Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Influence of Cooperative Learning on Students' Self-Perception on Leadership Skills: A Case Study in Science Education

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Influence of Cooperative Learning on Students' Self-Perception on Leadership Skills: A Case Study in Science Education

Article excerpt


The aim of this study is to assess the self-perception of pre-service teachers on leadership after getting involved into a Cooperative Learning approach. For that purpose, a pre/post-test has been applied to 57 undergraduate students enrolled in a unit course on Natural and Social Science Education, compulsory in the curriculum of a degree in Primary Education. The inventory of the questionnaire included scales referring to the skills of teamwork, self-understanding, communication, decision making and leadership, regarded as essential for their future professional development. Results show that students perceive higher levels in all of them after a Cooperative Learning experience, which suggests the positive impact of cooperative student-centered teaching strategies to develop such important skills.

Keywords: Cooperative Learning, Leadership Skills Inventory (LSI), pre-service teachers, higher education

1. Introducation

Lecture is the most common instruction method at the Higher Education level (Biggs, 2005). Basically, it is due to the high student-faculty ratio (normally more than 60 students per classroom), which makes it difficult to use instructional strategies that are more focused on student learning. Traditional lecture encourages individual study but does not promote important competences demanded by society to graduates (Senocak, 2009); those which successfully prepare the student for the labor market (Vardi&Ciccadelli, 2008). Among them there are not only specific, but also generic fields such as leadership, decision making or communication skills.

For these reasons, European institutions have recurrently mentioned that teaching methodologies are one of the main aspects to be improved in the Higher Education System (European Higher Education Institutions, 2001; European University Association, 2003) above others that foster the development of competences rather than the acquisition of isolated knowledge. In this vein, many researchers show a tendency to move into learning methods that imply more student participation in the learning process (Breton, 1999; Peterson, 1997; Ruiz-Gallardo, Valdés &Castaño, 2006; Vardi&Ciccadelli, 2008) and which make them assume their part of the responsibility in the learning process. This changes the role of the traditional lecturer from the knowledge instructor to a guide of the learning process (European Commission, 2001; Ruiz-Gallardo &Castaño, 2008).

In this vein, literature presents a variety of strategies as alternative or complementary to the traditional lecture, but one of the most used is Cooperative Learning (CL). It can be defined as: "students working in mixed-ability groups on clearly defined tasks with the expectation that they will be rewarded on the basis of group success" (Hancock, 2004, p. 160). Research dealing with its application in the classroom is very ample (e. g.: Barret, 2005; Gillies, 2004; Hancock, 2004; Johnson, Maruyama, Johnson, Nelson, &Skon, 1981; Kagan, 1994; Slavin, 1995, 1996; Peterson & Miller, 2004; etc), and the majority of experiences find better outcomes and performance using CL (for example: Barret, 2005; Ruiz-Gallardo et al., 2010), through the action of the student interrogating issues, sharing ideas and clarifying them, and therefore constructing new knowledge (Gillies& Boyle, 2010). But CL has many other advantages (summarizing from Cuseo, 1996): the student becomes more involved in the learning process; and results of higher interaction with their group mates; lower levels of drop-out; greater student responsibility; better individual learning and critical reasoning; higher oral and written communication capability; greater level of student satisfaction.

Nevertheless, it is also convenient to emphasize that these positive aspects could be modified by some variables of individual personality such as anxiety, peer orientation, shyness, introversion and persistence as has been mentioned in some researches (Hancock, 2004; Kagan, 1994; Webb &Palincsar, 1996). …

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