IntroductionThe concept of collaborative learning, the grouping and pairing of students for the purpose of achieving an academic goal, has been widely researched and advocated throughout the professional literature. The term "Collaborative Learning" refers to an instruction method in which students at various performance levels work together in small groups toward a common goal. The students are responsible for one another's learning as well as their own. Thus, the success of one student helps other students to be successful.
Proponents of Collaborative Learning claim that the active exchange of ideas within small groups not only increases interest among the participants but also promotes critical thinking. According to Johnson and Johnson (1996), there is persuasive evidence that collaborative teams achieve at higher levels of thought and retain information longer than students who work quietly as individuals. The shared learning gives students an opportunity to engage in discussion, take responsibility for their own learning, and thus become critical thinkers Totten, et al (2001).
In the Jamaican society where competition is at its highest level, collaboration seems to be losing its importance. There are competitive situations in which students work against each other to achieve a goal that only one or a few can attain. In competition, there is a negative interdependence among goal achievements. Students perceive that they can obtain their goals if and only if the other students in the class fail to obtain their goals. The result is that students either work hard to do better than their classmates, or they take it easy because they do not believe that they have a chance to win.
A large and rapidly growing body of research confirms the effectiveness of Collaborative Learning (Astin, 1993; Cooper et al., 1990; Goodsell et al., 1992; Johnson et al., 1991). Relative to students taught...