What is already known?

I’ve decided to introduce cooperative learning groups to my P6 class as the focus for my practitioner enquiry. Many of the other areas I discussed in my previous post are things I wanted to make changes to this term, rather than waiting until January after the recall date.

Having attended cooperative learning training during my probationer year, last year, I used some of the strategies with my P2 class, but didn’t set up formal groups or fully embed its use properly. I feel this would benefit my current P6 class but haven’t yet set up groups. As I’m also passionate about the use of digital technology in the classroom, I was excited to learn that the Aberdeenshire Council GamesCon festival had been extended to all Northern Alliance P6 and P7s. This requires children to work in groups to design a game using Scratch. I intend to introduce cooperative learning groups which the children will eventually work in to enter the Games Con competition.

My hope is that the formal groups and structured sessions will allow some of the more academically able children to develop their social emotional skills, particularly in mixed ability groups. One of the five basic elements of cooperative learning is positive interdependence. Johnson and Johnson (2017) defines this as students believing “that they are linked with others in a way that one cannot succeed unless the other members of the group succeed (and vice versa), that is, they “sink or swim together.” I’d like to focus on this particular area to see if this helps in other areas of the curriculum (and the general health and wellbeing of the class!).

There is a lot of research into cooperative learning, this is just two pieces that I have read recently:

JOHNSON, D. W., and JOHNSON,  R. T., (2017) ‘Cooperative Learning’  Innovacion Educacion, Available at: https://2017.congresoinnovacion.educa.aragon.es/documents/48/David_Johnson.pdf (Accessed: 8 December 2019).

Johnson and Johnson have done a lot of research into cooperative learning and, in this 2017 piece, they summarise their own research and developments from others in the field of education. This is a helpful summary and reminder of what I learned on the training course, last year. I found the part where they state that “student-student interaction may be structured in school classes: competitively, individualistically, and cooperatively” struck a chord with me in my current class. Some of the children can be unkind (perhaps without meaning to be) in how they talk about their achievements in front of others. A recent pair work task showed that some of the children were proud that they’d managed to complete the task (building a gingerbread house!) on their own, missing the point a bit! Perhaps the mix of competitve, individual, and cooperative tasks needs to be more explicitly explained so the children better understand what is being asked of them in each lesson.

POPA, C. and POP, M. (2019) ‘Cooperative Learning – Applications for Children from Primary School’, Journal Plus Education / Educatia Plus, 22(1), pp. 78–87. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=137392983&site=ehost-live&scope=site (Accessed: 8 December 2019).

This journal article details research in Romania which found that teaching 4th grade children using cooperative learning strategies reduced their dependence on teachers, developing their own independence and ability to work together in groups to find solutions rather than seeking out help from their teacher. We often speak in P6 about developing the children’s independence as we prepare for moving to secondary school. As a result, this could also benefit my class.

There are two P6 classes at my school and I work closely with my stage partner. I will be introducing Games Con to the other P6 class as well. It may be an interesting comparison for me to use cooperative learning strategies with my own class, but not structure it in the same way with the other class and see if that has any effect, how to measure that is a different blog post entirely!

First published: 8th December 2019. Available at: https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/mrsclarepirie/2019/12/08/what-is-already-known/

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