Cooperative learning helps students be able to learn new concepts and skills together instead of independently. It exposes them to different family cultures, ethnicities, and racial differences to create fewer lines of polarization as children grow up. On the other hand, many cooperative learning programs also make an assumption that students already have fully developed social skills when they may have none. There are several key points to be considered when evaluating cooperative learning. Here is a look at some of the pros and cons.
The Pros of Cooperative Learning
1. It creates higher level thinking skills due to the need for skill recognition and the presence of empathy.
Students can’t know how to help each other unless they get to know one another. This forces them to begin using higher level thinking skills so they can recognized what gaps exist in their team and how those gaps can be solved. These skills are an integral part of what the vocational community requires when it comes to teamwork.
2. It creates new forms of individual responsibility.
Instead of working toward an individualized grade that may not be cared about, students in groups are forced to hold themselves accountable to the group so the best grade possible can be achieved. Equal participation becomes necessary for results to be achieved. There will always be students who rebel against such a system and refuse to participate, but cooperative learning makes it possible to quickly identify and work with such students.
3. It increases the level of personal participation in lessons.
In a classroom where there may be 20 students, it could easily take 45 minutes to get everyone to participate in a lesson individually. By creating a cooperative learning environment, however, each group can be called upon after a period of speaking with one another so that everyone participates without the same time constraints. Group answers are given that are based on all individual feedback so that every student has some say in the lesson.
4. It boosts self-esteem on various levels.
There are students who always feel left out, but cooperative learning gives them a chance to shine. Each strength and weakness must be considered and this creates a form of classroom equality that individualized learning doesn’t always provide. The end result is that students typically feel more accepted, develop leadership tendencies, and even work on their problem solving skills.
The Cons of Cooperative Learning
1. It creates a grading system which could be considered unfair.
In most cooperative learning programs, a grade is handed out to the entire group instead of to each individual involved. This means that a student’s grades is dependent on the individual with the weakest grasp of the subject materials. For those who have a good understanding of the subject and have done their best to help their group, a low grade seems very unfair and could create resentment that stops further learning.
2. It creates new systems of socialization structure that are not always beneficial.
In cooperative learning, the students soon learn who happens to be great at certain subjects and those who are not so great. The better students will scramble to be in each other’s groups to avoid grading issues, which creates a polarization line in the class. Over time, this may even encourage students to stop trying.
3. It places a teacher’s responsibility onto their students.
It isn’t the student’s job to teach their peers in subject materials. It is the teacher’s responsibility. In a system of cooperative learning, however, the teacher hands out the assignments and the students are forced to become teachers if they want to make sure a passing grade can be achieved.
4. It creates a system of dependency.
When there are others to rely upon for work to get done, a habit begins to develop in a student’s learning behaviors. They become dependent on others to help them achieve specific tasks. Unfortunately the vocational world doesn’t always operate this way. Students who are dependent on help become workers who are dependent on help and ultimately put today’s students into a disadvantageous situation as tomorrow’s workers.
The pros and cons of cooperative learning show that it can be a challenging system of education if it isn’t properly managed. It could also be the needed key to unlock the potential of today’s students. By evaluating these key points, a better decision can be made as to whether or not this system of learning should be adopted.