Cooperative learning, as the name suggests, is a teaching method in which students of different abilities are encouraged to work together on a task or a project. Evaluation is based on the results produced with the collective efforts of the group and not on an individual participant.
Group projects, pair-work and team efforts are some examples of cooperative learning. This is a general idea or a simple introduction of this vast concept. A broader conception of cooperative learning method is provided below.
MEANING OF COOPERATIVE LEARNING
Cooperative learning is an approach towards education that aims at the inclusion of the various practical activities in the educational and learning process. It has much more scope than arranging students into groups and teams. It helps in establishing coordination among the students and productively construct an interdependence.
In the individual learning process, the competition is high, and a student may experience pressurized in the learning process. But in the cooperative learning process, the students can utilize the best resources and capabilities of every student and work towards achieving the common goal, more efficiently.
Here are five essential characteristics that are related to a successful cooperative learning process:-
- Coordination and interdependence of the students in a productive manner.
- Better communication and enhancement of the interactive skills.
- Furnishing the students with functional grouping and adaptive skills.
- Efficient division of work through the identification of the skills in every individual.
- Teachers role changes from providing information to facilitating their pupils.
TYPES OF COOPERATIVE LEARNING
Cooperative learning can be divided into two categories as follows:-
- Formal Cooperative Learning
- Informal Cooperative Learning
1) FORMAL COOPERATIVE LEARNING
An educator or a teacher usually facilitates such type of cooperative learning. The teacher monitors and analyze the performance of the group and also coordinates the formation of the groups. A project or task is given to a group of students. These groups can be a pair or larger groups comprising of six students. Larger groups should be avoided as it may create mismanagement and sometimes deteriorate the work process. The tenure of these can vary from a few minutes to an entire lecture. Some examples of formal cooperative learning strategies are as follows:-
- Assignments and projects that require problem- solving activities in groups.
- Experiments in the laboratories.
- Social welfare work, like spreading awareness on an issue or generating donations for a particular cause.
- Jigsaw Method:- In this technique, different parts of a problem are assigned to different students. In the end, the work of every student is compiled to achieve the final result.
2) INFORMAL COOPERATIVE LEARNING
Informal process of cooperative learning is not as extensive as a formal method and adopts a straightforward approach. It can be conducted without the supervision or involvement of the teacher. Holding regular discussions and debates in the classroom at the end of a lesson is one way of practising informal cooperative learning. Another excellent example of this method can be of- group studies. Students study in groups follow the principals of cooperative learning. It leads to a better relationship between students and peers. It also enhances the learning process and helps the weaker students to clarify their concepts.
CHARACTERISTICS AND BENEFITS OF COOPERATIVE LEARNING
Here are the essential elements of the cooperative learning process:-
1) POSITIVE INTERDEPENDENCE BETWEEN THE STUDENTS
Every member of a group should actively participate in the group activities and provide their support in conducting the operations. The role of every individual is decided and assigned as per their abilities. This helps in getting the best resources in every aspect of the task. Also, the overall efficiency and result improvise.
2) BETTER COMMUNICATION AND RAPPORT
Face to face interaction between the students improves as they communicate their ideas and concerns. More ideas can be generated through discussions. Also, problem-solving becomes easier as every student gets an opportunity to provide their perspective. Even, the members endorse and appreciate each other’s efforts.
3) RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Every member is held accountable for their part in the group project. Hence, a student is motivated towards producing the best work. As the task is divided, the students feel less burdened and get to focus on their work.
4) SOCIAL SKILLS
Students develop several social skills such as leadership, decision-making, communication, conflicts resolution, management and trust-building. This improvises their decision making and cognitive abilities as well.
5) GROUP ANALYSIS
In this, the member of the group can review the various group activities and conclude about the performances and skills. The changes that need to be incorporated can also be processed, and the plan can be restructured. The goal of group processing is to ensure the effectiveness and progress of the group. The members also get to reflect upon their performances.
Cooperative learning is a very progressive learning method which can greatly benefit the students on the learning process.