Do you suggest your students develop study groups? Do you have group projects where students must work together? When was the last time you as a college professor or as a health care provider was in a study group with your peers?

Research on cooperative learning has demonstrated its effectiveness as a pedagogical strategy for forty or more years (Slavin, 1980; Gillies, 2016).  It is particularly useful in the flipped classroom model I mentioned in an earlier blog post (Foldnes, 2016). Students work together to seek out their own answers to problems posed by the instructor and the instructor acts as a process facilitator, helping students overcome obstacles and pointing them in the right direction. An example from my own experience was when I had my students conducting their first lit search. I had them sit in groups of three and search several databases while I walked around the class and helped with search terms, tips on identifying seminal articles and important findings and helped with technical issues. They learned by doing and by doing in groups the process of learning was more engaging and active.

As teachers and researchers we rarely have the opportunity to engage in this type of learning. We are lucky if we have access to journals and have time to read an article or two about our field. We may be fortunate enough to go to a conference where we have an element of this type of learning as we discuss presentations and their application to our work. But after the conference, we go home and the business cards of all those interesting people go in a drawer and we often don’t communicate until we see each other at a conference again in another year.

Learning collaboratives provide the opportunity to engage with our colleagues in collaborative learning. They have been used widely to improve the quality of health care delivery for everything from hand washing in hospitals (Staines, 2016) to improving access to addiction treatment (Gustafson, 2013).  Quality Improvement Collaboratives have been demonstrated to be effective across different topics and modalities (Wells, 2018). The Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) model of learning collaborative was begun by a physician in New Mexico, USA who wanted to improve care for people with HCV in rural areas of the state (Arora, 2010).  This model used simple video conferencing technology to offer physicians a distance cooperative learning opportunity with consultation from an expert and case discussion and reporting.

As we have expanded the ICUDDR network over the past year, we are encountering opportunities for cooperative learning. We are going to begin with two this fall. One is on publishing research and the other is on implementing drug demand reduction education programs. Learning collaborative participants will be expected to have a specific project (or paper) that they are working on. We will meet monthly or bi-monthly via zoom video calls and during each call there will be a brief (10 minutes) didactic presentation on an issue that came up in the prior call and a scheduled time for one of the participants to present a “case” of an issue that they are dealing with in their project for discussion. The collaboratives will last for six months. We expect to launch in November. Send me an email at johnsonk@icuddr.com if you have any interest in either of these two learning collaboratives.

Some of the articles below are open source. Just click on the reference and you will be brought to an electronic version of the article.

Arora, S., Kalishman, S., Thornton, K., Dion, D., Murata, G., Deming, P., … & Bankhurst, A. (2010). Expanding access to hepatitis C virus treatment—Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) project: disruptive innovation in specialty care. Hepatology52(3), 1124-1133.

Foldnes, N. (2016). The flipped classroom and cooperative learning: Evidence from a randomised experiment. Active Learning in Higher Education17(1), 39-49.

Gillies, R. M. (2016). Cooperative learning: Review of research and practice. Australian journal of teacher education41(3), 3.

Gustafson, D. H., Quanbeck, A. R., Robinson, J. M., Ford, J. H., Pulvermacher, A., French, M. T., … & McCarty, D. (2013). Which elements of improvement collaboratives are most effective? A cluster‐randomized trial. Addiction108(6), 1145-1157.

Slavin, R. E. (1980). Cooperative learning. Review of educational research50(2), 315-342.

Staines, A., Amherdt, I., Lécureux, E., Petignat, C., Eggimann, P., Schwab, M., & Pittet, D. (2017). Hand hygiene improvement and sustainability: assessing a breakthrough collaborative in Western Switzerland. infection control & hospital epidemiology38(12), 1420-1427.

Wells S, Tamir O, Gray J, et al. Are quality improvement collaboratives effective? A systematic review. BMJ Quality & Safety 2018;27:226-240.

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