Press Release: New European recommendations on enhancing collaborative teaching and learning in schools

Research confirms that collaborative learning has a positive impact on students' academic achievement as well as on the development of social competences. We know however, that collaborative teaching and learning are not yet commonplace in schools across Europe.

For this reason the CO-LAB project set out to explore what collaborative teaching and learning means in practice in six European countries (Austria, Belgium (Flanders), Estonia, Ireland, Poland and Portugal), and has just concluded by publishing recommendations to help countries mainstream this 21st century pedagogical approach. These recommendations adopt a systemic approach, outlining actions required at the policy, teacher training, school and classroom levels.

So what is the most important factor to consider when trying to enhance collaborative teaching and learning in schools? The top enabler, according to the CO-LAB results, is a collaborative school culture, supportive of collaborative learning and teacher collaboration. School heads have a large role to play here, and are advised to integrate collaborative learning as part of a larger change programme within their school. Moreover, engaging parents and collaborating with other schools can really facilitate the process. Of the head teachers who took part in CO-LAB, two-thirds made changes, including providing specific training and resources for their staff, and developing more flexible classroom spaces to facilitate collaboration.

Training is essential, and bringing all stakeholders together for this is an effective way of ensuring collaborative teaching and learning is successfully implemented at all levels. Motivating teachers to experiment with this new approach is important, as is encouraging a step-by-step approach to build confidence.

These changes on the ground must be supported by policy at central level. The CO-LAB project found that collaborative teaching and learning was not a policy priority in the six countries covered by the project. In order for real change to happen, policy makers need to put this issue high on the agenda, and deeply engage head teachers and key stakeholders in collaborative learning, as well as create accessible sources of collaborative learning materials. Moreover, regulations covering curricula, assessment and finance can be revised to better support collaborative learning.

On what are these key recommendations based? A thorough evaluation report, by the Polish Educational Research Institute (IBE), and a series of country workshops that allowed stakeholders at all levels (teacher trainers, student teachers, teachers, head teachers, and policy makers) to discuss together the conditions required for collaborative teaching and learning to flourish and be mainstreamed. You can find out more about the specificities of each national case in the CO-LAB series of country reports and accompanying videos.

Thanks to CO-LAB, teacher participants realized that to effectively promote collaborative learning to their students, they needed to practice what they preached by collaborating with colleagues. After taking the CO-LAB Massive Open Online Course (now freely available as an Open Educational Resource), 40% of teachers reported they collaborated with teachers more often. According to a Belgian teacher participant, ‘It works best when time is actually built into the working week where genuine collaboration between teachers can take place. This provides opportunities to plan, assess and evaluate together.' Indeed, the need for more time was also stressed at student level, as currently the typical short lesson periods do not allow for more extensive project-based activities involving collaborative group work.

Assessing collaborative work was also a challenge for many participants, but progress was made in this difficult area during the project, as the Irish project partner, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, explains: ‘As teachers became more confident in collaborative learning methodologies, their approach to assessment changed. During the project they came to realize that for assessment to be valid it must include measurement of collaboration as well as knowledge. This was the first time many of these teachers had considered metacognition or the affective domain in assessment.' CO-LAB has also produced useful guidelines for assessing collaborative learning in the classroom.

For further information, please contact:

Caroline Kearney, Corporate Communications & Advocacy Manager - European Schoolnet

Email: caroline.kearney@eun.org

Mobile: +32 (0)2 790 75 51

About CO-LAB

CO-LAB is a forward-looking project coordinated by European Schoolnet and co-funded by the European Commission's Erasmus+ Programme (December 2015 – January 2018). The project's partnership consists of Ministries of Education, teacher training organisations and research institutes from Austria, Belgium - Flanders, Estonia, Ireland, Poland, and Portugal.

The project focused on understanding what makes collaborative teaching and learning a reality in the classroom. Stakeholders at all levels (teacher trainers, student teachers, teachers, head teachers, and policy makers) participated in the project, receiving training and discussing in country workshops the implementation of collaborative learning and the conditions required to mainstream collaboration.

Project coordinator


  • NCCA - National Council for Curriculum and Assessment | Ireland
  • IBE - Educational Research Institute | Poland
  • DGE - Directorate-General for Education (Direção-Geral da Educação) | Portugal
  • HITSA - Information Technology Foundation for Education | Estonia
  • Go! - HET GEMEENSCHAPSONDERWIJS - GO! Onderwijs van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap | Belgium
  • BMB - Bundesministerium für Bildung | Austria

About European Schoolnet

European Schoolnet is the network of 34 European Ministries of Education, based in Brussels. As a not-for-profit organisation, we aim to bring innovation in teaching and learning to our key stakeholders: Ministries of Education, schools, teachers, researchers, and industry partners. European Schoolnet's mission is to support relevant education stakeholders in Europe in the transformation of education processes for 21st century digitalized societies. Our remit is to identify and test promising innovative practices, share evidence about their impact, and support the mainstreaming of teaching and learning practices aligned with 21st century standards for the education of all students.