Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Ideas for Practice: A Collaborative Look to the Classroom

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Ideas for Practice: A Collaborative Look to the Classroom

Article excerpt

Within the current academic climate that is focused on encouraging more high school graduates to attend college, higher education is facing an increased number of underprepared students entering postsecondary institutions. Many of these students arrive on campus with sufficient academic credentials and standardized test scores, but they fail to meet college academic expectations. For others, despite a high school diploma or GED certificate, they lack both academic skills and social readiness necessary for college, both of which may require significant intervention and on-going support. Since academic inadequacies are usually exposed during the admissions process, many institutions now provide developmental classes to increase reading, writing, and math skills. However, improving the academic performance of these students and others in the regular college program may require more than an intensive focus on academic skills. In this article, we will address both the importance of developing skills in the social and emotional realms and appropriate implementation as a way to help underprepared students become more successful in college.

"Since the earliest American study on collaborative learning in 1897, hundreds of studies have been conducted attesting to the validity of employing grouping techniques in the classroom" (Wood, 1992, p. 96). Issues that have framed some of the earlier research include the understanding of how one person's knowledge is changed by another or how individual understandings among a groups members help to create a unified consensus shared by everyone in that group (Dillenbourg, Baker, Blaye, & O'Malley; 1996). The primary focus here is on the individual cognitive development resulting from collaboration. Although more recent studies have been interested in social development, Piaget and Vygotsky recognized the interconnectedness of cognitive and social development. This body of research illustrates the significance of the interactions as a vehicle for positive effect (Dillenboug, Baker, Blaye, & O'Malley, 1996). Another body of research that is closely aligned with collaborative learning is cooperative learning. Robert E. Slavin (1981) reinforces the positive effects of cooperative learning to include academic achievement, intergroup relations, acceptance of mainstream students, and increased self-esteem. The research conclusions drawn by Johnson and Johnson (1997) likewise have reinforced the need for collaborative working opportunities for all students to balance out individual work. It is only through collaboration with another that students will develop positive expectations about working with others, constructive attitudes toward controversy, and the ability to adopt another person's perspective. The recognition that student participation in small groups is an effective method for enhancing learning continues to be highlighted in the research (Chinn, O'Donnell, & Jinks, 2000; Draskovic, Holdrinet, Bulte, Bolhuis 8c van Leeuive, 2004; Veenman, Denessen, van den Akker, & van der Rijt, 2005; Webb, Farivar, & Mastergeorge, 2002).

Daniel Goleman (1995) initiated the idea that one's social skill, or emotional intelligence (EI), could be a greater contributing factor than IQ for success in school, career, and life in general. Attributes including self-awareness, emotional management, empathy, and social competence were at the core of his theory. Further, Low and Nelson (2006) explain EI as a "learned ability to understand, use, and express human emotions in healthy and productive ways" (p. 2). They further contend that by teaching students how to work cooperatively in small collaborative groups the likelihood of developing both academic proficiency and emotional intelligence attributes is interwoven into the entire class curriculum as well as its content. The extensive body of literature on collaborative learning and EI confirms major benefits to students well beyond their academic achievement, which may also speak to the set of proficiencies at the heart of what stabilizes the developmental student. …

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