Monday, March 23, 2009

Cooperative learning?

Today's educators credit cooperative learning with teaching children the virtues of team work, and with exposing them to diverse ways to solve problems.

I got a slightly different take on cooperative learning from my daughter this past weekend. She told me that she received a "1" (the lowest possible grade on the 1-4 scale) because her partner kept erasing her correct answers and replacing them with his incorrect answers.

I'm curious what this experience has taught my daughter about the virtues of team work, and about diverse ways to solve problems.

Do the benefits of mandatory cooperative learning really outweigh the costs? Or is "mandatory cooperative learning" an oxymoron in more ways than one?

9 comments:

Obi-Wandreas, The Funky Viking said...

This has indeed been a very valuable teaching experience for your daughter. She has learned several crucial life lessons, including:

1) Who you can, and can't trust

2) What happens when responsibility for your success is placed in hands other than your own, and you sacrifice your individuality for a group

3) The difference between theory and practice

4) How not to run a lesson.

lefty said...

It reminds me of other life lessons one learns at school: e.g., that some times you have to get the job done, no matter how silly it seems, to make your superiors happy--and do so without rolling your eyes.

Lori said...

Any time I have used cooperative learning and grading was involved (very rare), I always had the students in the group evaluate each other. So each child would have an opportunity to share, with me, how things really went in the group. This supplemented my own observations. I am wondering where the teacher was during this particular lesson. If we are trying to teach these kinds of skills, the teacher must be hands on with the groups. I can't imagine how frustrated your daughter must feel now!

VickyS said...

My son had a similar experience. In 5th grade math they did a lot of cooperative work, and this particular day he was appointed to give the group's answer. They haggled over the answer, and the kids insisted a wrong answer was right. My son knew the right answer so he stood up and reported the right answer. He was given a poor grade because he did not present the group answer. When challenged, the teacher said my son failed to convince the group of the rightness of his answer, so failed in that way as well.

Obi-Wandreas, The Funky Viking said...

Yet another reason why I hate group "learning." It's the teacher's job to teach the kids, not the other students.

lefty said...

Great story, Vicky! Makes me think that "guide on the side" is a lot less idiot-proof than "sage on the stage". How ironic!

lgm said...

I have to agree with Obi-Wandreas. The experience in cooperative learning for my children has resulted in exposing all the Eddie Haskells in the grade. That's great info to have before high schoool and the need for study groups.

Mills said...

Where do you hear about "mandatory cooperative learning?" I'd be curious to know the link or citation. Thanks.

lefty said...

My references for mandatory cooperative learning are my children's classrooms. I once asked a teacher about giving children the option not to work in groups. She said she didn't think that was a good idea.