Cooperation was chosen as an area of the curriculum as it is important for the social wellbeing of pupils and for the educational value that it offers. Working cooperatively in groups can increase students learning as opposed to when students learn independently (Cothran, et al., 2005). Johnston & Johnston (2008) state that ideally teachers should create lesson plans and then restructure them to be cooperative. Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups and students work together to maximise their own and everyone else in the groups learning. Cooperative learning can be included in every subject and is appropriate for every age, there are three types of cooperative learning – formal, informal and cooperative based groups (Johnson & Johnson, 2008).
Formal cooperative learning is where students work in a group for one lesson or a series of lessons, for formal cooperative learning to work effectively ...view middle of the document...
This is used to expand student knowledge and can also take the form of reciprocal teaching where students observe, summarise and offer feedback to a partner to allow them to fault correct and provide a deeper knowledge of the skill, activity, or game. The teacher’s role is to provide resources to keep the students on track and to observe the quality of feedback provided (Mosston & Ashworth , 2008).
Cooperative based groups usually last an entire term and have a stable membership, in other words the group consists of the same students every lesson (Jolliffe, 2007). This type of cooperative learning was not used in the series of gymnastics lessons as the timetable for gymnastics changed half way through term and because the aim of the lessons was to encourage the students to be social and increase their learning through a mixture of opinions and views. Therefore it was considered limiting to have the students in the same group every lesson; furthermore the mixture of abilities in each group could become a demotivating factor.
Benefits of cooperative learning
Research in cooperative learning has evidenced an overwhelming positive result (VCSMR & Rao, 2013). Cooperative learning leads to an increase in students’ academic achievement, an increase in self-esteem and self-concept, a higher level of reasoning, and greater transfer of learning between circumstances (Brown, 2009). Furthermore Brady and Tsay (2010) report students who take part in cooperative learning demonstrate collaborative behaviours and are able to provide constructive feedback (VCSMR & Rao, 2013).
Students have an individual range of potential growth known as the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) but Nyikos & Hashimoto (1997) suggested that in a cooperative learning environment there is a possibility of a group ZPD which may increase the individual ZPD of each student (Seymour & Osana, 2003).This is due to a larger variety of opinions and the students developing the skills to share ideas, consolidate and summarise ideas and then come to a group agreement (Nyikos & Hashimoto, 2011).