Special Issue on Cooperative Learning. Journal of Community Guidance & Research. 2020 November Vol. 37 No. 3 (Sharan, Y - Agashe, L. eds)
All the authors included in this issue are veteran researchers and practitioners of CL, who have contributed to the steady progress of our understanding of cooperative learning and its multiple applications.Several of the research studies presented in this issue confirm the adaptability of the basic features of CL in programs for elementary schools, in diverse countries.
A dramatic intervention carried out in Geneva by Celine Buchs and colleagues attests to the way CL enabled students and teachers to regard multicultural classrooms as resources, and not as problems. Buchs and colleagues designed an intervention that created meaningful opportunities for contact and interaction among students, their families, and their teachers. Specifically, the program relied on the awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, in combination with a cooperative learning model that emphasises status treatment.
With an eye towards helping pre-service as well as in-service teachers develop inclusive practices for today's pervasive heterogeneous classrooms, Wendy Jolliffe and Kate Ferguson-Patrick remind us that cooperative learning (CL) has to be well implemented to serve as a vehicle for promoting the skills needed for teaching in these classrooms. Their article presents evidence from the work of several teachers, in different countries, and some common factors which may be helpful for others wishing to implement CL.
Cooperative learning procedures were integrated with The MultiGradeMultiLevel-Methodology from Rishi Valley, India, to develop a program that fosters students' social and emotional abilities, as described by Christine Schmalenbach and colleagues. The program, named SeELe (Sozial-emotionale Entwicklung mit Lernleitern – Socioemotional development with Ladders of Learning), was developed to provide materials that promote students’ social and emotional development through structured individual learning activities and interactive cooperative activities.
The application of CL procedures in higher education is represented by the work of several authors. Kumiko Fushino writes in detail how cooperative learning methods contributed to the success of a first-year English class at a university in Japan.Judicious English learning in groups improved students' command of English, and, in addition, contributed to the creation of a palpable learning community.
At another university in Japan, Keiko Hirose and Tamami Wada led the investigation of the changes in first-year students’ beliefs in cooperation and English study during a one-year compulsory English course. Both articles report results that show how year-long carefully planned cooperative learning experiences enhance learners' beliefs in the usefulness of cooperation and improve English self-efficacy.
Narenda Naidu and Sushama Joag, from Modern College in Pune, together with Lalita Agashe, describe their efforts to introduce CL to college staff. Their article reports on the outcomes and effects of a professional development course on cooperative learning during one academic year at the college. The authors relate both the constraints and success of the course and teachers' reactions, as well as plans for future professional development for CL.
Elaine Hoter's article takes readers to the application of CL in an immersive virtual reality at a teacher training college in Israel, and demonstrates how virtual reality can be used effectively to enhance collaborative learning. Graduate and undergraduate students constructed and shared knowledge and learned together in a semester program on intercultural education, while collaborating in an immersive virtual world.
In addition to research studies, this special issue features two case studies that demonstrate how CL establishes and builds on a relationship between students of all ages and teachers in the learning process. The CL strategies in both studies (one in Taiwan and one in Toronto, Canada) are designed to maximise students' and teachers' participation in and contributions to learning, and minimise teachers' roles as sole sources of knowledge. When the teachers in Taiwan (Nancy Tyan and Iris Chi) planned a learning task that called for pairs or small groups of learners to discuss and exchange ideas and information, or to plan how to study something together, they were inviting students to make their experiences, feelings, and knowledge a vital part of the learning process. From the second case study we learn of a most unusual school in Toronto, Canada, led by Kemp Rickett, where collaborative principles and practices were applied in every aspect of the school: in classrooms, in the teachers' lounge, in the principal's office, and in the connection with parents. We read of how a collaborative school culture was first developed among teachers, who then felt comfortable in applying it in their classrooms, and, finally, how the process ensured the sustained implementation of cooperative/collaborative principles and practice at all levels.
A stimulating addition to the diverse experiences and studies provided by the articles and case studies in this issue is the article by Isabella Pescarmona and Paola Giorgis. By exploring the multicultural CL classroom through a sociological and anthropological lens, they broaden our understanding of how it promotes equitable participation. The summary of their article is a fitting summary of all studies in this special issue:"...cooperative learning can be considered an effective example of an educational praxis that works to overcome the dichotomies that often mark pedagogical relationships, such as theory-practice, teaching-learning, teacher-student, student-student. Cooperative learning has the capability of engaging and creating dialogue among different elements and participants, valuing the contributions that each of them offers. By so doing, diversity is the core element which favours equitable participation in educational dialogue, and, at the same time, is the starting point for developing
a critical awareness of how it has been/is constructed. Cooperative learning also suggests how we can make our own work meaningful for our students and ourselves by integrating critical reflection with a flexible approach, a much needed combination in everyday classroom practice."
Today, the Indian cultural ethos of inclusive cooperative practices is evident in the vibrant co-curricular and extracurricular activities in schools and colleges, but classes are generally teacher-centric. Therefore, although the spirit of cooperative learning is close to the Indian heart, the change in mindset and careful preparation needed to implement it in the classroom is a challenge.