The perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds of all students are important for enriching learning in the classroom. As learning beyond the classroom increasingly requires understanding diverse perspectives, it is essential to provide students opportunities to do this in multiple contexts in schools. In collaborative classrooms where students are engaged in a thinking curriculum, everyone learns from everyone else, and no student is deprived of this opportunity for making contributions and appreciating the contributions of others.
Thus, a critical characteristic of collaborative classrooms is that students are not segregated according to supposed ability, achievement, interests, or any other characteristic. Segregation seriously weakens collaboration and impoverishes the classroom by depriving all students of opportunities to learn from and with each other. Students we might label unsuccessful in a traditional classroom learn from "brighter" students, but, more importantly, the so-called brighter students have just as much to learn from their more average peers. Teachers beginning to teach collaboratively often express delight when they observe the insights revealed by their supposedly weaker students.
Thus, shared knowledge and authority, mediated learning, and heterogeneous groups of students are essential characteristics of collaborative classrooms. These characteristics, which are elaborated below, necessitate new roles for teachers and students that lead to interactions different from those in more traditional classrooms.