EDU 6526- Session 8
How is cooperative learning different from traditional group work? What strategies could you use to promote equal division of labor in a structured group setting?
Cooperative learning is different from traditional group work in that it typically involves 4 or less students and each student has a specific role. Cooperative learning additionally supports the concept development of learning together both academically and socially. Cooperative learning must be a skill attained before traditional group work can be truly effective. Traditional group work offers less specific division of labor and there are usually 5+ students in the group.
In cooperative learning dyads, triads, and groups of 4 are assigned specific roles or areas of focus in a given topic. This can be done in many ways: assigning numbers, dividing labor, equally dividing information to be investigated… etc. “The underlying rationale is that dividing labor increases group cohesion as the team works to learn information or skills while ensuring that all members have both responsibility for learning and an important role in the group.” (p. 272). Although, the work load is divided, each individual is responsible for mastering his or her part in order to then educate the rest of the group. Through this sharing of mastered knowledge each student becomes equally knowledgeable about the subject as a whole. A great example that follows this cooperative learning method is Jigsaw. With Jigsaw the students divide and conquer material individually then report back to educate the group. “The combination of social support and the increase in cognitive complexity caused by the social interaction have mild but rapid effects on the learning content of the skills.” (p.270).
Once cooperative group work is mastered the ability to work effectively in a larger more traditional group is more likely to be successful. Traditional group work has less specific division of labor with the end result being the goal. Each individual might be given a particular unit to master but they are not responsible for educating the others with this same mastery. For example, in a social studies class a group of 6 students must study the 1950s through four categories: politics, fashion, music, family life. The end goal is to apply their individual knowledge as a group to the class in a presentation about the 1950s. Each student would take one of the categories to master with the remaining 2 students in charge of the introduction and conclusion. The members of this group would be responsible for mastering only their individual part. This demonstrates the individuality that is more apparent in traditional group work as contrasted to the social sharing and supportive nature of cooperative learning. However, it must be acknowledged that without successful acquisition of skills necessary to participate in cooperative group work the traditional group work model would be significantly less successful.
How is group investigation and inquiry based in constructivism?
Group investigation, inquiry based methods, and constructivism each allows students to investigate and develop concepts of their own through the scaffolding guidance of the teacher. Through these investigations a democratic process of thinking begins to emerge. The students search for answers, develop theories, and apply this gained knowledge to previously acquired knowledge and experiences thus making this process very personal. “…knowledge is not conveyed to us merely through our sensory interactions with our environment, but that we must operate on experience to produce knowledge. As a result, knowledge has a personal quality and is unique for each individual.” (p. 277). Each method (group, inquiry based, and constructivism investigation) offer slightly different paths to the end goal but similarities in the steps along the way. Through these inherent similarities: examination of a subject/problem, exploration, developing theories, analyzing theories, hypothesizing, reflecting, and concluding, it is easy to see the connections between the three methods.
Joyce, B Weil, M., (1996). Models of Teaching (5th Edition). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon