Sometimes called ‘cooperative learning’ (Johnson & Johnson 2009), ‘active learning’ (Braxton et al. 2000; Braxton et al. 2008) or ‘participatory pedagogy’ (Tapp 2014), collaborative learning practices – when compared with individualistic and competitive practices – are an extremely effective way of generating student engagement, increasing student success and ultimately supporting persistence rather than attrition. A meta-analysis of 1,200 studies conducted in universities and other adult settings over the last 110 years, for example, showed that classroom collaboration results in higher achievement, greater productivity, improved relationships, improved psychological health, self-esteem and social competence (Johnson & Johnson 2009). Whilst there are a number of causes of this effect, foremost amongst them appear to be activity (or rather a lack of passivity) and the students’ sense that they are known and valued (Michaelsen et al. 2002; Persell et al. 2008). The teaching strategies described in chapter 3 are all designed to establish a culture of affinity, warmth and a sense of belonging which lay the foundation for further work on building an active and engaged classroom with all the benefits which flow from this – for both the students and the teacher. Aside from the general, warm culture which Allen (2008), amongst others,

argues is so important are three further factors which both enrich teaching, and produce an ongoing positive effect on student outcomes: the explicit approval of students’ classroom contributions; interest in, and enthusiasm for, the students’ work; and numerous teacher/student interactions in the classroom (Hourigan 2013; Read et al. 2003; Richardson & Radloff 2014; Roberts 2011; Tapp 2014). These qualities should be actively and purposefully articulated and promoted to

be effective. When they are, Hourigan (2013) contends, student engagement and cooperation rise as does their motivation level. De Hei et al. (2015) go further to argue that the literature on collaborative learning clearly shows that it doesn’t only have an effect on emotional and pro-social development, but importantly also on cognition. Crucially, the foundation for collaboration, as outlined above, must be established in order for it to work well for both the students and the teaching staff who use it. Without such a foundation, De Hei et al. found four common

outcomes in student group work: disputes between students; variance in commitment to the group and the task (typically when one or more participant(s) becomes a ‘passenger’); poor communication between the students and the teacher over the division of tasks; and a lack of acceptance (or rejection) of feedback from other group members, and a preoccupation with feedback from the teacher. A relatively simple way to pre-empt such difficulties is to (again) be explicit with

the group about these possible difficulties and to discuss the ways in which they are to be dealt with. The precursor of such a discussion is to establish the following:

1 How the groups are to be formed (homogeneous or heterogeneous? voluntary or forced?)

2 Role clarity – who is going to do what? 3 Scheduling meetings – how frequently and where? It is wise to promote con-

sideration of family responsibilities, location, work commitments, any student physical limitations or constraints

4 How will a lack of commitment or work be dealt with by the group? How might it be reflected in the group’s mark?