Collaborative, case-based learning: how do students actually learn from each other?J Vet Med Educ. 2009 Fall; 36(3):297-304.JV
The value of collaborative, case-based, and problem-based learning has received increased attention in recent years. Several studies have documented veterinary staff and students' generally positive feedback on group learning activities, but one largely unaddressed question is how students actually learn from each other. This study examined how second-year veterinary students learned from each other during a collaborative, case-based learning project. Data were students' written reflections on their learning in the veterinary course and the specific learning experience, and a matched pre- and post-task questionnaire. Consistent with prior research describing veterinary students as individualistic learners, only a third of students spontaneously mentioned learning from each other as one of their most effective strategies. However, when prompted to describe a time when they felt that group members were really learning from each other, students reported highly valuable collaborative learning processes, which they explicitly linked to learning and understanding benefits. Questionnaire data were consistent, showing that students became more positive toward several aspects of the activity as well as toward group work in general. One unexpected finding was the lack of a relationship between students' self-evaluation of their learning and how well group members knew each other. These findings provide strong support for the educational value of collaborative, case-based learning. In light of other research evidence (using observation data) that the amount of time students actually engage in high-level collaborative processes may be rather limited, this article points to the need for veterinary teachers to better prepare students for group learning activities.