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by David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson and Edythe Johnson Holubec
Table of Contents
Cooperative learning is part of a broader paradigm shift occurring in teaching. Figure 11.1 presents the essential elements of this paradigm shift (Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec 1992; Johnson, Johnson, and Smith 1991).
Transferred from Faculty to Students
Jointly Constructed by Students and Faculty
Passive Vessels to be Filled by Faculty's Knowledge
Active Constructor, Discoverer, Transformer of Knowledge
Classify and Sort Students
Develop Students' Competencies and Talents
Impersonal Relationship Among Students and Between Faculty and Students
Personal Transaction Among Students and Between Faculty and Students
Cooperative Learning in Classroom and Cooperative Teams Among Faculty and Administrators
Assumption About Teaching
Any Expert Can Teach
Teaching Is Complex and Requires Considerable Training
Ways of Knowing
Mode of Learning
Diversity and Personal Esteem/Cultural Diversity and Commonality
Source: D.W. Johnson, and K. Smith. (1991). Active Learning. Edina, Minn.: Interaction Book Company.
The old paradigm of teaching is based on John Locke's assumption that the untrained student mind is like a blank sheet of paper waiting for the instructor to write on it. Because of this and other assumptions, educators have often thought of teaching in terms of several principal activities:
Thus, the old paradigm is to transfer teachers' knowledge to passive students so teachers can classify and sort students in a norm-referenced way through competition. Many teachers consider the old paradigm the only possibility. Lecturing while requiring students to be passive, silent, isolated, and in competition with each other seems the only way to teach. The old paradigm is carried forward by sheer momentum, while almost everyone persists in the hollow pretense that all is well. But all is not well.
Teaching is changing. The old paradigm is being dropped for a new paradigm based on theory and research with clear applications to instruction. Educators must now think of teaching in terms of several different principal activities.
These activities can take place only within a cooperative context. When students interact within a competitive context, communication is minimized, misleading and false information is often communicated, assistance is viewed as cheating, and classmates and faculty tend to dislike and distrust each other. Competitive and individualistic learning situations, therefore, discourage active construction of knowledge and the development of talent by isolating students and creating negative relationships among classmates and teachers.
Classmates and teachers need to be seen as collaborators rather than as obstacles to students' own academic and personal success. Teachers, therefore, must structure learning situations so that students work together to maximize each other's achievement. Administrators, likewise, must create a cooperative, team-based organizational structure within which faculty work together to ensure each other's success (Johnson and Johnson 1989b).
Teaching is a complex application of theory and research that requires considerable teacher training and continuous refinement of skills and procedures. Becoming a good teacher takes at least one lifetime of continuous effort. Cooperative learning provides the means of operationalizing the new paradigm of teaching and provides the context that encourages the development of student talent. It's an important part of changing the passive and impersonal character of many classrooms. It ensures that students are cognitively, physically, emotionally, and psychologically involved in constructing their own knowledge and succeeding in school and life.
In The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett states: “Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.” Schools should tend roses. They can do so by creating a learning community characterized by cooperative efforts to achieve meaningful goals. In a recent review of research, Lisbeth Schorr concludes that caring is the most important attribute of effective schools. Education historians David Tyack and Elizabeth Hansot conclude that the theme running through all successful schools is that students, teachers, administrators, and parents share a sense of community and a “socially integrating sense of purpose.”
A community is a limited number of people who share common goals and a common culture. The smaller the size of the community, the more personal the relationships, and the greater the personal accountability. Within communities, everyone knows everyone else. Relationships are long-term rather than temporary encounters. In learning communities instruction becomes personalized. Students are thought of as citizens, while teachers are thought of as community leaders. Thus, the learning community becomes an extended family where mutual achievement and caring for one another are important. With citizenship in such a community comes an ethical code that includes rules about students being prepared for classes each day, paying attention in class, being their personal best, and respecting other people and their property. Cooperative teams help create such learning communities.
Having read this book, you are now at a new beginning. Years of experience using cooperative learning are needed to gain the needed expertise. You will gain this expertise by implementing cooperative learning and helping others do so by being a contributing member of a collegial team, thus establishing a true learning community of scholars for both your students and yourself.
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