Cooperative learning is a phenomenal strategy that can be used in many educational settings including higher education which derives the students own strengths to facilitate learning. The process involves formation of small groups consisting of students with different levels of learning or different levels of strengths. The learning will take place as a group and each individual would be responsible for his or her own learning as well as the learning of their group members. Thus, cooperative learning will promote interaction, active learning, taking responsibility, team work and retention of learning which will pave way for an active learning experience.
Concepts of cooperative learning:
When discussing how we can make use of cooperative learning in an higher educational setting, we need to understand that, ideally, the students will be the masters of their own learning, they need to interact freely, students themselves should take control of their progress and interactions, they need to look into the learning of their team mates and should strive to achieve a common goal through collective understanding and interdependence. Teachers on the other hand will be side lined to be facilitators and usually should not interfere with how things progress unless the students seem to deviate out of proportion to an area which falls outside of the objectives of the session.
In using corporative learning in higher education, teachers should have a method of identifying students of different levels and strengths as it would be ideal to place such different students in a group than to have a set of students whom will perform at the same level. Thus, an informal categorization would be ideal to group the students which can be achieved through performances in previous assessments, through classroom experiences, through level of interactivity and behaviors…etc.
Designing the learning tasks:
Designing the learning tasks to suite a cooperative learning style will also be the responsibility of the teachers and scenario based learning activities, question based activities as well as identifying different concepts pertaining to each learning session would be the basis for a cooperative learning event.
Determine how the students should interact:
The interactions within the group can also be determined by the teacher and one-to-one interviews, brainstorming, think-pair-share, partnering, three minute review…etc are some of the methods that can be adapted depending on the circumstances and the learning event.
By adapting these strategies it is evident that many of the students can achieve a higher immersive learning experience than by studying or learning in isolation. But, it should be remembered that, not all students will benefit from such learning. Certain students would actually perform better when they do it alone although it is not a recommended way of classroom teaching. Therefore, the teachers need to be on the lookout for such students and they should be given the support that they need to continue further.
At the same time, cooperative learning would be time consuming and therefore may not be cost effective to be carried out in all instances. Thus, choosing the appropriate instances for its integration would be an important task in the entire process.