Friday, October 31, 2008

Cooperative Learning in Classrooms.. Possibilities and Scope

Cooperative Learning Strategies in Classrooms: The Effective Accomplishment of MITA

Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small teams (each with students of different levels of ability), use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. It is a teaching strategy involving children’s participation in small group learning activities that promote positive interaction. Each member of a team is responsible not only for learning what is taught but also for helping teammates learn, thus creates an atmosphere of high achievement.
The Multiple factors of Intelligence are Linguistic or Verbal, Musical, Logical or Mathematical, Spatial or Visual, Bodily kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intra-personal, Naturalistic and Existential. The one more factor recently considered is ‘spiritual intelligence’. Rather recently the multiple intelligence movement has received much emphasis.
The Cooperative learning strategies can effectively organize the identified intelligences in all children. Gardner’s multiple intelligence becomes the foundation for new attempts in cooperative learning and there arise inseparable relations between Ten intelligences and objectives setting in cooperative learning.
Cooperative Learning – Importance and Advantages
Cooperative learning promotes academic achievement and intellectual development. It promotes student motivation, encourages group processes, and fosters social and academic interaction among pupils and reward successful group participation. It helps identification and gradual development of different intelligences.
One of the most consistent research findings is that cooperative learning activities improve children’s relationships with peers, especially those of social and ethnic groups. Such relationships and social interactions help to promote interpersonal intelligence, linguistic, logical and naturalistic intelligences in high degree. When learner begins to work on readiness tasks, cooperative learning can provide opportunities for sharing ideas, opportunities to make use the dominated and less dominated intelligences, learning how others think and react to problems and learn language skills.
Cooperative learning increases student motivation by providing peer support in all aspects of activities. Well-constructed cooperative learning tasks involve positive interdependence on others and individual accountability. To work successfully in a cooperative learning group, students must also master interpersonal intelligence needed for the group to accomplish its task.
Major benefits from cooperative learning are Gain from each other’s efforts, Recognize that all group members share a common fate, Know that one’s performance is mutually caused by oneself and one’s team members, Feel proud and jointly celebrate when a group member is recognized for achievement and Another major benefit suggested by many researches in the field is that cooperative learning techniques help students in nurturing Multiple Intelligences.
Elements of cooperative learning and MITA
There are FIVE major elements or conditions to strategize cooperative learning efforts. Those conditions are 1. Positive Interdependence, 2. Face to Face interaction, 3. Individual and Group Accountability, 4. Interpersonal and Small group Skills, and 5. Group Processing.
The five-implementation phases of Multiple Intelligence Teaching Approach (MITA) can be blended with the practices of the elements of cooperative learning. Read the phases of MITA as reciprocal to get a clear look:
· Questions or issues or problems to develop curiosity and wonder in learners
· Setting learning objectives for focus and vision
· Rubrics for accuracy and fairness
· Multiple assessments
· Reflection for ongoing renewal
While a teacher effectively practice the elements of cooperative learning, he can identify them as elements for M I Teaching Approach (MITA) too. These elements or conditions can be achieved in the following ways,
1. Positive Interdependence
It is the concept of sink or swim together. This condition demands that each group member’s efforts are required and indispensable for group success. Each group member has a unique contribution to make to the joint effort because of his or her resources and/or role and task responsibilities.
MI nurturing: in this condition or element of Cooperative learning strategy, the Interpersonal, Intra personal and Linguistic Intelligences will be nurtured effectively.
2. Face-to-Face interaction
This condition satisfies the idea of ‘promote each other’s successes.’ It enhances orally explaining how to solve problems, teaching one’s knowledge to other, checking for understanding, discussing concepts being learned and connecting present with past learning.
MI nurturing: in this condition or element of Cooperative learning strategy, the Interpersonal, Intra personal and Logical Intelligences will be nurtured effectively. This session provides effective communication and sensitive interaction.
3. Individual and Group Accountability
It is the concept of ‘no hitchhiking and no social loafing.’ Here it is teacher-oriented task to provide environment for effective learning. If the teacher task to provide the environment is effective and apt, the learning and individual and group accountability will be effective. In this regard teacher can adopt various processes to assess individual and group accountability.
MI nurturing: in this condition or element of Cooperative learning strategy, the Intra personal and Logical Intelligences, natural and spatial intelligences have been nurtured effectively.
4. Interpersonal and Small group Skills
This is the more important and effective element of cooperative learning strategy. Here the learning of social skills is taken place. This condition ensures both overt and hidden principle of nurturing group members’ different abilities.
In this task teacher must try to teach the social skills like Leader ship, Decision making, Trust building, Communication, Conflict management skills.
MI nurturing: a specific learning of this element proves that the all aspects of MI can be nurtured in this method.
5. Group Processing.
This condition is the specific culmination of cooperative learning. Here, Group members discuss how well they are achieving their goals and maintaining effective working relationships, describe what member actions are helpful and not helpful and make decisions about what behaviors to continue or change
MI nurturing: this element works as supportive to all other activities that help to nurture individuals’ MI.
How can Teacher use Cooperative Learning Strategies in classroom as an extension of MITA?
Foyle and Layman (1988) identify the basic steps involved in successful implementation of cooperative learning. These steps cover the five-implementation phases of MITA in the ways of teaching learning process.
1. Content to be taught is identified, and criteria for mastery are determined by the teacher
2. The most useful cooperative learning technique is identified, and the teacher determines the group size.
3. Students are assigned to groups
In these three steps teacher can contrast them with first phase of MITA, that is questions or issues or problems to develop curiosity and wonder in learners
4. The class room is arranged to facilitate group interaction
5. Group process are taught or reviewed as needed to assure that the groups run smoothly
The 4th and 5th steps of cooperative learning can be blended with the second phase of MITA- Setting learning objectives for focus and vision.
6. The teacher develops expectations for group learning and makes sure students understand the purpose of the learning that will take place. A time line for activities is made clear to students
7. The teacher presents initial material as appropriate, using whatever techniques she or he chooses.
The 6th and 7th steps can be accompanied with third phase of MITA that is Rubrics for accuracy and fairness.
8. The teacher monitors student interaction in the groups, and provides assistance and clarifications as needed. The teacher reviews group skills and facilitates problem solving when necessary.
This is very equal with the implementation phase of MITA, that is the fourth phase, multiple assessments
9. Student outcomes are evaluated. Students must individually demonstrate mastery of important skills or concepts of the learning. Evaluation is based on observations of student performances or oral responses to questions. Paper and pencils need not be used.
10. Groups are rewarded for success. Verbal praise by the teacher or recognition in the class newsletter or on the bulletin board can be used to reward high achieving groups.
The 9yh and 10th steps are identified with the fifth phase of MITA, which is the Reflection for ongoing renewal
MITA – Linking with Cooperative Learning.
Students’ passivity in classroom teaching - learning process is a major fact that hinter the nurturing of Multiple Intelligences, as identified by the MI theory. Multiple Intelligence Teaching Approach models are applied to resolve problems of student passivity in classroom. To encage diverse students actively in classes is to understand and interact with their unique worlds gained attention nowadays. MITA incorporates Gardner’s family of intelligences.
Cooperative learning has also been shown to improve relationships among students from different ethnic groups. The passivity of students can be ‘vanished’ by making use the cooperative methods. It is going on with MITA. Slavin (1980) notes: “cooperative learning methods embody the requirements of cooperative, equal status interaction between students of different ethnic ground, students of different intelligence abilities….”. Without doubt it can be stated that, structured activities, which promote cooperation, can help to bring about the desirable learning outcomes and MI elements.
MITA designed to create a challenging learning environment and to enhance learning with in diverse communities. --These communities can be read as the same ethnic group noted by Slavin (1980)—MITA help students to discover inner interest and abilities that promote learning success. Cooperative learning strategies develops inner urges, interests and abilities through its ways and means.
For example, look at the major four features of MITA; they can be identified with cooperative learning strategies-
· In MIT Approach, process starts with a question or problem or issue to generate curiosity and wonder for deeper understanding. In cooperative learning, for a team task, same procedure is followed.
· Teacher functions as facilitator rather than disseminators of facts. In cooperative learning teacher is a facilitator rather than of the environment in which learning process taken place.
· In MITA learning outcomes are wide and holistic rather than narrowly based in any one discipline. The assessments of learning outcome are authentic, performance based and varied according to the outcomes required to solve the problems. These features are the operation ways of cooperative learning.
· MITA suggests: students and teachers often negotiate information required to solve problems and together decide what process will achieve the best solution. Cooperative learning suggests discussion between teacher and students, and between students and students and together they reach on the solution.
In short coping the MITA with cooperative learning is effective and. The five-implementation phases of MITA are the same that of the strategy used by cooperative learning. This will help us to reach on the conclusion that cooperative learning strategy can be identified as an effective MIT Approach.


Beena C & Parameswaran EG (2006), An Invitation to Psychology. Hyderabad, Neelkamal Publications.
Cohen Elizabeth J (1986), Designing Group work: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom. New York, Teachers’ college press
Dandapani S (2005), General Psychology. Hyderabad, Neelkamal Publications.
Salvin Robert (1984), Cooperative Learning: Student teams. New York, Harper and Row.

On line references
David and Roger Johnson (2001), Cooperative learning,
Foyle H & Lawrence Layman (2000), interactive learning. Sited in Eric
Kagan Spencer (2001), Kagan Structure for Emotional Intelligence.

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