Collaborative Learning Theory in Criminal Justice Studies

learning-theoryCollaborative learning theory is a learning approach with the goal of constructing knowledge to solve a problem or complete a task by a team of diverse learners (Shukor, Tasir, der Meijden, & Harun, 2014; ChanLin, 2012). Collaborative learning theory developed from combining the work of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky’s research on learning when you are ready and the need for help to advance to a higher level of knowledge and understanding (Shukor et al., 2014; ChanLin, 2012; Iqbal, Kousar, & Ajmal, 2011).

Within criminal justice studies, collaborative group learning is a very popular learning activity in the majority of classes because it provides an opportunity for student-to-student learning, case study analysis, developing conflict resolution communication skills, and working as a team to accomplish a common task (Payne, Guastaferro, & Mummert, 2011; McMay, Gradel, & Scott, 2013). All of which are required skills for studying and working in the criminal justice system (Payne et al., 2011). There is a difference between cooperative learning and collaborative learning. Cooperative learning is formal structure of passive learning usually associated with professor-centered teaching strategies (Meetoo-Appavoo, 2011; Choi & Kang, 2010).

Collaborative learning is associated with social constructionist concepts that new acquired knowledge develops from a social construct (Meetoo-Appavoo, 2011; Choi & Kang, 2010).

Choi and Kang (2010) found that classroom professors using collaborative group learning strategies should include the use of educational technologies that support group collaboration guided by the professor using active constructivism pedagogy to enhance learning with 21st century learners.

Marín, Negre, and Pérez (2014) noted that first-year student group work needs an instructor using active constructivism classroom practices to help guide first-year students and recommends further research with collaborative learning, first-year students, and technology. Iqbal et al. (2011) concluded that collaborative group learning is interactive social experience that builds student confidence

Creating the collaborative group-learning environment is the responsibility of the class professor who selects members to form a group of diverse learners (Payne et al., 2011; Choi & Kang, 2010). The goal in creating learning teams is that members learn acceptable by social interact and establishing effective communication skills as they take responsibility to be an active participate (Payne et al., 2011; Choi & Kang, 2010). The classroom professors roll as a supportive coach allows students to settle in as the group organized and prioritizes required task to complete the assignment.

fig1The most important characteristic of the collaborative learning environment is the student positive attitude towards cooperation and learning flexibility and negotiation problems in a diplomatic way through effective group dialog (Valentine-Maher, Van Dyk, Aktan, & Bliss, 2014; Stump et al., 2011). To establish a creative and respectful learning environment the classroom professor needs to guide and encouraging the learning team to develop group norms or rules for respectful communication, democratic conflict resolution, deliverable deadlines, engagement expectations, and roles for members to accomplish the task on time that meets or exceeds the assignment expectations.AAEAAQAAAAAAAAbjAAAAJGE5Y2YwMTI5LTNlYzAtNDUyNS1iZDVmLWQwOTM5NjFiYjliNg

Collaborative learning theory works well in criminal justice studies and has an opportunity to enhance the learning experience if properly introduced to students and allowing them to have input in the learning process.


ChanLin, L. (2012). Learning strategies in web-supported collaborative project. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 49(3), 319-331. doi:10.1080/14703297.2012.703016

Choi, H., & Kang, M. (2010). Applying an activity system to online collaborative group work analysis. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), 776-795. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.00978.x

Iqbal, M. J., Kousar, N., & Ajmal, M. (2011). Collaborative learning: Myth for distance learning? International Journal of Academic Research, 3(4), 605-608.

Marín, V., Negre, F., & Pérez, A. (2014). Construction of the foundations of the PLE and PLN for collaborative learning. Comunicar, 21(42), 35-43. doi:10.3916/C42-2014-03

McMay, D. V., Gradel, K., & Scott, C. (2013). Using problem based learning to develop class projects in upper level social science courses: A case study with recommendations. Creative Education, 4(1), 62-70.

Meetoo-Appavoo, A. (2011). Constructivist-based framework for teaching computer science. International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security, 9(8), 25-31

Payne, B. K., Guastaferro, W. P., & Mummert, S. (2011). Attitudes about group work among criminal justice students: The influence of participation in group projects. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 22(4), 546-561. doi:10.1080/10511253.2011.556133

Shukor, N. A., Tasir, Z., der Meijden, H. V., & Harun, J. (2014). Exploring students’ knowledge construction strategies in computer-supported collaborative learning discussions using sequential analysis. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(4), 216-228.

Stump, G. S., Hilpert, J. C., Husman, J., Wen-Ting, C., & Wonsik, K. (2011). Collaborative learning in engineering students: Gender and achievement. Journal of Engineering Education, 100(3), 475-497.

Valentine-Maher, S., Van Dyk, E. J., Aktan, N. M., & Bliss, J. B. (2014). Teaching population health and community-based care across diverse clinical experiences: Integration of conceptual pillars and constructivist learning. Journal of Nursing Education, 53(3), S11-S18. doi:10.3928/01484834-20140217-01

About the Author

Mark Bond

Mark Bond worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms trainer for more than 30 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state, and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in Criminal Justice, and M.Ed in Educational Leadership with Summa Cum Laude Honors. Mark has a Doctor of Education (Ed.D) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.