Cooperative Learning

What is Cooperative Learning?
Cooperative learning is a team effort, in which the class is divided into smaller groups and given a task in which they need to accomplish. This method was developed as a way to get members within the class to work and learn with each other.

Benefits of Cooperative Learning
There are many benefits that come with choosing to take advantage of a cooperative learning program. Here are some of the benefits that educators seek when taking advantage of cooperative learning programs and courses:

  • When using cooperative learning, many educators find that the methods used are essential in increasing the self esteem of students.
  • Oral communication skills are easily developed through tasks which require the students to teach the lessons.
  • Students are more satisfied with the learning experience and often feel as if they retained more information from the lessons as they would through traditional teaching and learning methods.
  • Academic achievement is often increased through these methods of learning and students are encouraged to take the initiative.
  • The group is able to benefit from the efforts which are placed forward of all of the other members within the group.
  • The group is able to benefit and learn to work together as a team. This occurs through the group learning to rely on each other, as every member of the group contributes to the success or the failure of the group.
  • The group members are able to rely on one another to learn the information that is going to be presented to the rest of the group.
Elements of Cooperative Learning
There are five elements of cooperative learning which must be taken into account in order to gain the highest benefit from the learning process, these include:
  1. Positive Interdependence
  2. Face to Face Interaction
  3. Individual and Group Accountability
  4. Interpersonal and Small Group Skills
  5. Group Processing
Positive interdependence means that the members within the group are to rely on one another in order to pass or fail the class. Each member of the group will receive the same mark and therefore the group must choose to excel together, or fail together. Although each group member is often given a specific role within the project, it is important to work together to achieve the end result of the learning project.

Face to face interaction within the group is an effective way to overcome shyness through the building of self confidence.

Individual and group accountability focuses on the group as a whole, within each member of the group performing their task. Using small groups and giving every member of the group a specific role, or relying on the members of the group to come up with these specific roles enables the members of the group to compare information while learning. The instructor can use methods such as calling on members of the group to explain the process, orally or by using peer evaluations to determine the progress that has been made within the group.

Interpersonal and small group skills are an important part of cooperative learning, as it allows an individual working within the group to develop the skills which are necessary to successfully work as part of the team. Once the members are successfully able to work as part of a team, it can often ensure success for when the information is being presented to the rest of the larger group. Through these interactions with the other members of the group, there are many social skills which are learned. Some of the common social skills that are learned through cooperative learning include: leadership, accountability, decision making, and skills to manage conflicts and skills that can help individuals to learn to trust one another.

Lastly, group processing is an important element of cooperative learning. Group processing enables the group to make decisions as a whole, based on carefully conversation and analysis of the progress that has been made this far into the project. Through the information that is discussed through this processing, the members of the group are able to determine the course of action, as well as make decisions regarding the entire project.

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