|Effective Educational Practices (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 2000, 24 p.)|
Students in small, self-instructing groups can support and increase each other's learning.
As shown by more than fifty studies, learning proceeds more effectively than usual when exchanges among teachers and learners are frequent and specifically directed towards students' problems and interests. In whole-class instruction, only one person can speak at a time, and shy or slow-learning students may be reluctant to speak at all. When students work in groups of two to four, however, each group member can participate extensively, individual problems are more likely to become clear and to be remedied (sometimes with the teacher's assistance), and learning can accelerate.
In the classroom
With justification, co-operative learning has become widespread. Not only can it increase academic achievement, but also it has other virtues. By working in small groups, students learn teamwork, how to give and receive criticism, and how to plan, monitor and evaluate their individual and joint activities with others.
It appears that modern workplaces increasingly require such partial delegation of authority, group management and co-operative skills. Like modern managers, teachers may need to become more like facilitators, consultants and evaluators, rather than supervisors. Nonetheless, researchers do not recommend that co-operative learning take up the whole school day; the use of a variety of procedures, rather than co-operative learning alone, is considered to be most productive.
In addition, co-operative learning means more than merely assigning children to small groups. Teachers must also carefully design and prepare for the small-group setting. Students need instruction in skills necessary to operate successfully in small groups. Decisions must be made about the use of individual or group accountability. Care must be taken in establishing the mix of strengths and needs represented by students in the groups. Attention to these details will increase the likelihood that the co-operative groups will produce increased learning.
References: Hertz-Lazarowitz & Miller, 1992; Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Walberg & Haertel, 1997; Waxman & Walberg, 1999.