CELFS Teaching and Learning Network

Collaborative Learning in the EAP Classroom

by Martin Jenkins


“We’re doing it already!” you exclaim, “They’re working in groups.”

But there’s the rub. What does working in groups really mean? What are they learning from the groupings? Is it merely paying lip-service to a particular format?

One of the areas that I am very keen on in my own teaching is the development of Collaborative Learning (CL) and showing the learners how it can benefit them in so many different ways.

Einstein’s ‘Creativity is contagious – pass it on’ is here aimed at the learners not at us as teachers. If we embrace this way of facilitating learning we are giving them far more than the wherewithal to complete a pre-sessional course.

To highlight this I have been looking at CL in a rather different, though related, context in order to show the wider benefits.

In the slides of this presentation, from the IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language), BESIG (Business English Special Interest Group) annual conference (2013) entitled How to Prepare Professional Communicators for the Workplace, you will see a range of excellent points for us as teachers, including the salutary reminder that “…placing students in groups and expecting them to work together will not promote cooperative learning.”

Instead, CL requires “careful planning, monitoring, and evaluating” (Gillies & Boyle, 2011, p. 64). The learners need to be engaged with the process from the beginning of the course and this means that they must see the benefits that accrue from a collaborative working environment. For our pre-sessional groups there is an obvious and immediate benefit in that they will be in a far stronger position to start their postgraduate courses.

There are many ways in which CL can be introduced and made really effective. This is where you come in!  There’s a huge pool of talent and experience out there. We all look forward to sharing thoughts and ideas as we set out towards the pre-sessional 2016…


Gillies R. M., Boyle M. (2011). Teachers’ reflections on cooperative learning (CL): a two-year follow-up. Teach. Educ. 1 63–78 10.1080/10476210.2010.538045


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