Teaching Strategies for New Content: Collaborative Strategies

image_pdfSave as PDFimage_printPrint this blog post

By Scott Sterling

This is the second in a series of three blog posts discussing research-based teaching strategies that help students interact and eventually assimilate new knowledge.

Education is all about presenting previously-unknown knowledge to students and have them incorporate that learning into comprehension. But as any educator will tell you, that is not an instantaneous process. It takes a methodical approach.

Students are increasingly asked to work in collaborative groups as a reflection of college and the working world. That collaboration can occur throughout the learning process – even when students are just getting a handle on new information.

Although there are many available strategies in which students can work together – not to mention a teacher’s own creativity – here are a few that have seen widespread success.

Pair or Triad Discovery

In the pair discovery strategy, no individual student is responsible for assimilating the information. In fact, a sharper picture of the topic is only revealed as students come together with others.

First, two students are asked to investigate a problem together. They interact with the knowledge and collaboratively arrive at their findings. For example, partners may be asked to measure various objects to investigate the concept of pi and figure out how each measurement is related. Then that partnership comes together with another pair to work on a deeper question relating to the topic using the information they generated when they were just pairs. After this, the group of four presents their findings to the whole class.

The triad discovery strategy works in a similar fashion, but is only limited to groups of three. Because those groups are larger, the teacher may choose to split the different aspects of the topic at hand, then having each group present their findings, helping the whole class arrive to mastery together.


In think-pair-share, students get to work in various phases, starting alone and ending at small group. It is also a quick strategy that can be used multiple times in the same lesson.

To start, the teacher poses a question having to do with the content at hand. Each student is asked to quietly think about the question and their ideas for an answer. After a minute or so, students are to find a partner and compare notes about the question. Once they arrive at a consensus, they are ready to share their findings, either with the students around them or the class as a whole.


Jigsaw offers students an opportunity to work in shifting groups built around different tasks.

A topic is broken into component parts. Students are organized into small groups in equal numbers to the parts of the topic. Each student moves to investigate their component part on their own before returning to the group and sharing their findings. Next, students are grouped with the members of the other groups whose component part corresponds with their own. This grouping works together to come up with a cohesive message about their part before members return to their original groups and share their findings once again.

The purpose of jigsaw is for students to see different points of view and how they can change their own findings on an ongoing basis.