Understanding and coping with knowledge Gaps
Cooperative learning environments
Based upon the understanding that learning is a dynamic process, many educators create cooperative, team based organisational structures within which they can transfer their knowledge to students. The emphasis is on social interaction, group structure and methods by which group members combine and unite in the processes of creation, analysis and application. Fundamental to this approach is that there should be group managers or team leaders, with the teacher instigating and directing the activities.
Cooperative encouragement is based upon interpersonal factors and a joint aspiration to achieve a significant goal. It is assumed that cooperative efforts are powered by motivations to receive recognition or rewards. Focus is on relational concepts, dealing with what happens among individuals rather than what happens within them. The approach concentrates upon the organising of social interaction and relationships, usually involving prescribed behaviour at each step. Significantly, the concept of the structure is divorced from the actual activity, such that the same organisational structures can be applied to any task.
These organisational structures are then put into practice, by assigning groups of students to work as teams on various projects, allowing them to practice and refine their team-working skills. In this way, team member strengths can be fully utilised and weaknesses compensated for, as team members learn to complement each others skills and knowledge to create a combined unit that can achieve much more than the sum of its parts.
Cooperative learning methods concentrate on social skills; developing self-esteem, responsibility, and respect for others. It is concerned with social status and the management of conflict and the division of tasks into various roles. Leadership and management are defined and formalised.