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Collaborative and Cooperative Learning: Is there a Difference?

Before we introduce the strategies, we'd like you to think a bit about the similarities and differences between collaboration and cooperation. Although most instructors will immediately appreciate the concept of "collaboration," we have come to discover that not all of us are designing our courses based on the same--or even similar--understandings. "Collaboration" has become the catch-all phrase for just about any kind of activity where students work together. We may find the terms "collaboration" and "cooperation" used interchangeably. Therefore, we think it useful to make some distinctions between collaborative and cooperative learning.

Unlike cooperative learning where students divvy up the work, do it, then cobble their results into a final presentation, collaborative learning--which we emphasize in this module--requires that all students complete all the work together. When students work collaboratively with their reading strategies, through their negotiation they will often arrive at unexpected, unforeseen, or even conflicting solutions or answers. Thus, in collaborative learning, knowledge is socially constructed through meaningful conversations between students, and much more of what is read will be retained. Then, students can begin applying various strategies to further the comprehension, analysis, and application of what they have read.