My wife asked me: what is the difference between cooperative and collaborative learning? Although I felt there was a difference, and that the difference had something to do with coordination and who controls that, I could not make that explicit. So, I found this wonderful paper by Ted Panitz, and here it is:
Collaboration is a philosophy of interaction and personal lifestyle where individuals are responsible for their actions, including learning and respect the abilities and contributions of their peers; Cooperation is a structure of interaction designed to facilitate the accomplishment of a specific end product or goal through people working together in groups.
In the cooperative model the teacher maintains complete control of the class, even though the students work in groups to accomplish a goal of a course. The cooperative teacher asks a specific question such as, “What were the five causes of the start of World War II?” The teacher provides additional articles for the students to read and analyze, beyond the text, and then asks the students to work in groups to answer the question. The groups then present their results to the whole class and discuss their reasoning. A follow up question may then be posed to the groups to analyze the United Nations to determine if this has been an effective organization to prevent world wars and to make recommendations on possible changes needed to make the UN more effective. The teacher might use specific structures, such as a Jig Saw model, to help facilitate the group interactions. He/she might require a specific product such as a term paper or report, class presentations, and an exam at the end of the topic. The students do the work necessary to consider the material being covered but the teacher maintains control of the process at each stage.
In the collaborative model groups would assume almost total responsibility for answering the question. The students determine if they had enough information to answer the question. If not they identify other sources, such as journals, books, videos, the internet, to name a few. The work of obtaining the extra source material would be distributed among the group members by the group members. The group would decide how many reasons they could identify. The collaborative teacher would not specify a number, but would assess the progress of each group and provide suggestions about each group’s approach and the data generated. It might also occur to the students to list the reasons in order of priority. The teacher would be available for consultations and would facilitate the process by asking for frequent progress reports from the groups, facilitate group discussions about group dynamics, help with conflict resolution, etc. The final product is determined by each group, after consultation with the teacher. The means of assessment of the group’s performance would also be negotiated by each group with the teacher. Some groups might decide to analyze the UN, as the cooperative group was directed to do, or they might try to come up with a completely new organization. They might go back through history to determine how other periods of peace were definition created. The process is very open ended while it maintains a focus on the overall goal. The students develop a very strong ownership for the process and respond very positively to the fact that they are given almost complete responsibility to deal with the problem posed to them and they have significant input into their assessment.