The University of Western Australia

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Alternative Modes of Teaching and Learning

Alternative modes to delivery

Collaborative/Cooperative Learning

Definition

Cooperative learning is process-driven, ie those involved engage in a social process and have to pay attention to that process in order for them to achieve their desired end point. It usually involves people working in groups (ie, at least two people are involved, usually more). There may be group 'products' towards which the learners are working; cooperative learning can give rise to 'products' which are not easily achievable by people learning on their own. And there may be individual 'products' which are achieved through the people in the group helping each other deal with their own individual learning concerns. Because cooperative learning has a large social dimension to it, it is usually enjoyable and developmental: it gives rise to outcomes which are not usually considered academic, such as increased competence in working with others, self-assurance, personal insight and so on, as well as academic outcomes. (McConnell, 1994, p. 15)

McConnell, D., What is Cooperative Learning, in Implementing Computer Supported Cooperative Learning. 1994, Kogan Page Limited: London. p. 12 - 30.

In summary, we can say that cooperative learning:

  • helps clarify ideas and concepts through discussion
  • develops critical thinking
  • provides opportunities for learners to share information and ideas
  • develops communication skills
  • provides a context where the learners can take control of their own learning in a social context
  • provides validation of individuals' ideas and ways of thinking through conversation (verbalising); multiple perspectives (cognitive restructuring); and argument (conceptual conflict resolution). (McConnell, 1994, p. 30)

McConnell, D., What is Cooperative Learning, in Implementing Computer Supported Cooperative Learning. 1994, Kogan Page Limited: London. p. 12 - 30.

Cooperative/Collaborative Learning (C/CL) is an instructional approach in which students work together in small groups to accomplish a common learning goal. C/CL is not the same as traditional groupwork, in that most models adhere to the following principles:

  • Students work and learn together in small (2-5 member) groups.
  • Their task is carefully designed to be suitable for groupwork.
  • There is positive interdependence - cooperation is necessary for students to succeed.
  • Students are individually accountable for learning and participation.
  • Attention and class time are given to interpersonal/cooperative skill building.
  • The role of the teacher changes from being the "sage on the stage" to "the guide on the side."

Cooperative/Collaborative Learning
by Susan Ledlow of Arizona State University and Neil Davidson of the University of Maryland
http://eminfo.emc.maricopa.edu/innovation/ccl/index.html

Collaborative and cooperative learning share the same philosophical framework:

  • respect for students of all backgrounds,
  • a belief in the potential for academic success of all students;
  • a view of learning as a social process; and
  • a belief in learning as an active and constructive process.

Millis, B.J. & Cottell, P.G. Jnr (1998) Cooperative Learning for Higher Education Faculty, American Council on Education, Series on Higher Education, Oryx Press, p. 5.

Cooperative learning is seen by Millis and Cottell (1998) to be a more structured form of collaborative learning, where the teacher takes a greater responsibility for structuring the groupings, processes and content of the class.
Davidson (1994) (reported by Millis & Cottell, 1998, p. 11) identifies five key attributes of cooperative learning: "These attributes are:

  1. a common task or learning activity suitable for group work;
  2. small-group learning;
  3. cooperative behaviour;
  4. interdependence; and
  5. individual accountability and responsibility" (p.25)

The challenge for the teacher is to create a learning environment that promotes cooperative behaviour, individual accountability and responsibility, and interdependence.

Millis, B.J. & Cottell, P.G. Jnr (1998) Cooperative Learning for Higher Education Faculty, American Council on Education, Series on Higher Education, Oryx Press, in Smith, B.L. & MacGregor, J.T. (1992) "What is Collaborative Learning?" In A. Goodsell, M. et al (Eds) Collaborative learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education (pp. 9-22). University Park, PA: National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

Davidson, N. (1994) "Cooperative and Collaborative Learning: An Integrative Perspective." in J.S. Thousand et al (Eds) Creativity and Collaborative Learning: A Practical Guide to Empowering Students and Teachers, Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Advantages

In summary, we can say that cooperative learning:
- helps clarify ideas and concepts through discussion
- develops critical thinking
- provides opportunities for learners to share information and ideas
- develops communication skills
- provides a context where the learners can take control of their own learning in a social context
- provides validation of individuals' ideas and ways of thinking through conversation (verbalising); multiple perspectives (cognitive restructuring); and argument (conceptual conflict resolution).

McConnell, D., What is Cooperative Learning, in Implementing Computer Supported Cooperative Learning. 1994, Kogan Page Limited: London. p. 12 - 30.

Provides the opportunity for participating in the production of an learning outcome that could not be achieved alone

Disadvantages

  • Dependent on the success of the group process
  • Difficult to assess individual learning outcomes
  • May not suit all learning styles
  • Teachers may be unsure of their role

Resources and References

DeLiberations on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
A Magazine for Academics, Librarians and Educational Developers

http://www.lgu.ac.uk/deliberations/home.html

Learning Through Collaborative Visualization

http://www.covis.nwu.edu/

March 1995 / Cover Story / New Ways to Learn
Changing Educational Paradigms

http://www.byte.com/art/9503/sec7/art1.htm#paradigm

Supporting Collaborative Learning during Information Searching

http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/computing/research/cseg/projects/
ariadne/docs/cscl95.html

The Shift to a Learner-Centered University: New Roles for Faculty, Students, and Technology

http://www.u.arizona.edu/~smithka/articles/ascue.html

The Teaching Effectiveness Program - Good Teaching Ideas

http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~tep/ideas/index.html

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