Teaching strategy refers to the technique that is used to assist students in learning their desired course syllabus and thus be able develop achievable goals. A teaching strategy identifies the various learning methods available enabling them to come up with right strategies to deal with the identified target groups. Assessing of the learning capabilities of students provides key pillars in developing successful teaching strategy.
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A reliable teaching strategy is also used in delivering information using various platforms such as classrooms, online and distance learning. An effective teaching strategy assists in activating the curiosity of students about a topic of their class, developing critical thinking skills, engaging students in learning process, keeping students on tasks, enabling and enhancing the learning of course syllabus and finally engendering sustaining and useful interaction in classroom. The main goal of a good teaching strategy is to facilitate process, motivate learning students, engage students in learning and help the students to focus on their studies.
Cooperative learning is a learning approach where group work is emphasized and minimizing the occurrence of unpleasant situations where students do not fully participate in the group or team work. There are several reasons as to why cooperative learning is always successful: this is because students learn more by doing things practically than when they are expected to simply sit and listen. Cooperative learning involves active participation for all members of the group unlike listening and watching teaching which involves cognitive psychologists and teachers.
Cooperative learning also enhances the art of learning in several ways, first of all for the weaker students in class who, when left to work on their own, give up easily when they get stuck along the way. On the other hand, cooperative learning will help the weak students keep trying and get motivated when they realize that they are not the only ones with difficulties. However, in some cases bright students complain about being held back by the weaker ones so they feel cooperative learning is not beneficial to them in any way. This essay will describe cooperative learning in different instructions (Drakeford, 2012).
There are different definitions of cooperative learning although the most widely used one concerning higher education is by David and Roger. According to the two cooperative learning models there is a set of instructions for students working as a team for them to accomplish a common goal. There are conditions that must be followed during the learning process and the following elements:
- Positive interdependence: this means that all team members are expected to rely on one another in order to achieve the set goals. If any member of the team does not perform their assigned role then the whole team suffers the consequences.
- Individual accountability: all group members are responsible for doing their share of the task and mastery of all the learning materials.
- Face to face interactions: although some group assignments may require to be done individually others need to be done interactively with each group member providing one another with feedback, the challenging situations and a conclusion after the end of the task (Jolliffe, 2013).
- Maximization of collaborative skills: all students in the group are encouraged to develop and practice leadership skills and conflict management skills in the group.
- Group processing: all team members must participate in goal setting and access what they are doing periodically and identify the challenges faced by each member in their assigned task for the group to function effectively in future tasks.
From the motivational perspective, cooperative learning focuses primarily on rewards or on a goal structure under which the learning students operate. There are three aspects related to cooperative learning. Cooperative aspect is where every individual goal-oriented efforts contribute to the goals attained in the group work. Competitiveis where every individual goal orientation efforts prevent others from achieving their goals. Finally there is the individual one where individual’s goal-oriented efforts do not have a connection with others and prevents them from achieving their goals.
It is important to note that learning is a process of solving problems. Learning is a dynamic and developmental situation that is situated in a social context and therefore it is important that “learners are interactive agents” that s why cooperative learning is the best model to use in promoting learning relationship among students. Students must interact with a person who is beyond their level of understanding to develop their current ideas (Koyalan, 2014).
What teachers are expected to do is to provide students with guidelines and provide them with an opportunity to work with their peers for them to realize their abilities and potential. From the perspective of motivational theories, students must be given the chance to engage in elaborative learning through cooperative learning and group discussions. The learner must be given room to cognitively rehearse and restructure what they have retained in their memories and so the most appropriate way to retain and restore information learnt is by engaging in cooperative learning environments.
Cooperative learning g helps learners to incorporate information and cognitive the science increasing their interaction abilities and helping them develop their thinking skills. Dialogues among students especially in groups help them explore and identify the different concepts of learning and learning in this aspect is achieved through conversations.
As a theoretical foundation to cooperative learning, motivational theories provide a series of recommendation to be used during cooperative learning. Some of the recommendations include:
1. Teaching using a whole and authentic mode
From this perspective, cooperative learning activities must be genuine and not artificial. For instance a cooperative learning activity with four students in a group shears the task equally, if the task given is to construct a sentence one member will tackle the verbs, the other person nouns, the other objects and the last one tackles the articles. This way all members in that group will have contributed to the construction of the sense equally. A whole authentic cooperative activity may involve learning of backgammon as an exercise to explore probability.
2. Create a “need” for tasks to be performed
For the teacher to increase motivation and bring a positive effect in the learning activity, they must make the students see the need for learning materials. Once the students are aware of the need for learning materials and what is expected of them, then they are set for the group activity and cooperative learning will be effective in such a situation.
3. Encourage self talk
Speaking about oneself will facilitate the internal organization of the group and problem solving. A quite classroom is not necessarily the best environment for earning activities. In most cases, teachers deny their students the opportunity to engage in self-tasks and that is why they are not able to perform tasks on their own. Teachers would leave students to make their own decisions as group and as individuals.
4. Provide the students with an opportunity to interact verbally
Language provides a platform in which ideas and behaviors become internalized. That is why a quite classroom is never a good environment for interaction and group work; languages are meant to serve many purposes in acquisition of knowledge and basic skills. It allows students to plan our own behaviors and understand our friend’s way of thinking and reasoning. Teachers should think of the new levels of sounds in their classroom as a new way to indicate that positive learning is taking place.
5. Students must be given the opportunity to demonstrate their learning skills from others
The major role of cooperative learning includes engaging every member in the group for them to acquire the knowledge and skills and to be able to perform an activity independently. For students to gain enough confidence, they must be given a chance to attempt an activity alone without help. Giving them, a task to complete individually will motivate them and will give the teacher a chance to master every student’s abilities and weaknesses.
All these concepts are applicable in different cooperative learning activities in different domains and in almost all classrooms. The main advantage of using cooperative learning as a learning strategy in the classroom is because it is flexible to almost all subject areas. These principles are supposed to provide a guide to a meaningful and educative learning experience.
Techniques in cooperative learning
The most popular techniques used in cooperative learning are Students-Team- Achievement Division (STAD). This technique consists of five major components that include presentation, teams, quizzes, individual scores, and finally team recognition. Class presentation involves introduction of questions in a discussion way although it also involves use of audio and visual presentations. Students in this learning are expected to pay attention carefully during class presentation and later do their quizzes afterwards for them to gain a good score for their teams. The second technique is team, in this technique the team members meet up to study the worksheets, discuss the project together, finally compare answers, and correct the wrong ones.
Groups are made up of four or five students; the major function of the team is to ensure that every member does their best in their task. In Quizzes students take individual tasks and they are not allowed to help each other, this ensures that every student participates in the task and becomes responsible for knowing the material. In individual improvement scores, student quiz scores are compared to the ones they have done before and when they record a progress then the whole team’s performance improves. Team recognition is recognized when student’s average scores exceed the set pass mark and teams are awarded certificates or other presents for performing well (Ferguson-Patrick, 2012).
Advantages of cooperative learning
- Cooperative learning models encourage diversity since students are able to work with different types of people. During the group interaction, students get the chance to reflect upon and get answers from fellow learners upon the raised questions. Small groups allow all members participate in the group work and add their perspectives to the issue based on their understanding and cultural differences. This exchange of ideas helps students improve their understanding of different cultures and point of views.
- Cooperative learning acknowledges individual differences. When an issue is brought up for discussion, different students will have different responses and each of them can help the group outcome with a wide range of perspectives.
- There is interpersonal development of skills; students learn how to relate with their peers as they work together as a team. This helps students who have difficulties in social skills and interacting with their peers helps them be more confident.
- Each member gets the opportunity to contribute to the group work and this keeps students actively engaged in the learning activity.
- Through cooperative learning students are able to learn self-discipline like waiting for their partners to talk first before they talk.
- The bright students get the ability to be experts and leaders while the lower ability students get the advantage of having the bright students in their group to help them improve.
- Cooperative learning has the potential of inventing more learning styles.