Co-operative learning may best be defined as a successful teaching strategy using small teams of learners, with varying abilities, to improve their understanding of a specific subject. The approach can use a number of different learning activities. The advantage of the approach is that the student participants are not only responsible for learning what is being taught but they have the opportunity to help others (positive reinforcement). This creates an atmosphere of trust and confidence in level of achievement. The approach creates synergy and helps build team spirit and working of group dynamics. The advantages may be broadly summarised as follows: (i) Each gains from the other persons efforts (ii) Recognition that the group earn success or failure together, they are responsible for their collective effort (iii) No performance is mutually exclusive, they have to rely upon the groups team effort (iv) celebrate each other’s success and recognition for group achievement.
It has been argued that this approach holds the brighter pupils back and restrains their creative abilities. Equally, it can be said to teach them humility and concern for others as opposed to being self-centered. Equally that they can derive benefit from other students input and points of view. There are two important models of co-operative learning as defined by Johnson & Johnson and Spencer Kagan.
TECHNIQUES OF CO-OPERATIVE LEARNING
Johnson & Johnson Approach | Stipulated a 5 point learning process for teaching in small groups. There are five components that must be present in order to facilitate this learning process: (Foundation Coalition, 2011)
Johnson & Johnson focused upon a specific structure in order to facilitate the co-operative learning process. They incorporated a variety of curriculums in order to integrate different social skills. This differed from Kagan’s work that focused more upon active learning using many different structures for team building and group skills. (Evertson, 2008).
Kagan Approach | Kagan adopts an active learning stance of different structures in order to develop team building and group skills. He defines six main elements:
The Kagan model defines over 150 repeatable steps in order to structure the interaction of the students with one another. Once the teacher becomes well versed in the technique they are able to make any lesson co-operative learning with very little planning required. The Kagan approach defines simultaneous interaction between the group members and equal participation informs us that no one individual is left out or excluded from the learning process. The social skills are actually embedded within the Kagan framework.
The Teachers role | In co-operative learning the teachers role becomes more of a facilitator to the class or group. In particular the teacher promotes the student learning and achievement, increases the student retention, enhances the students overall satisfaction of the learning experience, assists in the development of social skills, helps to promote individual and group self-esteem, promotes integration in race relations and disadvantaged or disabled members of the group ( group dependency).
Kagan and PIES | In Kagan’s approach he uses the acronym of PIES. The simple illustration below shows how Kagan defines four main principles and the critical questions that are associated with each of them. Kagan believed that the structure increased active engagement in the learning process. (Kagan, 2011).