As a further note to Dr. Lawson’s comment on teachers subverting a cumbersome educational system to create amazing teaching, I just came across an article on Personal Learning Network about the distinction between collaborative learning and cooperative learning. The author defines Cooperative Learning as an “educational approach that emphasizes teacher involvement in setting goals and determining activities,” as opposed to more open and general collaborative learning as “the passing of more control of learning to the students.”
Its doesn’t take a Ministry of Education to spot a logical progression here. When I took over the English Dpt. in 2007, my underlying intention was to empower my students to take over their learning process. Implementing the quite rigid model of structural Cooperative Learning was the best I could come up with, as it provided a much needed firm support for students collaborating on both subject matter and social skills while giving me a potentially tight control of form, time and content. Completely free reign was not an option; aside from the fact that the Danish equivalent of Ofsted, the school administration and the parents would have cooperated and collaborated to have me fired, it would not have benefited my students at all, quite the contrary.
So in the bigger picture, structural cooperative learning should be used to teach students not just subjects and social skills, but forms of working together and communicating, which they gradually choose how to implement as they become more and more adept. A sample conversation in a given team would then be “Ok, we’ve got to present our take on this poem, let’s do a Think-Pair-Share on it and take it from there, what do you say?” – “I disagree; it’s better to use a Team Interview, as Bob and I get a lot from questioning in our thinking processes.” – “Alright, I’m fine with that, what about you Alice…?” etc.
Whether on-line or off-line, successful collaboration between independent and self-reliant individuals who can bring something to the table is a crucial future skill. As powerful as Cooperative Learning is in achieving day-to-day teaching aims, it should be seen as a means to that end. And if government wants the country to remain competitive, it should support its teachers in this.