From: Kara, Venanzi
Course: EDST 390-011, Instructional Strategies and Reflective Practice
College: University of Delaware
Instructor: Eugene Matusov
Time: 4:43:30 PM
Remote Name: 184.108.40.206
My paper is about using the cooperative learning teaching style in the classroom. I stress the importance of this learning style for all students regardless of academic achievement patterns, gender, ethnic or social backgrounds. This method has proven to be very beneficial for both the students and teachers who use it. Although cooperative learning is great to use in all classrooms, it can be very hard to implement in the classroom. To ensure that the students are working in cooperative learning groups, the teacher must make the students fully aware of what is expected of them while participating in their groups. If the teacher and the students can establish a cooperative learning setting, the results will be outstanding.
As a future teacher, I have taken keen notice of the different teaching styles, tactics and techniques out there. I have come to one simple conclusion, using cooperative learning seems to be most beneficial to learners in the classroom.
Cooperative learning is a way of teaching that uses small groups and teamwork to maximize student learning strategies, strengthen the learner's critical thinking and collaborative endeavors and promote positive social involvement within the classroom and society. This teaching technique has been resurrected, researched and redefined over the past fifteen years to meet the needs of education today.
The ability to work with others is a prerequisite to success in this world. Students must cooperate with others on a daily basis outside of school. Activities such as sports and clubs, even work-related activities require the proper social skills for participation. A major goal of cooperative learning is to prepare these students to be contributing members of society. Such a learning style also aids in making students positively interdependent so they recognize that they "sink or swim" together. Other basic elements of cooperation include face to face promotive interaction among students meaning that the students promote each others success and individual accountability in which every student is held responsible for both helping other group members to learn and learning the assigned material on his/her own.
By using cooperative learning in today's classrooms, a teacher can raise the achievement level of all students in the class. These programs are not limited to high or low achievers only, they benefit all of the students equally. This learning technique works equally well in elementary, middle and high schools in rural, urban and suburban school districts and is equally effective in language arts, mathematics, social studies, foreign language and science classes.
Although the achievement increase is a very important outcome of cooperative learning, it is not the only outcome. Researchers have found that after participating in cooperative learning activities, students' attitudes towards their classmates improve dramatically, particularly with those with different ethnic backgrounds and students that have been mainstreamed. Correspondingly, the students' self esteem shows a significant improvement. By being able to discuss answers and viewpoints with a small group, the student will feel more comfortable and confident discussing them with the whole class. Students can offer constructive criticism to their group members or explain difficult ideas to one another by translating the teacher's language or directions into a more understandable "kid" language.
Finally, cooperative learning allows all students to have their questions answered immediately by their peers instead of waiting for the teacher's attention. Since the average class size is about 24 students to one teacher, receiving adequate attention and response from the teacher can be both a frustrating and time consuming process for the student. When the students are actively interacting with one another, they can have more time to learn and spend less time waiting.
Therefore, now that I have proposed all of the advantages and positive outcomes brought about by using this teaching method in the classroom, one might question why this method rarely occurs. Traditional classrooms are generally competitive and/or individualized. Students focus mainly on extrinsic motivation and tend to learn for all of the wrong reasons. When children do learn, it is typical that the concepts, terms and topics go in one ear and out the other. A competitive environment develops competitive individuals in which one student's success equals another student's failure.
A popular reaction to cooperative learning is that it creates discipline problems and renders the teacher helpless in controlling the noise level and appropriate conversations in the classroom. Another problem occurs when selecting groups. Some students might have problems with working with others when the groups are teacher selected. However, if the teacher allows the students to form their own groups the results can be just as adverse. Groups may form of all low or high achievers or groups could form because of distinct ethnic groups or color. Student selecting can also bring about feelings of hostility or hurt when students are the last to be selected and placed in a group.
If this is the classes first experience with cooperative learning, it could be extremely difficult to effectively use this learning style in the classroom. It is a strange transition from a transitional and competitive way of learning to a more innovative and collaborative style of learning for the student. In this situation, the procedures and social skills necessary for effective group work need to be taught to the students.
First, groups must be rewarded for working well as a group and second, the group's success must depend on the individual learning of each group member. This can be implemented by adding together each member of the group's quiz scores to form a total quiz score. These factors must be present when using cooperative learning methods because they motivate each individual student to take their teammate's achievement seriously. In the past, students have been programmed to think that helping others and sharing answers with their classmates is cheating. By basing the group's success on individual learning, it intensifies the student's concern for the overall academic achievement of their group members. With cooperative learning, the success of the group is dependent on the learning of each individual member, the activity of the group is then focused on explanations and discussions within the group to ensure that any problems can be exposed and resolved.
Although mastering a cooperative learning style of teaching in the classroom takes hard work and effort for both the teacher and the students, once the goal is attained, it can prove to be a powerful, worthwhile and unforgettable experience for the entire class. In a time of demanding expectations and insufficient resources for schools, we should not turn our backs on such an effective way of teaching our students.