Cooperative learning is a learning curriculum and it requires students to learn working together so that they can acquire and retain information. This type of learning involves students clustering themselves in small groups so that they can work together on various academic tasks and assignments. It encourages working together and hence avoiding competing against one another. This paper will discuss about cooperative learning and its benefits.
Cooperative learning encourage students to work together and learn together in order to accomplish various academic assignments and tasks. The various characteristics defining cooperative learning are as following:
First of all, it is characterized by students working together on common academic tasks which can be handled through group work. The other characteristic is that students work together in groups consisting of two to five members. It is also noteworthy that cooperative learning is characterized by students making use of pro-social and cooperative behavior to accomplish given tasks or activities. The other characteristic to note is that students who practice cooperative learning portray interdependency. This is due to the fact that structuring of activities enables students to need each other in order to accomplish the activities and tasks. The final characteristic is that individual students take account for their learning activities or tasks (Gillies, 2007).
There are several learning structures and techniques used for cooperative learning. The first technique is known as the three-step interview. This technique is a tool that enables students in a given group or team to know one another. It can also be used to gain an in-depth knowledge of specific concepts through assigning activities or roles to students. This technique may involve formulating and giving students interview questions that enable a faculty to know more about the students. It also involves students from the same group asking interview questions among themselves in turns.
The other cooperative learning technique is known as roundtables whereby a single question is used to generate answers and ideas from several students arranged in a roundtable structure. It is essential for the faculty to ensure that a question asked is able to generate more that one correct answer. The question should also be related to the course unit and be simply stated. The responses of various students can be discussed as a multitude or shared with the whole class (Jolliffe, 2007).
The third technique of cooperative learning is known as the focused listing technique. This technique is a way of obtaining definitions and description of several concepts. Focus listing technique requires students to give words describing or defining a given concept. The lists of definitions obtained from various students are used to form or facilitate a discussion in groups and discussion as a class. Combination of focused listing technique with other cooperative learning techniques can lead to development of a learning structure that is powerful.
The other technique that is noteworthy is known as structured problem-solving technique. This technique can be used in combination with other techniques. Group members are required to choose a problem or question that needs to be solved. Numbers are then assigned to group members and the task to be done discussed as a group. Each group member is also required to give a response to the problem in question without the help of other group members. Individuals from the group are identified by their specific numbers and asked to respond to the question (Jolliffe, 2007).
The other technique of cooperative learning is called one minute papers technique. Students are asked to comment on a given set of questions within a time period of one minute. One minute papers can be employed as a tool for teachers to begin the following day’s discussion session. The technique also enables facilitation of a group discussion and gives a teacher feedback on the level of understanding of students on a given study topic or material.
There are some elements associated with cooperative learning and they will be discussed below. These elements describe the conditions that facilitate cooperative learning. One of the conditions is positive interdependence whereby each student in a group is expected to contribute to the entire group’s academic excellence. Each group member should also have a contribution that is unique due to the assigning of different roles and resources to each student in a group (Jacob, 1999).
The other element or condition is face-to face interaction which involves explaining the ways of solving a given problem orally. This enables transfer and sharing of knowledge between students in a group. It also checks the students’ understanding and enables discussion of concepts learnt in class. The other role of this kind of interaction is to connect the present learning with the past learning (Jacob, 1999).
The other conditions necessary for cooperative learning to be effective are individual and group accountability, inter-personal and social skills and group processing. Social skills include several skills such as decision-making, communication, trust-building, conflict-management and leadership skills (Jolliffe, 2007).
There are so many examples of class learning activities and two of these examples are as following. The first example is the jigsaw whereby there is setting of groups containing five students. There is assigning of different learning materials to each student and at the end of it all each student is required to teach the other group members. The other example is think-pair share whereby students get in pairs and share or exchange thoughts on various questions given by teachers or instructors. The above examples have proved to be successful in facilitating cooperative learning (Gillies, 2007).
Benefits of cooperative learning
Research has shown that cooperative has more advantages compared to individualized and competition learning. It is evident that cooperative learning leads to higher individual achievement and achievement as a group compared to individual learning. The other benefit is that cooperative learning leads to acquisition of high-quality reasoning strategies that are transferred from the group to individual group members. This leads to generating a lot of ideas and solutions to given problems since each group member gives a new and unique idea or solution (Jolliffe, 2007).
Cooperative learning gives learning a social concept or aspect which is beneficial since it encourages a student’s education. The other benefit is that it allows students to be flexible and meet other students from different cultures and backgrounds.
Cooperative learning is known to enhance student learning through various ways. First of all this type of learning motivates students to learn materials given. It also ensures construction of knowledge by individual students and passage of this knowledge to the entire group (Jacob, 1999).
In conclusion, cooperative learning is the best method that should be employed by students since it has numerous advantages and benefits. Moreover, it is the surest way to students’ academic excellence.
Gillies, R. M. (2007) Cooperative learning: integrating theory and practice. SAGE Publications.
Jacob, E. (1999) Cooperative learning in context: an educational innovation in everyday classrooms. SUNY Press.
Jolliffe, W. (2007) Cooperative learning in the classroom: putting it into practice. SAGE Publications.