According to Breen (2013), student collaboration can be defined as “an interdependent and democratic online group process grounded in constructivist pedagogy in which students debate and reflect on shared knowledge to construct new understanding of relevant information.” (Virtual Collaboration in the Online Educational Setting: A Concept Analysis. Nursing Forum, 48(4), 262-270.)
Students benefit from student collaboration by retaining the information longer than from listening to a lecture or working individually, developing teamwork and leadership skills, and engaging in higher order thinking and problem-solving in authentic activities. When student collaboration methods are used, the role of the instructor switches from delivering content to facilitator/mentor (see Flipped Classroom)
Set clear expectations or roles, and have students journal/reflect on the group process including areas of contention, barriers overcome, solutions reached, etc.
There are various methods that can be used to promote student collaboration depending on your learning objectives, environment (online or face to face), and subject area.