Home Economics For Lower Secondary Classes Education Essay

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This chapter deals with literature concerning cooperative learning, more precisely with Jigsaw strategy. It focuses on the works of various researchers on cooperative learning and the various teaching strategies which need to be adopted in the teaching of the Home Economics topics. The literature behaves as a forward motion to the research objectives of the study. The information on several aspects on the subject and pedagogy together will support the results obtained through the cycles, thus giving a better outlook of the study and providing meaningful discussion of the research objectives.

Education is the medium to drive the individuals in a society which is civilized, dynamic and productive by aiming at the holistic development of the individual. A good knowledge and understanding of the Home Economics subject will surely help in achieving the aim of education. The paradigm shift from the lesson being teacher centred to learner centred one is facilitating the process of learning and teaching. Teacher, being a central part of the classroom, has his or her role changing from authoritative to a more of a facilitative one. The interaction among the students, the class environment and the teacher influence the academic achievement and interpersonal relationship.

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The environments in which the students are in contact every moment represent an active social systems where the students having a positive relationships eventually demonstrate a positive behaviours. A healthy and supportive teacher-students relationship can promote emotional competence and academic involvement in the classroom. (Brody et al., 2002).Bruner (1973) highlighted that active participation could be achieved by indulging students in constructive and critiquing work and this could eventually promote learning rather than just rote learning.

2.1. Home Economics for Lower secondary classes

According to the NCCRD Form 1 textbook (1996), the definition of Home Economics is as follows:

"Home Economics in its most comprehensive sense, is the study of laws, conditions, principles and ideals which are concerned on one hand, with man's immediate physical environment and on the other hand, with his nature as a social being, and is the study of the relation between these two factors."

(NCCRD /EOI Home economics Form 1, 1996)

Home Economics is a compulsory subject for girls in the lower secondary schools in Mauritius. Home Economics comprises of three main strands, being Human development and Family, Food and Nutrition and Design, Clothing and Textiles. Out of three strands, Food and Nutrition and Design, Clothing and Textiles are two main subjects that are further studied in upper classes. Therefore a basic knowledge acquired on several topics of Home Economics is certainly crucial in upper classes.

The aim of Home Economics is well related to lifelong living. These competencies enumerated include the ability to manage resources, ability to think critically and to work in groups and develop values and positive attitudes. It also promotes thinking skills for effective decision making and prepares students to be self learners. Therefore, the objective of Home Economics contributes towards the welfare of the society by shaping the individual to be responsible citizen with developed skills and therefore, the teaching strategies and the learning approaches used will help to achieve the different competencies. Since the target group of the study is Form 3 students, the objective of Home Economics is to become self learner with personal and social development. (MOEHR/EOI, 2009)

In addition to the above, the central focus of Home Economics lies on the self development of the child, thus providing a healthy and responsible society (Curriculum Corporation Australia, 1996). Therefore along with the understanding the content, Home Economics helps to achieve skills essential in the facing of real life situations. The research should not be only aiming at the academic achievement of the learner but also at developing the life long skills. Cooperative learning, to certain extent, helps to attain the aims and objectives of the subject.

Some Home Economics topics are not often understood by the students. The topics and their sub topics need to be elaborated in order to find out the level of difficulties, for example Healthy Eating, discussing the factors influencing the meal planning, is a well elaborated and discussion topic, which can be dealt through interaction and involving experiences. Therefore to cater for the needs of different pupils, teacher needs to be aware of the right time to use the variety of teaching strategies in the class.( Good & Brophy, 1997).It is thus, essential to devise teaching strategies to encourage students to learn the different topics of Home Economics.

2.2 learning theories

2.2.1 Behaviourist theory

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This theory from the B.F. Skinner who states that there needs to be an external factor for learning to take place. It focuses only on the objectively observable aspects of learning. It has not been catered to a greater extent since the approach was more teacher centred. In this theory, the students tend to be passive and no interaction occurs. The expository teaching implemented in the lesson along with the cooperative learning could help in explaining the technical terms. (Kyriacou C., 2001)

2.2.2 Constructivist theory

The constructivist approach emphasizes on the new ideas or concept based upon current and past knowledge or experience. It involves constructing one's knowledge from one's own experiences. (Glaserfeld,1989)

According to Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner, the social constructivist theory states that knowledge is created when the learner is involved socially in talk and activity about shared problems or tasks. This study on Jigsaw Strategy supports the social constructivist approach. The learners could freely explore within group activity. Moreover, the teacher acts as a facilitator to help the students to discover concepts and to acquire knowledge through clear understanding. The learners are able to build on the knowledge and actively participate in the learning process. The learners constantly review the previous understanding of a concept and use it for the acquisition of new knowledge, which demonstrates the process of scaffolding. (Meter & Stevens, 2000)

Hung et al. (2006) found that a constructivist approach concentrates on the active participation of the students and the involvement of the students generate knowledge in the teaching and learning process.

2.3 Cooperative learning

In today's world of education, teachers are surrounded with challenges which need to be dealt in a professional way, considering the pedagogical aspects as well as the students with differing levels of emotional and social maturity.

Cooperative learning comprises a set of instructional methods in which the students work in small, mixed ability learning groups. The students involved in the group are from high achievers ones to low achievers ones. The members of the group are responsible for the self learning and at the same time, helping their friend to learn (Slavin, 1986). Group work promotes cooperative learning where students work in small group to achieve an assigned task. (Cohen 1994). Sapon-Shevin (1994) added that cooperative learning is a peer centred pedagogy which promote academic achievement and positive social relationship

Barry and King (1998) highlighted that students working in groups, independent of the teacher, experience learning. The task structures involving cooperative learning in the different cycles could be very useful for the analysis.

2.3.1 Benefits of Cooperative learning

This teaching strategy involves learners working into groups and the teacher being there just as a catalyst to lead or guide the group. Barry et al (2002) highlighted that small group cooperative learning is this teaching strategy which promotes cognitive, psychomotor as well as social/personal student outcomes.

The benefits of small group learning are numerous and these have helped to improve the teaching and learning process in the class. According to Barry and King (2000), the benefits can be summarized as cognitive, social, personal and equity ones.

2.3.1.1 Cognitive advantages

Meaningful learning is not acquired by treating the mind like an empty pot to be filled. Instead small group cooperative learning has proven to promote thinking skills and better communication skill thus contributes towards better and meaningful learning. Problem solving tasks as well as discovery learning assignment used in the small groups have resulted in higher order thinking and creative thinking. The students develop the ability to identify and clarify their own thinking as well as to defend and justify their own belief. Confidence in sharing alternate ideas and points, criticizing, questioning, clarifying doubts, accepting, decision making, listening is also reflected in the group learning. (Barry et al, 2000)

Furthermore along with communication skills, non verbal communication skills are also improved. Anomity and passivity of quiet students associated in large groups are overcome as they get the opportunity to speak and have a word in the groups. Johnson et al. (1994) stated that group setting encloses discovery experiences and use of higher level reasoning strategies. Further research carried out by Cotrell (2001) concluded that the cooperative group helps the group members to decide, solve problems as well as to reason and critically evaluate the contributions of others. Deep rather than surfaced learning is encouraged.

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According to Johnson and Johnson (1994) and (1999), achievement and productivity are greater when pupils learn cooperatively than when they compete or work alone. They also reported that positive achievement outcomes are most likely to occur when conditions of positive interdependence and individual accountability are ensured. Similar finding has been made by Webb et al. (1995) where students are better engaged in discussion, elaboration and criticizing in group work together with better cognitive understanding due to the interaction between students.

Webb (1989) also found that when a student explains something to his peer, knowledge transmission is better than when learning is done alone. For Mergendollar and Packer (1989), improved language skills and gain in knowledge has been the main conclusion in their study. The finding is equally supported by Lyman and Foyle (1988) who affirmed that cooperative learning is a method which promotes academic achievement and the implementation is much cheaper.

2.3.1.2 Social goals

According to Barry and King (2000), participating in the small group cooperative learning can promote social skills. Cooperating with others and interacting constructively with others are among the social skills recognized in group work. Assistance given to others as well as asking help from other students also fall under the same category.

Other social skills also make their appearance in group setting for instance tolerating others, learning to work in group, group decision making and team spirit. Social research has demonstrated that when people work together for group goals, there are a number of desirable effects on people feeling for one another. Friendly and trustworthy relationships are more likely to occur when people are engaged together in cooperative tasks. (Deutsch, 1968)

Brandt (1987) also mentioned that the use of cooperative learning in a lesson can result in more positive peer relationship, better social skills and higher level of self esteem. It builds cooperative skills, such as communication, interaction, cooperative planning, sharing ideas and listening.( Sharan and Sharan, 1987)

Teds (1996) highlighted that by adopting appropriate structuring of the small group works, the students are able to develop and practice skills like leadership, decision making, trust building, communication and conflict-management.

Gillies et al (2007) found that when high school students worked together in groups, they were more likely to listen to each other, ask for clarity, exchange ideas and provide assistance to others. In other words, this shows that when the students feel that they are part of a group, they give better contribution to the group. This finding was equally tallied with Gibbs (1995).

2.3.1.3 Personal advantages

Cooperative learning has a marked impact in the students' life as it does not only improve the academic skills but also bring personal advantages. Barry and King (2000) pointed out that the self esteem; self confidence, self understanding and self worth especially for low achievers are acquired through group working which would have been impossible through the traditional method of teaching. However, the personal advantages have a direct link with the motivational aspects. The greater contribution and involvement of the students in the task as well as the willingness and interest in the group always rise up the motivational level, being either intrinsic or extrinsic.

Webb (1989) also reported that confidence is attained throughout the group work as they are not under the pressure of the teacher, being constantly watched. This view is equally supported by Johnson, Johnson & Holubec (1994) which pointed out that motivational level together with the confidence level increases with constant exposure to cooperative learning.

2.3.1.4 Equity advantage

Students from different ethnic group can also form part of the tasks and share experiences, skills and ideas which will lead to academic as well as social achievement. The learning experience can shape the work life of the students by preparing them for realities and diversity of workplace, thus by familiarizing them with people of diverse background, cultures and approaches. As stated by Davis ( 2007) through group work, the individual and the ethnic community both can be enriched and restored legitimately, thus group work can continue to participate in the development of a more just society.

2.3.2 Pitfalls of cooperative learning

Along with the benefits, the cooperative learning has been found to possess some shortcomings.

Table 2.1: Shortcomings of cooperative learning

Research conducted

Drawbacks of Cooperative learning

Me Caslin & Good (1996)

High dependency on peers for learning.

Much recognition given to product more than process as they are more eager of completing the work than understanding the work

Socialisation in groups may dominate the learning

Slavin (1990)

No guaranteed success as some students may resist using cooperative learning in their classroom as they are not accustomed to working in a group and therefore may be unsure of the dynamics involved in group work.

Johnson & Johnson (1988)

Dominance observed in groups

Slavin (1996);

Johnson et al (1994)

Brush(1997)

Unequal share of work can be seen where one member does maximum work and the other one

Low ability learners usually are not at ease in their groups or see that the task is too difficult, feel disinterested and demotivated and are just passive spectators.

Robinson (1996, quoted in Arends p.361)

"Intellectually gifted students do not necessarily benefit from working in mixed ability groups as they are held back by low achievers. Sometimes, high achievers do perceive low achievers as a burden and express their growing frustration with the amount of time allocated in explaining to low achievers difficult parts of the task."

Cohen (1994)

Noise level tends to be very high as the various groups are discussing This may affect those students who have attention difficulties. and arguing

2.4 Jigsaw Strategy as small group cooperative learning

According to Aronson et al (1975, pg 45), stated that;

"Jigsaw is a cooperative learning strategy that enables each student of a "home" group to specialize in one aspect of a learning unit. Students meet with members from other groups who are assigned the same aspect, and after mastering the material, return to the "home" group and teach the material to their group members."

"Each member of a group has a piece of information needed to complete a group task" (Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, 1998)

The jigsaw technique was invented by Elliot Aronson in 1971 with his students at the University of Texas and the University of California. It has been seen that many schools have used this technique with positive responses and proven to reduce the impact on racial conflict among school children. There has also been evidence of positive educational outcomes and motivation among the student towards learning, thus encouraging enjoyment. A number of research have been carried out by researchers and teachers in classes of different levels and subjects (Aronson, Blaney, Stephin, Sikes & Snapp, 1978; Bafile, 2008; Hedeen, 2003; Holliday,2002; Joe, 2008; Johnson & Johnson, 1995; Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1991; Slavin, 1983 ,quoted in Qiao et al 2010)

2.4.1 Types of jigsaw strategy

Some modifications were made in the technique due to various experiments carried out by researchers. Besides Jigsaw I, others were developed although the assembling techniques were same. For the present study, the Jigsaw I strategy by Aronson was implemented since it was more advantageous than others in developing of social skills. There are in all six types of Jigsaw strategy that can be implemented in class by teachers which are as follows.

Table 2.1: Types of Jigsaw Strategy ( Sedat, 2011)

(a)  Jigsaw I developed by Aronson (1978);

(b) Jig-saw II developed by Slavin (1987);

(c) Jigsaw III developed by Stahl (1994).

The differences between Jigsaw I and Jigsaw II is that the team competition is much lowered in Jigsaw II

(d) Jigsaw IV was developed by Holliday (2000).

(e) Reverse Jig-saw technique by Hedeen (2003) and

(f) Subject Jigsaw technique developed by DoymuÅŸ (2007)

The Jigsaw IV is where the students undergo an assessment like quizzes or checking correct learning in the expert group and home group. There is also emphasis on reteaching the missing part in the subject at the last part

2.4.2 Principles of Jigsaw strategy

To be able to apply the Jigsaw strategy effectively, certain rules need to be followed and Johnson, Johnson and Holubec (1993) pointed out five important principles for jigsaw strategy:

2.4.2.1. Positive interdependence

Like a jigsaw puzzle, each part is important for the completion of the jigsaw. Similarly the presence and the effort of each member of the group is equally imperative for the group success. Each group member has to make unique contributions to the joint effort.

2.4.2.2. Face-to-face promotive interaction

Each group member has various responsibilities of communicating. Each one needs to orally explain how to solve problems and link present learning with past one. Imparting knowledge to others, discussing concepts being learned and even checking understanding are the concern of by each member.

2.4.2.3. Individual and group accountability

Individual accountability is greater when the group size is kept small.

To assess the learning outcome of the topic set, the researcher being the teacher should randomly carry out the following tasks:

ask one student to present his or her group's work orally to the teacher (in the presence of the group) or to the entire class,

observe each group and record the frequency with which each member contributes to the group's work,

appoint one student in each group as the leader, who is responsible for asking other group members to explain the rationale underlying the group answers, and

Monitor students to teach what they have learned to the others.

2.4.2.4. Interpersonal skills

The essence of the Jigsaw strategy lies in the emphasis on the social skills which include leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication, conflict-management skills, creative and critical thinking skills.

2.4.2.5. Group processing

The group members evaluate their work by:

Discussing how well they are achieving their goals.

Maintaining effective working relationships.

Describing which member actions are helpful.

Making decisions about which behaviours to continue or change.

2.4.3 Steps of implementation of Jigsaw I technique (Aronson 1978)

The class is divided into 5- or 6-person jigsaw group which are called the home groups. The groups should be diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, and ability.

One student from each group is appointed as the leader. Initially, this person should be the most mature student in the group.

The topic is divided into 5-6 segments.

Each student is assigned one segment to learn, making sure students have direct access only to their own segment.

Time is given to the students to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it. There is no need for them to memorize it.

Temporary "expert groups" are formed by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the same segment.

The students in these expert groups are given ample time to discuss the main points of their segment and to rehearse the presentations they will make to their jigsaw group. 

After discussing the segments, the students return to their home groups.

Each student is asked to present their work to the home group each one at a time. Other members of the group are encouraged to ask questions for clarification.

The teacher, acting as observer, floats from group to group, observing the process. If any group is having trouble (e.g., a member is dominating or disruptive), appropriate intervention is made. It is best for the group leaders to handle the problem arising in the group

At the end of the session, for summative evaluation, an assessment in the form of quiz or test can be given

Figure 2.1: Steps for implementing Jigsaw Strategy as cooperative learning (Aronson, 1978)

2.5 Teacher's Role in the Jigsaw

Although the students work in the group and they are responsible of their own learning, still the teachers' presence in the class is also of great importance. The teacher organises practice and communicative activities and scan the whole class to try helping students get control of their task and helping them to become actively involved. "The primary role of the teacher is to choose learning material, structure the groups, explain the cooperative nature of group work, provide an environment conducive for this type of work, monitor group work and assist students in working with the material." (Qiao et al 2010)

2.6 Motivation factor in Jigsaw Strategy

Motivating students about their work can help in the success of the Jigsaw strategy and therefore improve learning. It has been noted that the remarks that teachers gave on activities has positively influenced the students in term of interest and attention. Detailed explanation about the Jigsaw technique and its benefits and their implementation arouses interest in the students and leads to a better participation. In the research conducted by Qiao M et al (2010), it has been observed that if the students were complimented or applauded about their work, the students gained a greater sense of satisfaction, self esteem and self confidence. This implies that if the students are satisfied and confident of their work, intrinsic motivation can be achieved.

2.7 Benefits of adopting the Jigsaw strategy

In addition to the advantages stated in the Small group cooperative learning, Jigsaw strategy is also responsible for increasing students' learning and student's participation. "Competition among students is reduced considerably together with a decrease effect of dominance of the teacher in the classroom."(Longman Dictionary, 1998).

The lack of enthusiasm among the students can be significantly decreased as there is an active learner-centered atmosphere which prevails when Jigsaw strategy is adopted. The jigsaw process encourages listening, engagement, and empathy by giving each member of the group an essential part to play in the academic activity.

"When designed well, these tasks are challenging and engaging, and my students enjoy wrapping their minds around a problem. Since they are working in groups, no kids have to sink or swim on their own; they have the help of their peers" (Bafile, 2008).

Group members must work together as a team, thus developing team work and social skills in order to accomplish a common goal. This "cooperation by design" facilitates interaction among all students in the class, leading them to value each other as contributors to their common task. Jigsaw learning allows students to be introduced to new material and yet maintain a high level of personal responsibility. (Qiao M et al 2010)

Research conducted on "Effectiveness of cooperative learning (jigsaw II) method in teaching English as a foreign language" to engineering students in the University of Turkey( Gömleksi Z,2007). It revealed that the cooperative learning experience had a significant positive effect on engineering students' attitudes towards learning English and promoted better interactions among students as well. This research is beneficial for not only practical subject by also language subject.

The benefits of Jigsaw strategy obtained in the research by Qiao et al (2010)can be summarised as follows:

Students are eager participants in the learning process

Students are responsible for the work and achievement while being held accountable by their peers;

Students have more chance to appreciate differences and share experiences through individual participation and instruction;

The jigsaw classroom stimulates students motivation and increases enjoyment of the learning experience and

It promotes a great deal of negotiation for meaning;

The jigsaw classroom reduces students' reluctance and anxiety to participate in the classroom activities while increasing self-esteem and self-confidence;

2.8 Drawbacks of the Jigsaw strategy

Along with the positive points of adopting Jigsaw Strategy in the classroom, some problems found by Qiao (2010), may arise which are as follows.

2.8.1 Dominant Student

Dominance can be a factor which could be detrimental to the proper functioning of the group. To alleviate the problem, selecting a group leader in a session on a rotating basis can be useful. The responsibility of the leader is to address to the group members in a fair manner and ensure equal participation when the students are allowed to present their own work. Consequently, the effectiveness prevailing in the group is increased. The self interest of the group eventually reduces the problem of dominance.

2.8.2. The Problem of the Slow Student

At times, there may be presence of learners who are slow in grasping knowledge. This problem can be a problem in the completion of the jigsaw that is because of less contribution by the slow learner, the topic could be incomplete and the other students of the same home group will not get the essential information.

To alleviate the problem, the expert groups are carefully monitored. It is the responsibility of each student from the expert group to prepare a report on their segment before proceeding to their home group. The students will have to discuss the report together and modify accordingly. The teacher can intervene in the expert group to monitor the report accuracy and relevancy.

2.8.3. The Problem of Bright Students Becoming Bored

The following statement have been quoted to from the research carried by Qiao (2010),

"Boredom can be a problem in any classroom, regardless of the learning technique being used. Research suggests, however, that there is less boredom in jigsaw classrooms than in traditional classrooms." In other words, the level of a student being bored in the Jigsaw strategy is less compared to the traditional teaching methods.

Those who are high achievers tend to get bored, but the prevalence is high in traditional talk and chalk techniques. In Jigsaw Technique the students will be less bored since they are going to be each member teacher. Being in the position of the teacher can make the learning experience exciting and challenging.

2.9. Researches carried out using Jigsaw cooperative learning technique

Table 2.2: Outcomes of studies carried out by several researchers (quoted in Anon, 2011)

Researchers

Findings

Aronson( 1990)

Reduce the divisions between students.

Less prejudice and negative stereotyping.

More self-confident and liked school better.

Less absenteeism.

High academic performance.

Blaney, Stephan, Rosenfield, Aronson, and Sikes (1977)

Increase level of self-esteem.

Low competitiveness for students.

Feeling for easy learning especially for low achievers and shy students.

Increase liking of their group members.

Hanze and Berger (2007)

Higher achievement scores.

More socially related to other students.

More autonomous.

More competent.

Stronger intrinsic motivation.

Greater interest in the topic.

More cognitive activation and involvement.

Perkins and Saris (2001)

Being very positive especially as an alternative learning experience.

More useful for practical purposes then for interpersonal purposes such as working with others, giving help, or getting help.

Saves time

Walker and Crogan (1988)

An improvement seen in academic performance.

Increase in self-esteem.

Increased their ratings in working with peers.

Enhanced liking of ingroup and outgroup peers in work-orientated relationships.

Producing positive change in academic performance, attitudes to peers.

Assessment approaches

The regular assessment of learners' progress is part of teaching and learning in the class. The main purpose of assessment is to value students' performance. The assessment approaches are used to measure whether the cooperative group tasks have been successful in achieving the objectives of the lesson and most importantly, foster an understanding in the students.

Table 2.3: Description of different assessment approaches

Assessment approaches

Description

Placement assessment

This form of assessment is used at the beginning of any new topic in order to find out what learners know about the topic to be delivered. It is to be acquainted with the previous experience of the learner on the specific topic. This helps the teacher to plan the activities and to start from known to unknown.( Kyriacou, 2001)

Formative assessment

Through the lesson, formative assessment is used to monitor and support learning. This is a way to know how the students are doing during the learning activities and obtain feedback on the work carried out and modified if necessary so that teaching and learning takes place effectively. This form of assessment helps also the teacher to identify errors, difficulties or short comings in the pupils' work and advice where appropriate in order to improve the learner performance. If the learner has not understood the activity, then the teacher diagnoses the cause and find solutions.(Suzanne C, et al. 2001)

Diagnostic assessment

Formative and diagnostic approaches are the assessments which complement each other. Diagnostic approach identifies the learning difficulties encountered by the learner and provide enrichment or remediation to the problems. At the start of the lesson, the questions set are to diagnose the previous learning of the students, so that the lesson can be further carried out. During the individual class work given, it also demonstrates diagnostic assessment, as any part not understood by the learner would be immediately cleared. The teacher has also the responsibility to walk around the class during the learning activities in order to help those getting difficulties with and provide appropriate remedial help and guidance. ( Sutton,1991)

Summative assessment

Work exercises in factsheets given at the end of the lesson, can be considered as summative assessment. It is a form of feedback and feed forward for learners, their parents and educators. It is also a way to be aware if the learning outcomes of the lesson have been attained. The class test also helps the teacher to know whether the learning objectives of the lesson have been attained or not.( Kyriacou, 2001)

Norm- referenced assessment

The norm referenced grading is about comparing one student's performance to another student's.. The class test carried by the students can be used to evaluate against other students (Suzanne C, et al. 2001)