Learning with Others: A Study Exploring the Relationship Between Collaboration, Personalization, and Equity

Image of two students working together at a tablePersonalized learning is often equated with individual learning using technology. Yet for many students, learning on their own may not effectively meet their needs. The aim of this study was to explore racial differences in experiences and benefits associated with collaboration.

The study posed three research questions:

  • What are the relationships among opportunities for collaboration, classroom experiences, and outcomes, particularly for students who identify as Black?
  • To what extent do students have opportunities to participate in high-quality collaborative learning experiences?
  • What contextual, school-level factors do teachers identify as helping or hindering their ability to provide opportunities for high-quality collaboration in diverse, student-centered classrooms?

AIR collected data from a variety of sources for students, teachers, and classrooms within four racially diverse high schools that emphasized both personalization and collaboration. Overall, data were collected from 892 students, 138 teachers, and 30 classrooms.

View the video or slides from our webinar about the Learning with Others study.

The study offers evidence of the benefits of collaboration for student learning. In addition, it reveals some of the distinct ways in which collaboration is linked to students’ perceptions of personalization in the classroom, and how Black students benefit from and experience collaboration differently from White and other non-Black students.

Key Findings

Our study findings showed that, for all students, reports of high-quality collaboration were strongly associated with positive classroom experiences and mind-set/dispositional outcomes such as motivation, engagement, and self-efficacy. Moreover, high-quality collaboration was strongly associated with students’ perceptions of personalization—and personalization, in turn, was strongly associated with outcomes.

For Black students, collaboration was also associated with higher grades, even after accounting for their prior academic performance. Focus group discussions revealed that Black students perceived less relevance in collaborative activities, more frequent experiences of exclusion and marginalization, and lower support from teachers during collaborative group work than did non-Black peers.

Findings from this study suggest that collaborative experiences could be among the factors that contribute to positive changes in the academic trajectories of Black students, particularly when these opportunities reflect high-quality features. Thus, schools and educators aiming to address equity through personalization should consider increasing opportunities for high-quality collaboration.

This study was funded by the Jobs for the Future Student-Centered Research Collaborative.