Cooperative learning is about learning in groups but there is more to effective learning than working in groups (Johnson and Johnson, 1994). There are other factors that contribute to effective learning in cooperative activities. These are as follows:
1. Group members depend on each other for survival of the team or to reach the set target. That is members are mutually responsible for sharing a common set of principle. The success and failure of the group depends on the each member of the group.
2. Face-to-face interaction- Promoting success of group members by praising, encouraging, supporting, or assisting each other.
3. Individual accountability- Each group member is held accountable for his or her work. Individual accountability helps to avoid members from "hitchhiking" on other group members' accomplishments.
4. Social skills- Cooperative learning groups set the stage for students to learn social skills. These skills help to build stronger cooperation among group members. Leadership, decision-making, trust-building, and communication are different skills that are developed in cooperative learning.
5. Group processing- Group processing is an assessment of how groups are functioning to achieve their goals or tasks. By reviewing group behaviour the students and the teacher get a chance to discuss special needs or problems within the group. Groups get a chance to express their feelings about beneficial and unhelpful aspects of the group learning process in order to correct unwanted behaviour and celebrate successful outcomes in the group work.
Cooperative learning is about students developing their knowledge and interacting with others. Researches on learning suggest that an effective way of learning is when students look for information themselves and build on such information. Knowledge can be tested and developed to a large extent by so doing (Ray, 2008). Other academicians are also of the notion that effective learning can be achieved mainly by interaction with people. During group learning students interact and learn from each other to achieve their set goal and build a positive relationship. This style of learning brings about increased academic success by students and also improves their human relations.
According to Foyle and Lyman (1988), for a cooperative learning as a teaching strategy to be successful, the teacher should come out with the best technique to be used and the topic to be taught while putting students into groups with ideal size in a well organised classroom where there will be free interaction by students and also assesses the methods to ensure smooth running by the team. Again the teacher explains the aim and expectation of the learning and makes it time bound. Group progress is also monitored by the teacher and offer help appropriately to difficult tasks if required. Also group work is assessed with emphasis on individual student's learning concepts or performance and marks awarded for their achievements or success.
Teachers as well as learners do enjoy a lot of benefits from cooperative learning. Many of these benefits arise from the intrinsic motivational strengths of Cooperative Learning and the extent to which Cooperative Learning fosters student interest, behavioural and attitudinal change, and opportunities for success. As Keller (1983) demonstrates "this set of outcomes results from the successful incorporation of motivational issues into instruction."
Johnson & Johnson (1989) in their study found out that "a primary benefit of Cooperative Learning is that it enhances students' self esteem which in turn motivates students to participate in the learning process." Slavin (1987) is of the opinion that "cooperative efforts among students result in a higher degree of accomplishment by all participants." Again according to Kagan (1986), "Students help each other and in doing so build a supportive community which raises the performance level of each member." This brings about motivation as well as increased self esteem in all students as noted by Webb (1982).
Johnson and Johnson (1990) again noted that "cooperation enhances student satisfaction with the learning experience by actively involving students in designing and completing class procedures and course content." Also Turnure and Zigler (1958) assert that "effective teams or groups assume ownership of a process and its results when individuals are encouraged to work together toward a common goal, often defined by the group which is especially helpful for individuals who have a history or failure."
According to Kessler et al. (1985),
"cooperative learning reduces classroom anxiety created by new and unfamiliar situations faced by students." In a traditional classroom when a teacher calls upon a student, he/she becomes the focus of attention of the entire class. Any mistakes or incorrect answers become subject to scrutiny by the whole class. Slavin and Karweit (1981) are of a contrasting view that "when students work in a group, the focus of attention is diffused among the group. In addition, the group produces a product which its members can review prior to presenting it to the whole class, thus diminishing prospects that mistakes will occur at all. When a mistake is made, it becomes a teaching tool instead of a public criticism of an individual student".
Featherstone (1986) noted that "Students demonstrate more confidence and show high level of enthusiasm, curiosity and involvement in being taught through cooperative learning tasks. Also students are empowered to have the sense of being successful at each stage of their education." What makes it even more remarkable is that in cooperative learning teams, low achieving students who have low levels of performance and achievements have the opportunity to make contributions to a group and thus experience success. Nor is it all for students enjoy other benefits such as increasing their knowledge and understanding of ideas by sharing and explaining them to others. Students working with partners ask each other for help and improve their attitude towards work.
The study focuses on cooperative learning as a teaching strategies used by teachers and its effect on pupils' learning. It will adopt a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. The primary research of the study will be in the form of questionnaires and interviews.
Qualitative research will be used because it allows the subject being studied to give much 'richer' answers to questions put to them by the researcher, and may give valuable insights which might have been missed by any other method. It also provides valuable information to certain research questions in its own right. It also helps to study things in their natural setting, attempting to make sense of, or interpret the meanings people bring to them. Van Maneen (1983) defines qualitative method as an array of interpretive techniques method which seek to describe, decode, translate and otherwise come to terms with the meaning, not the frequency, of certain more or less naturally occurring phenomena in the social world.
The main reason for considering qualitative interviews is to be able to understand and clarify all doubt and ensure that the responses from staff are properly understood. Face-to-face interviews also allow more 'depth' investigation although it could also take a long period of time to arrange and conduct (www.marketresearcher.com ). Burgess (1982) describes face-to-face interviews as the means and opportunity for the researcher to probe deeply to uncover new clues, open up new dimensions of a problem and to secure vivid, accurate inclusive accounts that are based on personal experience.
The strength of a quantitative method is that it produces quantifiable reliable data that are usually generalised to some larger population. It focuses on numbers and frequencies rather than on meaning and experience. It also provides information which is easy to analyse statistically. Questionnaire survey was chosen as the best quantitative tool for this study.
A sample is defined as a subset or some part of a larger population (Westen, 1996). A population in this context can be classified as a group of people who share or have a common set of characteristics and who can conveniently be used for the purpose of this work. A sample size of 30 will be selected for this study. This will comprise 15 teachers, 5 heads of department and 10 students. The rationale for this sampling method is to generate the needed data for analysis and avoid the complexity of data, biased and subjective sample selection. The inclusion of the heads of departments and students in the study is to supplement, balance and produce an objective data of the real situation.
Data Collection Source
Data will be obtained through questionnaires given to teachers and students. Few teachers and heads of department will be interviewed to obtain information which will not be covered in the questionnaire. The study will rely mainly on primary data as the main source for analysis. The key point here is that the data collected is unique and until published, no one can have access to it. This will be gathered basically through the use of self-administered questionnaires, interviews of teachers, heads of department and students. A dairy will be kept to record relevant information.
A questionnaire may be defined as a group or sequence of questions designed to elicit information on a subject or a group of subjects from an informant (Casley and Lury, 1987). The questions will be a maximum of 12 to enable teachers, heads of department and students complete within a short period of time. Close ended questions will mainly be used because they are easy and quicker to answer.
The total number of interviewees will be 10 being 2 heads of departments and 8 teachers. They will be given the opportunity to discuss their views on cooperative learning, its effects on learning and the benefits. The interview will last for about 10 to 15 minutes. The following areas will form the subject of the interview questions:
The importance of cooperative learning.
Using cooperative learning in schools
The benefits of cooperative learning
The impact of cooperative learning on students learning.
One of the advantages of interviewing as a form of data collection is that it enables the interviewer to probe and ask follow up questions based on the response(s) of the interviewee. Secondly, there is the possibility of the interviewer being able to make meaning out of non-verbal communication medium such as facial expressions and gestures made by the interviewee in the course of the interview. It also eliminates the impersonal element of the questionnaire approach and allows for good rapport and personal interaction between the interviewer and the respondent. The interviews conducted will be used to complement the data collected from the questionnaires.
Data Handling and analysis
Data collected through processes such as questionnaires and interviews are described as raw (data) and can only be useful when it is transformed into the requisite information for which they were gathered, collected, analysed and reported. This is then checked for the necessary adjustments for omissions, legibility and consistency and subjected to computer aided analysis. This research adopted a combination of descriptive, analytical, comparative and percentages derived from quantitative analysis. Descriptive statistics and analytical methods will be used to present observe trends and facts, using tables and percentages. The performance of pupils thought using cooperative learning as a teaching strategy will be assessed and inferences drawn from them.
LIMITATION OF STUDY
The study will be limited to my second teaching practice school with more emphasis on the teachers, heads of department and students. Another limitation could be the chosen sample size, which might not be a fair representation of the total population of staff in that school. Again some staff might not be willing to share information, while other staff might not be able to complete the questionnaire or get the time to be interviewed because of the nature of their work.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Teachers are faced with a number of issues that concern ensuring that students achieve their outmost best in terms of achievement and higher-level reasoning. Cooperative learning is considered to be among the most important teaching strategies because of its effectiveness. The popularity and wide spread use of cooperative learning is its basis on a theory validated by a great deal of research.
Conclusions would be made based on the findings which will be analysed in consistency with the reviewed literature. Conclusions would also be drawn based on the findings and analysis made as to how feedback from the teachers and pupils questionnaires can be transformed into actionable daily tool for establishing the best teaching strategies that will bring about effective learning on the part of the students. Thereafter recommendations would be made considering the constraints of this study for policy makers and for future research work in this area. It is expected that the study when completed successfully will have a great impact on the professional development of teachers in terms of their teaching strategies and its effect on pupils learning. It is also expected that the outcome of this study will serve to enlighten teachers in their professionalism in matching their teaching strategies to the learning styles of pupils for the maximum benefit.
Generally it is expected that the following conclusions can be drawn with reference to the reviewed literature.
Students from different ethnic background build their confidence and make steady progress when they work in a team through the help they get from their peers. Cooperative learning methods are used as a strategy of progressing students' achievement to a greater level and to help maintain a consistent growth in a global world. Teachers who are keen on working with students from different ethnic background use this strategy to support them to excel academically. Cooperative learning technique raises students' attainment to a high standard so far as they are designed to reflect the culture and language of the students
Cooperative learning promotes mastery while passive acceptance of information from an outside expert often promotes a sense of helplessness and reliance upon others to attain concepts. In a typical classroom emphasizing teaching, there is little time for reflection and discussion of students' errors or misconceptions. With the Cooperative learning students are continuously discussing, debating and clarifying their understanding of the concepts.
Students spend more time working on a task in cooperative learning than when working individually. Most studies have found that cooperative learning students spend more time on task than control students (Slavin, 1995). Spending lots of time on a task increases students motivation and gives them confidence in themselves. Good confidence increases self-esteem. There is a relationship between self-esteem and motivation. Students who have positive self-esteem are easily motivated in class.
Cooperative learning enables students to think and reason well. As a result of this, students are able to keep any information learnt for a long time than students who work on their own (Johnson and Johnson 1986). Thus the shared learning experience gives students an opportunity to engage in discussion, take responsibility for their own learning (Totten et al., 1991) and as a result, become critical thinkers.
Cooperative learning has an added advantage of helping student not only to interact academically but also socially whereby they are highly motivated and encouraged to work together as a group. The cooperative learning as a teaching strategy has been found to be successful and effective with older students in as much as with younger.
Through cooperative learning a child in his or her early stages of learning develops a good and unquestioning attitudes for their mates, teachers and as well as school attendance with increased interest in school which leads to lots of academic successes. It also provides the platform where students in the group acquire and share ideas by learning each other's problem solving skills through the use of different languages.