Implementing cooperative learning in a Networked Learning Community

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  • This article was downloaded by: [The University of Manchester Library]On: 15 October 2014, At: 14:26Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Education 3-13: International Journalof Primary, Elementary and Early YearsEducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rett20

    Implementing cooperative learning in aNetworked Learning CommunityWendy Jolliffe a & Hazel Hutchinson ba Centre for Educational Studies , University of Hull , UKb Kingswood College of Arts , Hull , UKPublished online: 08 Jan 2007.

    To cite this article: Wendy Jolliffe & Hazel Hutchinson (2007) Implementing cooperative learning ina Networked Learning Community, Education 3-13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary andEarly Years Education, 35:1, 5-16, DOI: 10.1080/03004270600898695

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  • Implementing cooperative learning in a

    Networked Learning Community

    Wendy Jolliffea* and Hazel HutchinsonbaCentre for Educational Studies, University of Hull, UK; bKingswood College of Arts,

    Hull, UK

    This article presents research findings of work undertaken by a Networked Learning Community in

    the north of England on implementing cooperative learning in primary and secondary schools. In

    twelve primary and two secondary schools, in a social and economically deprived area, cooperative

    learning is becoming embedded. How this has been supported by sharing good practice and

    working collaboratively between primary and secondary schools and with a higher education

    institution is examined. A crucial feature emerging from this is the role of a dedicated member of

    staff, as facilitator, to support and monitor the use of cooperative learning.

    Introduction

    The skills of cooperating and working with others can be argued to be central to human

    existence (Argyle, 1991). It is ironic, therefore, that historically schools have encouraged

    uncooperative and individualistic behaviour amongst pupils. Two factors have begun to

    impact on this trend during the past three decades. First, a wealth of research originating

    from the work of Dewey (1924) and Deutsch (1949, 1960) has spawned a growing

    interest in cooperative learning, in which pupils support each other. Secondly, the

    increased prominence of socio-cultural theories of learning, emanating from the work of

    Vygotsky (1978), has transformed views of the learner from the lone scientist to the

    social being. As a government-instigated report into learning to learn by DEMOS

    (2005, p. 17) states, Students do not learn in isolation, and it recommends that a

    Commission on Learning should be set up. The time is ripe for change.

    This article analyses a method of ensuring that pupils do not learn in isolation:

    cooperative learning. It begins by summarizing the key features and different formats

    of cooperative learning and then examines the crucial issue of how to implement it in

    the classroom. It describes the context for research into its implementation and

    summarizes the key ingredients that support its use across the curriculum. It also

    provides a brief action research study showing how work in a secondary school

    exemplifies important factors in implementation.

    *Corresponding author. Centre for Educational Studies, University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX, UK.

    Email: w.m.jolliffe@hull.ac.uk

    Education 313

    Vol. 35, No. 1, February 2007, pp. 5 16

    ISSN 0300-4279 (print)/ISSN 1475-7575 (online)/07/01000512

    2007 ASPEDOI: 10.1080/03004270600898695

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  • What does cooperative learning involve?

    Cooperative learning (CL) is the umbrella term for a variety of educational

    approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers

    together (Smith & MacGregor, 1992, p. 10). It requires a small number of pupils to

    work together on a common task, supporting and encouraging each other to improve

    their learning. It has an extensive history of research emanating from the work of

    Deutsch (1949), across a range of cultures (North America, Canada and Mexico,

    Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Israel, Nigeria and South Africa, and Europe).

    Findings have consistently shown positive effects on pupils learning. How this can be

    put into practice in the classroom forms the focus for this research.

    Types of CL vary, with an intriguing array of names such as STAD, Jigsaw, Group

    Investigation and Structural Approach. Student Team Achievement Division (STAD)

    (Slavin, 1983) is where pupils work in teams to ensure that all members have

    mastered an objective. Pupils then take individual tests on the material and scores are

    averaged for teams, introducing an element of competition between teams. Another

    form, Group Investigation, is a problem-solving approach which has four elements:

    investigation, interaction, interpretation and intrinsic motivation (Sharan, 1994).

    Jigsaw (Aronson et al., 1978) involves each member of a group learning an essential

    part of a whole topic by working with a focus group and then helping the home group

    to combine the knowledge to complete the task. The Structural Approach (Kagan,

    1994) consists of structures, or social interaction sequences, which enable the teacher

    to transform existing lessons into a cooperative format by using simple strategies.

    These strategies are content-free mechanisms and are widely transferable across the

    curriculum. An example is think-pair-share, where pupils are asked a question and

    given time to think, then discuss it with a partner before sharing their answer with the

    class.

    Regardless of the specific format, researchers generally agree on two features

    essential to cooperative learning: positive interdependence and individual account-

    ability (Cooper & Mueck, 1992; Cottell & Millis, 1992; Slavin, 1992; Smith et al.,

    1992). Positive interdependence consists of ensuring that the group can only succeed

    if every member helps and supports each other to fulfil the task. In other words they

    sink or swim together. Integral to this is the notion of individual accountability,

    where each person in a team must be accountable for his or her share of the work.

    As Johnson and Johnson succinctly point out: Simply placing students near each

    other and allowing interaction to take place does not mean that learning will be

    maximised (1999, p. 196). Successful interaction requires teachers first to ensure

    that an ethos of trust is established and secondly, that the skills to cooperate are

    explicitly taught. This level of sophisticated group work takes time to be effective, but

    results show the gains far outweigh the effort involved (Brown, 1992).

    The aim of this research was to elicit key factors in the effective implementation of

    CL, as well as to gain an accurate picture of the extent of use. Extensive research

    exists into the benefits of CL (Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Slavin, 1995, 1996). Results

    of these have shown three main categories of advantages: achievement, interpersonal

    6 W. Jolliffe and H. Hutchinson

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  • relationships, and psychological health and social competence. Research into how to

    put CL into practice is more limited, however, as Bennett notes:

    Although co-operative grouping has a respectable theoretical pedigree, the effectiveness of

    which is backed up by the systematic research, very few studies have considered how best

    to put it into practice in classrooms. (Bennett, 1994, p. 60)

    Bennett and Dunnes research (1992) emphasized three factors that impact on

    implementation: first designing suitable tasks, secondly enabling the teacher to

    successfully manage group work, and thirdly providing training for pupils in group

    work skills. More recently, work by Blatchford et al. (2003) on the Social Pedagogic

    Research into Grouping (SPRinG) project looked at an approach to group work that

    could be used in primary and secondary schools. This year-long collaboration set up a

    framework that incorporated four key dimensions:

    1. Classroom context, including pupil seating, group size, number, composition

    and stability of groups.

    2. Pupil interactions, which involved developing social and group work skills.

    3. Teachers role, with support in the changing role of the teacher.

    4. Tasks, including planning lessons with group work activities across the

    curriculum.

    Other research in Australia by Robyn Gillies (2003) has also examined factors that

    impact on implementation and particularly the importance of structuring small-group

    work and providing training in the social skills necessary.

    The research set out in this article aimed to build on the findings of Blatchford et al.

    (2003) to analyse the most effective support for a network of schools to implement

    CL in the classroom in the UK.

    Context of the research

    The two secondary and twelve primary schools involved in this research all came

    from an area of high social and economic deprivation in an inner-city area of the

    north of England. They had previously been part of an Education Action Zone,

    which was set up with a clear aim of raising standards and providing additional

    support. The necessity to look for innovative approaches had led schools to

    experiment with cooperative learning. The Education Action Zone later evolved into

    a Networked Learning Community. What was particularly apparent were the strong

    links that were established across the schools with a clear ethos of sharing good

    practice.

    The use of CL began with four primary schools in 2000, as part of the Success for All

    strategy for the teaching of literacy, based on Slavins model of team incentives.

    Following this some staff began to research the use of cooperative learning, and

    further training, led by Don Brown and Charlotte Thomson from New Zealand,

    Implementing cooperative learning 7

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  • fuelled a desire to extend its use across the curriculum. Training in the rest of the

    primary and secondary schools began in 20022003 and consisted of an initial two

    days of whole-school training led by staff from a local university and from the Edu-

    cation Action Zone/Networked Learning Community. The model of CL incorpo-

    rated Johnson and Johnsons five principles (1987), known by the acronym PIGSF:

    . Positive interdependence

    . Individual accountability

    . Group reflection

    . Small-group skills

    . Face-to-face interaction.

    Training involved a range of teaching structures or techniques derived from

    Kagan (1994), which were modelled together with methods of teaching small-group

    skills, such as active listening and helping and supporting each other. Following

    externally delivered training, all of these schools appointed a dedicated facilitator to

    support the use of CL. Facilitators from the different schools and the university met

    regularly to share progress and provide mutual support. Several facilitators carried

    out action research projects in their schools. The results of one of these projects are

    incorporated in this article.

    Methodology

    In order to ascertain which aspects of the implementation had been particularly

    successful and the extent of use of CL, questionnaires were sent to all head teachers

    and facilitators at each of the twelve primary and two secondary schools. The survey

    received 21 responses, one from each of the schools, although not all schools returned

    separate responses from head teachers and facilitators. These were analysed using

    Excel to record data and provide a range of graphical comparative data, and the

    Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) to determine frequencies and valid

    percentages. Analysis was conducted to focus on the following aspects:

    1. Length of time the school has used CL strategies.

    2. Extent to which the school is positive about the benefits.

    3. Extent of the training received.

    4. Extent and frequency of use of CL.

    5. Most effective type of professional development.

    6. Further support needed.

    In addition, semi-structured interviews were held with headteachers and/or

    facilitators to probe in further depth the schools use of CL, and these were analysed

    using a conceptual framework. As a further example of methods of implementation, a

    detailed case study of one secondary school was carried out in the form of action

    research by the facilitator to explore features of successful practice.

    8 W. Jolliffe and H. Hutchinson

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  • Results

    Table 1 summarizes responses from the questionnaires using the six aspects set out

    above.

    Semi-structured interviews with head teachers and facilitators provided supporting

    information and were analysed as follows according to the following key aspects.

    1. Views on the success of CL

    Schools had paired work embedded and needed to move to implementing effective

    group work more consistently. Schools were making links with other initiatives such

    as supporting effective speaking and listening and were seeing benefits in childrens

    confidence and oral skills.

    2. Factors viewed as helping in successful implementation

    A mixture of monitoring and support was seen as helpful, and all schools verified the

    key importance of the...

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