Systems Thinking Vocabulary

Collaborative Learning

System or action of people learning together

Collaborative learning is the educational approach of using groups to enhance learning through working together. (
Collaborative learning refers to methodologies and environments in which learners engage in a common task where each individual depends on and is accountable to each other. (Chiu, M. M.)

Through defending their positions, reframing ideas, listening to other viewpoints and articulating their points, learners will gain a more complete understanding as a group than they could as individuals.(

Collaborative learning can occur peer-to-peer or in larger groups. Peer learning, or peer instruction, is a type of collaborative learning that involves students working in pairs or small groups to discuss concepts or find solutions to problems. Similar to the idea that two or three heads are better than one, educational researchers have found that through peer instruction, students teach each other by addressing misunderstandings and clarifying misconceptions. (

More specifically, collaborative learning is based on the model that knowledge can be created within a population where members actively interact by sharing experiences and taking on asymmetric roles. (Rubén Mitnik)

Collaborative learning development enables developers of learning systems to work as a network. Specifically relevant to e-learning where developers can share and build knowledge into courses in a collaborative environment at a quick pace and typically lower cost. Knowledge of a single subject can be pulled together from remote locations using software systems. (Ananatharman, Latha)


  • Ananatharman, Latha (September 2012). “Knowledge management and learning: ELearning and knowledge management system”2012 15th International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL). Villach, Austria: IEEE. pp. 1–6. doi:10.1109/ICL.2012.6402171. ISBN 978-1-4673-2427-4. S2CID 20207960.
  • Dillenbourg, P. (1999). Collaborative Learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches. Advances in Learning and Instruction Series. New York, NY: Elsevier Science, Inc
  • Chiu, M. M. (2000). Group problem-solving processes: Social interactions and individual actions Archived 2017-09-22 at the Wayback Machine
  • Mitnik, R.; Recabarren, M.; Nussbaum, M.; Soto, A. (2009). “Collaborative Robotic Instruction: A Graph Teaching Experience”. Computers & Education53 (2): 330–342. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.02.010
  • Vygotsky, Lev. (1997). “Interaction between Learning and Development” Archived 2016-01-25 at the Wayback Machine. W.H. Freeman and Company, New York


Concept Coordinates

Collaborative learning is rooted in Lev Vygotsky’s concept of learning called the zone of proximal development. Typically there are tasks that learners can and cannot accomplish. Between these two areas is the zone of proximal development, which is a category of things that a learner can learn with the help of guidance. The zone of proximal development gives guidance as to what set of skills a learner has that are in the process of maturation. In Vygotsky’s definition of the zone of proximal development, he highlighted the importance of learning through communication and interactions with others rather than just through independent work. (Vygotsky, Lev)

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