To achieve cooperative learning, often referred to as group work, within the classroom there are few strategies that need to be put into place. It is quite common that when primary students are sent off to do group work, there is a dominating leader within the group. This therefore makes it difficult and intimidating for other students to participate and contribute to the group. It is essential that we as teachers provide students with experiences and structure that clearly layout the different roles to be adopted within the group. Arthur, M., Gordon, C. & Butterfield, N. (2003) agrees with this idea by saying there should be an emphasis placed on the social skills students learn through participating in group work and it provides an opportunity for students to ‘increase understanding of the roles people fulfil when they work cooperatively to achieve a common end‘.(p.43)
At my placement school, before students are sent off to do group work, my colleague teacher goes through the different roles within the group (usually placed a on visual board). For example, reporter, reader, as well as social roles: time keeper etc. My colleague teacher allows students to choose which role they would like to take on and encourages them to try a new role. My colleague teacher also reminds all students to write down the information in their respective books, so that all have the information to refer back to later. While I was watching the groups working, it was evident to see that all students were given a chance to contribute to the group and were respecting each other through the process of working to achieve a common goal. It allowed those students who may feel intimidated or embarrassed to contribute to the group, to do so. After the designated time for group work was finished, each group reported their findings to the class. This was a great opportunity for students to learn from each other and further their previous knowledge. Arthur, M., Gordon, C. & Butterfield, N. (2003) agrees with this idea by saying ‘peer explanations are often at level of elaboration that students can relate to’ (p.43)
When this strategy is implemented well, students will be able to better their effective communication skills, be able to contribute to the groups work in a non-intimidating manner as well as building social skills such as, trust, management of conflict, leadership and taking responsibility for their own learning.
Here are some youtube clips that support and extend on the benefits of cooperative learning within a primary classroom:
Video taken from:
Video taken from:
The NSW Institute of Teachers’ Professional Teaching Standards, recognises the need for teachers to create and maintain safe and challenging learning environment in:
Element 5; Aspect 5.1.2Establish supportive learning environments where students feel safe to risk full participation.
Arthur, M., Gordon, C. & Butterfield,N. (2003). The impact of curriculum and instruction. In Classroom Management: Creating Positive Learning Environments, (pp.43-52). Thomson: Southbank, Victoria.