There are gender wars, and then there are casualties. It wasn’t until 2011 that the behemoth toymaker LEGO acknowledged girls’ desire to build with bricks, even though the company had long before made a seemingly effortless pivot to co-branding, video games, and major motion pictures. So it’s little wonder that girls face all-too-real obstacles when […]Read more
Actively engaging students who work in collaboration.
According to Cooperative Learning theory, you can read or hear about driving, but you can’t truly learn how to drive until you actually get behind the wheel.
How do interactivity and reality-based learning make people learn more effectively?
Cooperative Learning theory, an offshoot of Constructivism, incorporates the idea that the best learning occurs when students are actively engaged in the learning process and working in collaboration with other students to accomplish a shared goal. While Constructivism focuses on personal experience as the foundation for learning new material, Cooperative Learning utilizes not only the student’s own experience to solidify knowledge, but also uses the experiences of others. Both theories emphasize the importance of interactivity with respect to the design and implementation of lesson plans.
In cooperative learning, the focus moves from teacher-centered to student-centered education. Instead of sitting in a lecture or reading text, students are given a task or problem and are asked to identify a possible solution on their own and with the help of others. Rather than disseminating information directly, the teacher guides students to the source of the information they may require. In contrast to traditional teaching methods where students are perceived to be empty vessels awaiting the teachers’ knowledge, Cooperative Learning theory recognizes the importance of the student’s existing knowledge and puts that knowledge to work.
When cooperative learning is incorporated into the classroom, research suggests students learn with greater depth and complexity while enjoying the experience even more. Students who are asked to work together also tend to be less intimidated by the task and will work at the task with greater intensity for longer periods of time.
In cooperative, online learning, students solve problems, answer questions, formulate questions of their own, discuss, explain, debate, write, or brainstorm during class. These students constantly analyze, puzzle over significance, search for explanations, and speculate about relations between the new experience and what they already know. Other active learning pedagogies include drama, role-playing and simulation, and peer teaching.
Cooperative Learning techniques developed for the classroom are easily adaptable to web-based learning. Further, the virtual interactivity achievable online can not only complement classroom-based learning, but it can offer a breadth and depth of interactivity unavailable in the classroom due to the inherent limitations of resources.
In addition, traditional text can be intermingled with interactive exercises so that students can pace themselves while reading, yet still complete complementary interactive experiences alone or in cooperation with others. Moreover, interactivity can overcome the inherent limitations of textbook and lecture-based learning. The most effective learning is experiential and occurs, for example, when students go out into nature, or on ships, or to hospitals, or into outer space. As such travel is unrealistic, the use of web technology creates possibilities that are limited only by the imagination.
Designers of online educational materials can incorporate Cooperative Learning theory by:
- Providing students opportunities to work alone and in cooperation with others;
- Making sure that students who work cooperatively also receive credit for their individual performance in the project;
- Using a variety of methods that appeal to different learning styles;
- Replacing static text with interactive pages; and
- Presenting the material in modules that use a vareity of methods ranging from collaborative tasks to individual tasks.
- Johnson, D. & Johnson, R. (1999). Learning together and alone: Cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning. (5th Ed.) Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
- Sharan, S. (Ed.) (1999).Handbook of cooperative learning methods. Westport, CT: Praeger
- Sharan, S. (Ed.) (1990). Cooperative learning: Theory and research. Westport, CT: Praeger
- Slavin, R.E. (1995). Cooperative learning: Theory, research, and practice. (2nd. Ed) Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.