Advanced Education Programs Faculty Publications

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.




Research indicates the benefits of collaborative learning for supporting academic literacy in content classrooms, especially for diverse and exceptional students such as students with learning disabilities or English learners (ELs) who can become disengaged in content classrooms if they struggle to access complex, content-related texts. Drawing from Cognitive Load Theory, we argue that collaborative group structures support students in sharing the load of processing these texts across all members, thus ensuring better comprehension of the content. Yet, collaborative structures may not be beneficial to diverse and exceptional learners in the group, particularly if students are not supported in how to engage successfully in collaborative work. Using a mixed-methods approach, we explored the use of video reflection and guided discussions with students using collaborative strategic reading (CSR) in heterogeneous collaborative groups in one seventh-grade general education, social studies class in an urban middle school. Students’ collaborative group work was video recorded pre- and post-reflection sessions to determine change in engagement in shared learning. The reflection session included students watching the video recording of their group work during CSR, discussing their collaboration using guided prompts, and setting goals for improvement. Following the reflection session, findings revealed an overall increase in time on task for all students, with increased participation of diverse and exceptional students in richer content-related discussions. When all students understand how the collaborative group shares the cognitive load and supports each other through discussing and elaborating on ideas, academic literacy and richer understanding of the content can occur.

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