All Together Now

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAHAM GRANT

FOR generations, schoolchildren have been encouraged to compete against each other to be 'top of the class'.

Now a new classroom project is turning this idea on its head - so that the only way pupils can excel is by helping each other.

Co- operative learning is an attempt to foster better teamworking skills and communication between pupils.

Children with varying talents are grouped together and set specific tasks which they can only achieve by collaborating with classmates.

The approach - which does away with the old dictum of 'no talking in class' and encourages pupils to share their opinions - makes it less likely that any individual will always be 'the best'.

But the idea, now being implemented in North Lanarkshire schools, is likely to prove controversial with traditionalists.

Previous research has shown that bright pupils can be held back in mixed-ability classes, a finding which has prompted calls for the reintroduction of 'streaming' - where pupils of similar academic prowess are taught together.

Despite the concerns, education bosses at North Lanarkshire say the pilot scheme has proved extremely successful and they now plan to extend it across the region.

Supporters of the concept say cooperative learning prepares pupils for the workplace, where working as part of a team is a vital skill.

Pupils with artistic skills can be grouped with classmates who have good computing skills, while children who are talented communicators can sit alongside pupils who are accomplished writers. Co-operative learning - likened by some to the Big Brother reality television programme, where contestants win rewards by completing tasks using teamwork skills - is also said to make children more self-confident.

The technique was pioneered in Ontario, Canada, in 1985, where schools which used the method reported a dramatic rise in attainment levels. …