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Enhancing students’ ability through co-operative learning

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11.APR.08

Editor: Cooperative or collaborative learning is a method of teaching and learning in which students team together to explore a significant question or create a meaningful project. In cooperative learning, students work together in small groups on a structured activity. They are individually accountable for their work and the work of the group as a whole is also assessed. Cooperative groups work face to face and learn to work as a team.{{more}}

In such small groups, students can share strengths and also develop their weaker skills. They also develop their interpersonal skills and learn to deal with conflict. When cooperative learning is guided by clear objectives, students engage in numerous activities that improve their understanding of the subjects explored.

It is important the right environment be created for cooperative learning to take place. Firstly, students need to feel safe but challenged. Secondly, groups need to be small enough that everyone can contribute, and thirdly, the tasks students are to perform must be clearly defined.

Several benefits can be derived from cooperative or collaborative learning, such as:

  • Active participation by learners
  • Respect for every group member
  • Diversity is celebrated and all contributions valued
  • Students learn skills to resolve conflict when they arise and
  • Members of the group draw on past experience and knowledge

It is believe by many educators that the active exchange of ideas within small groups not only increases interest among participants but also promotes critical thinking. According to Johnson and Johnson (1986), there is persuasive evidence that cooperative teams achieve a higher level of thought and retain information longer than students who work quietly as individuals. The shared learning gives students an opportunity to engage in discussion, take responsibility for their learning and thus become critical thinkers.

Many researchers such as Beckman, 1990, Cooper and Associates, 1990, and Johnson and Johnson, 1989, argue that students learn best when they are actively involved in the process. They agree that, regardless of the subject matter, students working in small groups tend to learn more of what is taught and retain longer than when the same content is presented in other instructional formats. Also, students who work in collaborative groups appear more satisfied with their classes.

In an ever changing educational environment, every effort must be made to make teaching and learning interesting for our students. Students must be active participants rather than passive listeners. As teachers, we must be willing to change from the traditional methods to embrace new ways that will bring satisfaction to both students and teachers alike. Lets strive to create an environment within our classrooms where students feel safe and comfortable but challenged to learn.

Cecil Charles

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