Some reflections on Cooperative Learning in the UK
Thanks to the engagement of a very heterogenous group of participants, we had a successful event at the IoE and very positive feedback from RE teachers who were out to make a difference.
However, my joy at the awareness that “Islam in RE” is now ready for national roll-out in September was somewhat dampened in a certain large and well-renowned bookstore just down the road from the IoE main entrance.
Confident that I could saunter into this literary (and stylish) equivalent of a Virgin Megastore and browse a wealth of books on the top floor devoted exclusively to education, I asked to be pointed to the shelf dedicated to the didactic method called Cooperative Learning. “What? What did you call it Didactic…?” After a bit of waffling about, we got the spelling right. “No, we don’t have anything on that topic.”
I gazed hopefully down the series of linked rooms with 100.000+ books on education and proposed looking up “collaborative” learning. More typing. “Ah – here it is!” I got ready to follow the lady to the relevant section of shelves and prepare to sit down in one of those comfy leather chairs scattered about flanked by a large handpicked stack , skimming and scanning as if picking out so much candy. Maybe even an original copy of Slavins 1990 classic “Cooperative Learning: Theory, Research, and Practice“…?
No such luck – “Here it is” was literally “Here it is” – It being this book, whipped out from a pile stashed under the counter:
Whether this 366 page tome of statistical evidence and reflections on various schools of thought is a good book is not the issue here.*
My point is that if I can’t find a single book on Cooperative Learning as a distinct didactic method a stone’s throw from an institution whose main entrance flies banners boasting its new status as the world’s leading university for education… well, it was a bit of a rude awakening, actually.
But, looking at the bright side: This is a splendidly isolated virgin island; with some really excellent teachers looking for tools to reboot the system. Maybe things are not so bad.
More on the course later, lesson plans to participants en route later in the week.
* Collaborative Learning in Mathematics: A Challenge to Our Beliefs and Practices is definitely on my reading list; worth commenting more on this in a later post. Stay updated on twitter.