by Eva Iversen, Copenhagen, 25.09.2010

Cooperative learning
brings democracy in the classrooom

What does cooperative learning mean?

You can say that COOPERATIVE LEARNING was invented by Dr. Spencer Kagan from California. In the sixties he and his team were studying how kids interacted when they were playing together. Which elements made the kids cooperate and which elements had the opposite effect. From their studies here Dr. Spencer Kagan and his team developed a new way of teaching, COOPERATIVE LEARNING.

Since 1990 many teachers in the USA have started practising this new method called, COOP.LEARNING. The method works both in the kindergarten as well as in the high school.

The idea behind COOP.LEARNING is that each and every pupil in a class is active during a lesson the whole time! No pupil is left/forgotten behind sitting inactive during lessons.

But how does a teacher fullfill such aims in a class-room with perhaps 28 pupils?

Well, the teacher makes the pupils work in teams.

In each team there are 4 pupils. It is essential that the teacher forms the teams. Each team consists of a weak pupil, two pupils from the middle group and a bright pupil.

If possible two girls and two boys in a group, but it is certainly not a must. The four pupils must be seated like this, the weak pupil at the same desk as the middle one, the bright one at the same desk as the other middle pupil, and the weak pupil must be facing the middle pupil, and the bright one must be facing the other middle one.

If the number of pupils in a class is not divisible by four, you may put five pupils in some of the teams.

How does the teacher teach in cooperative learning?

A. The teacher sets a task.

B. Individual time for each pupil to consider how to solve the problem.

C. Dialogue with your neighbour, where you try to solve the problem. Discussion in the team in order to solve the problem.

The teamís solution to the problem is introduced to the whole class.

In this way each pupil in a class is active during the whole lesson. No pupil must sit inactive waiting until the teacher has got time for her/him. Every pupil is in a dialogue, gets sparring and has feedback in each lesson. Thatís why no one is getting bored and therefore starting making noise or disturbing the others.  

The pupils also become more responsible towards each other and towards the teaching going on.

This way of teaching brings democracy into the class-room.

Normally the teacher will form new teams after six weeks or so. It depends on the group of pupils you are teaching.

Class-room rules

This teaching may cause a lot of noise in a class-room. Therefore you need some rules.

We have a special sign for silence. The teacher puts up his hand, when he wants attention from his pupils, and when the pupils see his hand they also put up their hands and they stop talking or writing. It only takes a few seconds before the class is silent.

We also teach the pupils to use long and short voices, which means, you talk with a short voice when speaking to your neighbour, but you use a long voice when speaking to the whole class.

In this way the pupils learn how to control the noise in their class-room.