Incorporating collaborative learning techniques into classes

Learning Skills Adviser Roslyn Halliday lets us in on some of her teaching techniques.

Photo courtesy Monash Image Library
Within the Research and Learning team at Monash Library, we’ve been employing a variety of teaching strategies to create classes that are inspiring, engaging and encourage deep learning. One key focus has been the use of ‘active learning’, that is, the incorporation of interactive, collaborative and student-centred learning activities.

Below I outline some tried and tested strategies that I have drawn upon in my classes to help promote interactive and collaborative learning within the classroom - techniques which can be applied to a variety of educational settings.

1. Online polling sites

Polling sites generally involve students engaging with lecture or tutorial content by posting questions via SMS. Responses are automatically collated and visible to everyone in the room, either on a data projector or by logging onto the site on individual devices.

Some sites enable students to vote for questions they feel are most pertinent to the class (thereby helping to create a student-centred session when the most popular questions are addressed during the session).


2. Think-pair-share

Students are presented with a problem, question or issue and are asked to firstly think about their response on their own (and perhaps write it down or draw it). Providing thinking time for students has shown to increase the quality of their responses. Students then share their responses in pairs. This encourages quieter students to participate and provides another opportunity to refine or add depth to ideas. Each pair then shares with the whole group, which subsequently forms the basis of a whole group discussion.

3. Think-pair-square-share

As above, but before sharing with the whole group, each pair of students shares with another pair (ie. a square). Provides further opportunity to refine ideas.

4. Think-pair-tweet-share

Like above, but students generate a Tweet (or 140 characters), to articulate their idea. Or you might ask students to communicate an idea via Snapchat instead – a more widely used app than Twitter amongst younger folk. 

5. Jigsaw

A technique developed by Elliot Aronson in the 1970s, students work in small groups (ideally between 4 and 6 students). The topic/problem/task under consideration is broken down into small segments, and each group is allocated one segment to focus on. They then become ‘experts’ in that particular area. The groups are then rearranged so that each person reports to a new group as an ‘expert’ on their area of focus. This strategy encourages every student to be actively involved in the learning process.


Each of these strategies can be adapted to suit different educational contexts, and they help get students thinking, discussing, and working in groups. This in turn fosters a more interactive learning environment and promotes deeper engagement.

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  1. Really interesting and informative Ros! Some other tools that might be useful for audience feedback are answergarden (shares audience feedback) and slido (ask the presenter questions directly - better for a lecture-style presentation). I became aware of these through our keynote presenter at last year's Library Information Day.

  2. I love #4 Ros! I can see how the 'tweeting' part would help consolidate their understanding. Cool - thanks! :-)