Ask any student what they like most about school. They’ll most likely respond with “friends.” Whether at school or at work, working together on projects can lead to lasting relationships. This concept is extremely important in K-12 education of all kinds, including special education.
Children with disabilities sometimes have trouble interacting socially. Individualized learning helps with one-on-one discussion; however, students with disabilities or developmental delay sometimes need stronger social interaction. Enter collaborative learning, A.K.A., group learning.
The advantages to collaborative learning in special education are life changing for children with disabilities. Placing him in a group environment helps him prepare for later in life when social events become normal in the workplace and collaborative effort is expected.
There are many benefits to group work and collaborative learning in a special needs school setting. There's too many to list! So to get you started, here are our top 5 benefits to learning in a group setting:
1. Children strengthen their social communication skills:
When a child with developmental delay works together with his peers on projects, he learns socialization skills. He will develop social communication abilities through talking with his peers. He also strengthens critical thinking and problem solving skills and learns how to be responsible and complete tasks in a timely manner. All of these skills are strengthened the more often group work is done, and each of these skills will be important inside and outside of school.
2. Self- esteem is increased:
In small groups, children with special needs have the chance to contribute to group work and give their own input on projects. When this input is seen as valuable and utilized by peers, a child’s self-esteem increases. Letting him share his ideas with his peer group is a great confidence booster!
3. Feelings of anxiety decrease:
We’ll be the first to admit that this might not happen right away. It can be very intimidating to work with other people. However, the more someone works in groups, the more accustomed they become to the idea. The anxiety that comes with working in groups slowly decreases, and they become better prepared to use group-working skills in the future.
4. Increased understanding of diversity and inclusion:
Special education programs will sometimes try to integrate themselves into the mainstream education program. This means that special education groups will sometimes work with their “mainstream” peers. Through this interaction, students in special education experience and understand diversity and how it works while also learning inclusion methods. This can even be done in special education without mainstream peers - diversity can be learned even within a special-needs-only school environment.
5. Developing lasting friendships:
What better way to make friends than to work with peers? It’s not uncommon for people in groups to become friends afterwards and continue to work with each other. This is absolutely no different in special education.
Collaborative learning is a method of learning that includes everyone, no matter who they are. It’s benefits rise beyond any disadvantage, and it’s extremely important for social skill growth. Don't be afraid to expose your child to group settings. It's largely beneficial, and will do more help than harm!
Author: Raeann Calcutta
Raeann Calcutta is a social media intern and blogger for the ONEIL Center for Research Communication. She has her associate's degree in Communications from Sinclair Community College and currently studies Communication and Digital Media studies at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.