Why the Cooperative Learning Model Is Outdated
Jul 22, 2012 Teaching Methodology 2998 Views
The cooperative learning model certainly had its heyday in recent educational history. The term cooperative learning describes a classroom setting in which the students are put into groups and formally work on a specific assignment in a formal group setting. The cooperative learning training that swept the nation in the early to mid 1990s was a helpful early step in the effort to keep students engaged in classroom instruction. However, cooperative learning is now being replaced in the school setting with collaborative learning. Collaborative learning is favored because it more naturally mirrors real world problem solving scenarios.
The Cooperative Learning Lesson
"You be the recorder; you be the time keeper; and I'll be the thinker." Often students are assigned roles in which each perform a certain task or function during the lesson, such as the recorder, time keeper, question answerer, or presenter. The teacher's role in a cooperative learning lesson is to structure, facilitate, and monitor the students. Some variations of cooperative learning include "think, pair, share" and "jigsaw." In this highly dictated instructional method, students are locked into roles that perhaps limit their thinking. Furthermore, this group work is limited to specific times of the day or week.
The Collaborative Learning Lesson
Collaborative learning is justified in research by Vygotsky, and the zone of proximal development (ZPD). ZPD is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. Collaborative learning describes a kind of classroom instruction in which students rely on each other as resources. In a collaborative classroom, student collaboration is present is just about every lesson and is used as a mechanism for students to gather their thoughts, practice and apply the concepts being taught, and test out their answers before presenting them to the whole group. Groups of students may work together to complete a writing assignment, a presentation, or a math problem. A collaborative lesson can be as simple as a study group preparing for an exam. Does this sound very similar to cooperative learning to you? The major difference between cooperative learning and collaborative learning is that collaborative learning describes a paradigm shift in which students relying on each for information is interwoven throughout the lesson. The teacher would never say, "Ok class, we are going to have a collaborative lesson today." Rather, student collaboration is an expectation in almost every lesson.
Cooperative Learned Doesn't Fit with Formative Assessment
Many states in the United States are transitioning toward the Common Core curriculum in an effort to ensure that students across the country learn to think at the highest levels. One of the main tenants of Common Core is the persistent presence of formative assessment. Formative assessment requires teachers to make adjustments to teaching and learning in response to assessment evidence, students to receive feedback about their learning with advice on what they can do to improve, and students' to participate in the process through self-assessment. These components are difficult to accomplish in a formal cooperative lesson because students need a teacher's direct involvement to make adjustments to the assignment, facilitate the feedback, and help students to self-assess.
In conclusion, collaborative learning is an upgraded version of cooperative learning that allows the thinking process to occur in more natural way. Most teachers clearly understand that formative assessment should be part of every lesson, yet it has not been made clear that cooperative lessons are not conducive to formative assessment.