Pros and Cons of Cooperative Learning
- Jul 21, 2015
How many of you have been a part of group projects at school? Or, represented a team at the inter-school elocution competition? If your answer to any or both these questions is in the affirmative, you have contributed to the achievement of a common goal.In addition, you have certainly shared some seeds of wisdom with your team members and imbibed essential knowledge from them!Since decades, educational institutes have been exploring the territories of ‘group academic activities’. Therefore, you would not be a stranger to collaborative classroom events, including group assignments, group projects, and even extra-curricular activities that are inclusive of a generous amount of ‘team-work’.And that is precisely the essence of ‘cooperative learning’ inside educational environments.
Understanding the Concept of Cooperative Learning
Let us try to analyze the basic concept of the process of cooperative learning.Cooperative learning is a unique teaching strategy that emphasizes on the collective performance of learners arranged into ‘groups’, rather than recognizing the productivity of a single student. The procedure of this sort of a learning agenda is incredibly simple, yet thrilling.Educators divide the pupils into teams, ensuring that each team comprises learners with various levels of capabilities. So naturally, you can expect within a particular group:
- average students
- exceptional students
The group is entrusted with a responsibility that must be completed within a specified deadline. All group representatives cooperate with one another towards the attainment of a universal objective.In other words, cooperative learning strikes a smart contrast to ‘individual learning’ and enables pupils to leverage the resources and expertise poured in by each of the team members.In such a scenario, every group associate receives adequate assistance from each other and is offered an opportunity to analyze the performance of one another as well as supervise it. A gigantic responsibility is distributed evenly among all the group members, thereby simplifying the process of completing the group assignment on time.The best part about this type of a learning principle is that it modifies the role of teachers as ‘information providers to education facilitators’ for learners. So, when the group succeeds, everyone emerges as successful champions!
How Cooperative Learning Helps Students
Apart from learning from each group member, pupils also start learning about the significance of team spirit by investing the united effort, time, and energy together with the team.Usually, each group contains about four to five learners that involve one student who is a brilliant academic, two or three students who are average learners, and just a single student who is below average. An equal amount of participation is then expected from every pupil with a view to averting ‘social loafing’ that would prevent the major share of the work pressure being exerted on any one or two group members.(Social loafing refers to the tendency of certain students to procrastinate or doing lesser work, thus shifting the workload to other team members).
Pros of Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning, as you might have already noticed, offers a series of benefits to students. Let us take a look at some of the advantages of this type of learning style.
#1. Sharing a Common Objective
First of all, students who work together as part of a group share a common objective. The combination of such a shared endeavor brings about the success of a particular project. When you are working in a team, a certain degree of difference of opinion is bound to threaten the team spirit of any group.However, it is the attitude of the team members that determines the success rates of the collaborative project or assignment they are working on.For instance, one of the group members might express his disagreement with the others regarding a particular group policy. Now, it is the reaction of his team members as well as the leader of the team that influences the decision-making skills required to continue the project without any complication. If, by any chance, such a difference of opinion infuriates a team member who picks up a row, the success of the group assignment is definitely at stake!After all, the late American poet Mattie Stepanek had rightly mentioned that in unity lies great strength and that extraordinary things can be accomplished with great teamwork.
#2. Developing Leadership Skills
Powerful leadership is the key to successful cooperative learning ventures.Be it gaming events or academic activities, great leadership is a vital ingredient of success of any kind of team. Educators always appoint a group ‘leader’ when they assign cooperative learning tasks who can guide the team effectually. Leaders are also accountable for dividing out the responsibilities among the members, lending support and confirming that individuals are dedicated to fulfilling their tasks.Cooperative learning activities ensure that such leadership skills are inculcated in students from a tender age.Moreover, when teachers classify pupils into groups, leaders are more likely to reveal their true identities. But teachers might also choose to select leaders within a group to motivate individual students to practice their leadership skills. This way, each of the group members can avail of the brilliant opportunity to act as leaders once in a while.And as you already know, modern corporate houses prefer employees with spontaneous leadership skills.
#3. Imparting communication skills:
At the end of the day, it all boils down to how smart your communication skills are! Good communicators make successful students, believe it or not, friends. If you are blessed with good oral and written communication skills, you can hope for better academic grades as well as outstanding performance in cooperative learning sessions.A growth mindset coupled with an optimistic frame of mind is crucial for you if you are eager to enhance your communication skills.Ideal teachers walk the extra mile to model effective competence in the field of communication. Firstly, team members must know how to communicate the basic instructions of the group-work to one another that have been announced in the classroom. Furthermore, the team leader must make it a point to make sure that every member is all ears when the rules are discussed.
Another thing that is hand and glove with successful communication is the presence of a proper feedback. When students are engaged in cooperative learning, they automatically learn the value of conveying their opinions and expressing their thoughts about their duties.
#4. Growing Problem-solving Skills
Conflicts are quite common in all kinds of team-building activities.This happens mainly because of the fact that the ideologies, thought processes, and individual beliefs greatly vary from one person to the other.For instance, while a particular team member might feel that collecting resources from books and journals would be the best technique of enriching a project. At the same time, yet another team member might propose that he has thought about a few websites that would be beneficial in assisting the team in continuing with the assignment. On the other hand, the team leader might come up with a third solution: conduct a real-world survey about the subject-matter of the project and include the observations as a major part of the project.Obviously, this leads to an inevitable clash of opinions.Awesome teachers always permit students to resolve their differences themselves prior to interfering in the issue. This is one of the ways in which cooperative learning allows learners to grow their problem-solving skills.
Cons of Cooperative Learning
Just like the two sides of a coin, cooperative learning too, has its share of disadvantages. For example, when students proceed to work in teams, elements like a misinterpretation of facts is unavoidable.Continue reading to discover the cons of cooperative learning.
#1. Inequalities in Workload
One of the most common issues observed in cooperative learning sessions is the presence of uneven workload.Since a typical team includes more than three members, disparities would definitely exist in it. It would give rise to internal conflicts within the group. Also, it would trigger an unequal distribution in official duties and responsibilities within the team. Although cooperative learning aims to urge students to coordinate with each other and inspire all team members to acquire wholesome knowledge, chances are, it might not always prove to be fruitful for learners.Unfortunately, the reality is far from this truth.In a large number of cooperative learning cases, a handful of students (who are seemingly more intelligent than their team members) believe in taking over a lion’s share of the workload. The reason is simple. Such students are too lazy to aid the weaker students to learn.But, the below-average pupils also love relying on the ‘academically stronger’ students to complete the group work. Thereafter, they seek excuses to avoid making attempts to contribute to the group’s project or assignment.And since teachers end up grading groups as a whole instead of offering grades to individual learners, many students would take advantage of this fact.
#2. Complications in Group Work
Do you know what poses to be a great challenge to collaborative projects in educational institutions?Well, it is the dependence of an efficient group dynamism.Teachers have little choice but to have complete trust on the diligence of each of the team members. However, it is hardly possible. Clashes of ideas within team associates might decelerate the progress of the entire team. In addition, there are a larger number of conflicts when the team members are too young or immature to deal with problems independently.Also, there lies a mismatch in personalities in a team and this issue becomes more profound when students equipped with little or none of the basic leadership skills is opted as the leaders of any group.Therefore, leaders should be chosen prudently and with a cautious approach.Teachers should make efforts to evaluate each and every student carefully prior to assigning them roles in group assignments.
If you thought that the complications of cooperative learning approach has an impact on students, teachers too, are stirred by the several difficulties associated to it.You would acknowledge the fact that interpersonal communication is necessary when students are involved in collaborative learning activities. Now, if you are a teacher, I’m pretty sure you perfectly know how tough it is to manage a class of 50 students who are constantly inclined to share their feelings with each other. You might have turned to the blackboard to scribble an important formula or write down a definition, when suddenly you discover a collective buzz of slow murmur in the class.Yes, I agree your students might be ‘just whispering’, yet the silent whisper of about 50 students is enough to put your thoughts into a jeopardy.
No wonder, teachers often complain to parents about their ‘overtly talkative’ students, stating how inconvenient it is to tackle them with patience. But how then would it be possible for you to avoid such a chatter when you make room for a group project? Students need to talk to one another to share their ideas or feedback. And as they do so, you cannot really do away with some off-topic discussions that would undoubtedly take place during the process.Educators must therefore, be aware of the loopholes, along with the blessings of cooperative learning, before assigning group responsibilities to learners. If incorporated intelligently, however, this sort of a learning tactic has the potential to reap great rewards for your students and enable them to emerge into a powerhouse of knowledge.It is not difficult to find tips on how to implement cooperative learning in a classroom. So, best of luck, dear teachers for your brand new experiment of cooperative learning!
Adilah, graduated from Malaysia University and is a social activist. He focuses on various areas including education and takes notes on measure which could help in the overall pattern of studying. Recently he is registered with MyPrivateTutor Malaysia and has gained reputation in his field.
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