Cooperative Learning: A New Direction

Article excerpt

History

The ideology behind cooperative learning has been evolving and catching on in different fields since the 1920's. Social psychological research on cooperation dates back to the 1920's, but research on specific applications of cooperative learning to the classroom did not begin until the 1970's (Slavin 2). At that time, four independent groups of researchers began to develop and research cooperative learning methods in classroom settings (Slavin 3). At present, researchers all over the world are studying practical application of cooperative learning principles, and many cooperative learning methods are available (Slavin 3). If present methodologies and objectives are broken down and examined, a new theory may be unfolded that will accommodate and enhance other areas of the developing child.

Methods

One major approach that is accepted as an effective method of cooperative learning is the Student Teams and Achievement Divisions (STAD) format created by R. Slavin. Mary Harem and Dennis Adams describe Slavin's approach in their book, The Collaborative Dimensions of Learning. His theory has five components:

1. Class Presentation

Each week new material is first presented by the teacher to the whole class in a lecture, discussion, or video technology format.

2. Teams

Students are assigned to four or five member learning teams. Each team represents a cross section of the class, made up of high, average, and low-achieving students, girls and boys, students of differing ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds.

Team members work together to study worksheets the teacher has made, which consist of problems and information to be mastered.

3. Quizzes

After the team practices, each student takes a quiz on the material they have been studying. The quizzes assess individual achievement on the material presented and practiced in class. Group members may not help individuals on the quizzes.

4. Individual Improvement Scores

A scoring system allows students to earn points for their team based on individual improvement over past performance.

5. Team Recognition

Teams are recognized for high individual performance and high team scores. Social recognition such as weekly class newsletters, bulletin boards displays, or weekly class radio announcements are used as rewards for individuals and teams (Slavin, 1987).

The objectives of this model advocate present ideologies that combine subject matter learning to real-life situations. For today's populations of students, academic knowledge must also connect multicultural studies with self-sufficiency and the critical skills necessary for dealing with an environment where change is the one constant (Hamms and Adams 12). This particular model's format emphasizes the learning of social skills through the studying of relevant subject matter.

Teachers need enough training and practice on essential elements of cooperation to become educational engineers who can take their existing lessons, curricula and courses and structure them cooperatively (Johnson and Johnson 63). A well organized plan has been laid out for elementary instructors to follow by three individuals, Lawrence Lyman, Harvey C. Foyle, and Tara S. Azwell. Their method of implementing cooperative learning effectively is divided into eleven steps.

Step 1: Choose your content.

Step 2: Assign heterogeneous groups.

Step 3: Teach group roles.

Step 4: Assign the task.

Step 5: Move into groups.

Step 6: Give directions.

Step 7: Monitor groups.

Step 8: Provide closure.

Step 9: Evaluate the process and/or product.

Step 10: Maintain classroom management.

Step 11: Plan for analysis, review, and modification. (Lyman, Foyle, Azwell 29036).

Again, this theory subscribes to the norm ideology that dominates the literature of cooperative learning, heterogeneous groups teach life skills that are sometimes more relevant than content material. …