with Instructional Design’ charts out the pros and cons of the subtle art of introducing instructional design in collaborative learning. Our main takeway from the article was the various approaches instructional designers can adopt to create a structured environment of learning, in the corporate scenario.
Types of Collaborative Scripts
- The Argue-Graph Script: In this approach, the instructional designer presents the learner group with a series of questions on a specific topic. The learners can answer them online through free text and each answer is studied by an instructor. Peers with two most conflicting answers are put together in a pair and made to take the same quiz again. The learners in each pair collaborate to form their answers and, at the end of the activity, all answers are discussed to generate the final set of answers that makes the most sense to the entire group. The design rationale of this script is to create conflicts among learners and encourage arguments in order to promote closer interactions. The back and forth of style of questioning succeeds in engaging the learners and effectively produces learning through collaboration.
- The Magic-Book Script: The instructional designer provides the first chapter of a story. The learners read this chapter and write the continuing second chapter of the story. All the entries are read and the learners vote for their favorite. The story then continues for a predefined set of chapters, till it reaches a mutually agreed end. The role of the instructor in this script is restrained and learners are encouraged to interact more freely with each other. This approach works well when developing creative ideas or storyboards.
- Phase X Script: This approach supports project-based learning through collaboration among different learner groups. Each project is segmented into phases and the learners are grouped into teams, who work on each phase. The intermediate product of each phase is shared in an online social space. The teams can look into each other’s work and take inspiration from it to move forward. While each team finally delivers its own final product, it is built through mutual inspiration and support. The design rationale for this script is to utilize social space as a platform of continuing idea-seeding. This approach works well for a variety of different projects, as long as instructional designers clearly distinguish each phase for the learners along with clearly defined goals for each phase.
- Reciprocal Teaching: This approach works on the concept of peer tutoring. A new learner and a peer subject expert are presented with the learning material. One reads the first paragraph and then the other questions him or her on the same. Instructional designers prepare these questions, along with the learning material. For the next paragraph the roles are reversed and this process is repeated till the end of the course. Some may argue that this concept does not strictly lie in the realm of collaborative learning because the experience and knowledge of one learner exceeds the other, but the coming together of peers for such an exercise is truly beneficial for both. While the inexperienced learner benefits from the knowledge of his peer, the experienced learner takes this opportunity to revise and revisit concepts to strengthen knowledge on the topic.
There are many more such scripts that can be discussed. More can be developed using existing popular scripts to suit individual or organizational needs. The concept of a collaborative script does not seek to create a restrictive environment for group interactions. On the contrary, it works to gather the most out of peer interaction and can be extremely effective for corporate learning, where measurable benefits and productive learning are always commended.