Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Cooperative Learning: Why the Reluctance?

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Cooperative Learning: Why the Reluctance?

Article excerpt

Abstract

Cooperative learning provides a means for educators to positively influence social and academic outcomes for students receiving special education services to facilitate student motivation and active participation within the classroom. Cooperative learning promotes individual accountability, learning retention, student involvement and positive social interactions. Despite the benefits, cooperative learning is not implemented by a significant number of schools due to traditional paradigms existing within educational systems. The implementation of cooperative learning is dependent upon teacher sell-confidence, practicality of implementation, and training of cooperative learning principles.

Introduction

Students receiving special education services often lack the academic and interpersonal skills to achieve success within school settings. Students deficient in these skills are likely to become unmotivated learners and inactive participants in the classroom (Maheady, 2001). Cooperative learning provides a means for educators to positively influence social and academic outcomes for students with disabilities to facilitate student motivation and active participation within the classroom. Cooperative learning is an instructional strategy which places students in small groups and encourages individuals to work together in solving common problems, completing academic tasks, and learning specific content (Siegel, 2005; Slavin, 1995). Through cooperative learning, positive interdependence is developed through students sharing resources and working towards common goals (Abrami, Poulsen, & Chambers, 2004), which provides students opportunities to experience the dynamics of teambuilding (Dyson & Grineski, 2001; Dyson & Rubin, 2003; Grineski 1996). Students become responsible not only for their own learning, but for the learning of others (Mercer & Mercer, 1998).

Benefits of Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning promotes individual accountability (Dyson & Grineski, 2001; Dyson & Rubin, 2003; Grineski, 1996; Sonnier-York & Stanford, 2002), higher academic achievement, learning retention, student involvement and positive social interactions (Gillies & Ashman, 1998; McManus & Gettinger, 1996; Quinn, 2002; Slavin, 1995; Smith, 1997). Cooperative learning further promotes mastery, accuracy, and fluency for both students with and without disabilities (Arreaya-Mayer, 1998), allowing students to approach new learning tasks independently from classroom sessions. This cost effective and time efficient method of instruction promotes positive relationships and facilitates interaction between special education and general education students, while increasing self-esteem for all students (Smith, 1997).

Students from all subjects and grade levels, including pre-school (Kohler & Strain, 1999) benefit from cooperative learning. This non-traditional approach to learning not only provides multiple opportunities for practice, but encourages students to work together through positive active engagement (Arreaga-Mayer, 1998; Maheady, 2001; Quinn, 2002; Slavin, 1996). Through active engagement, students are less likely to exhibit off behavior tasks and disruptive behaviors (Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995).

Special educators can more effectively influence desired behavioral and academic growth through the implementation of cooperative learning strategies. Cooperative learning not only facilitates the development of social and interpersonal skills (Abrami et al., 2004), but enhances the development of reading skills (McMaster, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2006), mathematics skills (Gardner, Cartledge, Seidl, & Lynn, 2001; Whicker, Nunnery, & Bol, 1997) and spelling skills (Burks, 2004) for students receiving special education services. Arreaga-Mayer (1998) further concludes that peer-mediated methods have been proven beneficial for both students with and without disabilities in social studies and science. …

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