Collaboration vs. cooperation


There are hundreds of occassions where peope work together in a team: they go play football, play in a band or write a paper together.

I really like to work in a team, but sometimes I meet people who prefer to split the tasks, and in the end each of them add their part to the end product. In some other cases (for example in design thinking workshops) we start together, think together, create together, we intend to reach common understanding.

The difference between cooperation and collaboration

Collaboration and cooperation are often used interchangebly, but they represent a fundamenytally different ways of contributing to a group.

In the course of cooperation people perform together while working on selfish yet common goals. This can be reached by sharing the individual knowledge creation with each other. It is more focused on working togehter and create an end product.

Collaboration is a different level of teamwork.This time participants have a single shared goal, they share the process of knowledge to reach the results. Collaboration provides students with a significant opportunity to learn from one another, negotiate meaning, and improve their social skills. During collaboration team members inspire each other, and they have a more intensive team experience. Just like playing in an orchestra.

Collaboration in language learning

Collaboration in language learning is also very useful. Not only because it prepares learners for challenges in life, but it motivates them to talk with each other, express and challenge others’ ideas, accept mistakes and support each other. I think that teachers have a big responsibility in this, since they are the ones who lay down the groundwork for successful collaboration.

One of my favourite academic ’celebritiy’ TED award winner Sugata Mitra says that collaboration does not come naturally i.e. dividing students into groups and tell them to collaborate will not lead anything like collaboration. In order to find out what he did to foster collaboration in schools, listen to his inspirative Brain Bar talk.

As Kurt Lewin a German-American psychologyst wrote:

„Behaviour = Personality x Environment”

So let the learners have that environment, which motivates them to collaborate.


Storyteller: Judit Kertesz, Creativity consultant, Budapest, Hungary — partner in the Erasmus+ project GuLL

More info about GuLL: www.pleasemakemistakes.eu

Guerilla Literacy Learning is a project co-funded by Erasmus+ (Agreement no. 2014–1-BE02-KA200–000472)