Should cooperative learning be used for all age groups?
Perhaps the question should be about how much co-operative learning should be used with all groups. For, there is no question that a certain co-operative learning experiences benefit all ages. The Office of Research of Consumer Guide reports:
Documented results include improved academic achievement, improved behavior and attendance, increased self-confidence and motivation, and increased liking of school and classmates.
Thus, for all age groups, the socialization and the direction from others are beneficial. Younger children seem to have learning results with all members in their group whereas with high school students, there are sometimes members of the group who already have social skills and are more independent workers, and are very bright and creative and easily capable of higher-level thinking on their own; therefore, they really do not benefit much from the co-operative venture. In fact, many of the more creative students, especially older ones, resent being made to work with others because they do more than their share, and some indolent students just want to benefit from the efforts of others without making any contribution of their own. Thus, creating an environment in which co-operative learning can occur is sometimes difficult for high school teachers.
Workshop model for teaching is one that has been popular for the past few years. The essence is that by using careful grouping strategies, students can benefit from one another. If you have general ed or special ed students, teachers will know the strengths and weaknesses each brings to the table. By grouping accordingly, students can all contribute to a project, problem, or lesson in some way, to make learning meaningful for all. Cooperative learning forces normally quiet students to contribute verbally and students can all learn from one another such skills as editing, speaking, debating, writing, etc. The only downside I experience in my classroom is that sometimes one or two students from the group do most of the work and two other students sit back. Therefore, the teacher must constantly walk around her room observing, and trying to direct the way the group is working with little prompts. Sometimes, assigning a different colored marker to each student in the group will highlight who is working and who needs to contribute more. Remember that cooperative learning is a model for what will happen in the workplace in the future where workers collaborate on projects, it is a way to practice skills and communicate as well.