Friday, September 23, 2011

Experiential Education - My Reflections

In my context, Cooperative learning is my most preferred form of teaching. The five tenets of Cooperative learning as outlined in the handbook are:
 Personal interdependence,
 Individual accountability,
 Group processing,
 Social skills and
 Face – to – face interactions

Teaching hands-on practical courses like Computer Application packages, it is really important that the students work together on the learning activities, sharing ideas and skills. In my classes, students work in groups of threes and above, and this has many advantages for the learning/teaching process.

Students’ capabilities for absorbing/processing information during learning activities vary from person to person. Some are fast learners who can absorb, process, and understand immediately, while some others need a longer time to achieve understanding. By working in groups, they are able to help one another along. This fosters a spirit of unity and cooperation among the students who in some cases come from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds. While guiding the students to acquire Computer skills is our main task,

In working in groups, the students learn to take responsibility both individually and collectively. Each member learns the value of contributing to the success of his/her group in their tasks. The sense of shared responsibility makes them learn the need for everyone to contribute his best to ensure the group as a whole achieves success. (In some instances, especially when an assignment has to do with souring for information, I request that each group member’s individual written contribution be submitted together with the final copy of the group assignment).

Combining a Cooperative learning method with a Thematic approach to curriculum implementation, I am also able to effectively integrate various important social issues into our learning activities requiring students to collectively source for information, brainstorm over their findings, and finally extract valuable knowledge which, while being used in acquiring Computer skills, also raises their awareness on societal issues.

In forming topics for group work, I try my best to ensure there are components that every member of the group will have an opportunity to contribute to, based on their individual intelligences. It may sometimes require subtle comments during groups asking for certain components to be included. E.g. If the task requires a written submission, I may ask that the front page be well designed with matching colors. This will give an artistic minded student an opportunity to feel part of the group.

Students also learn nonviolent conflict resolution skills and how to reach agreement on issues within the group context.

My role is of a laid back guide, not directly interfering with the activities of the groups, though always there to guide them along when they get stuck. For instance, when a group has a disagreement over a choice of topic to choose for a task, instead of selecting one of the choice for them, I’d rather guide them to go back and consider the two conflicting choices and maybe out of the two, create a new third choice which will be a compromise that satisfies both sides; or I may ask them to try going back to discuss the possibility of working on one of the options now and taking on the second one as an independent study project (I could only add my readiness to assess both when finished).

On the whole, Cooperative learning makes it possible for me to guide students to learn interpersonal relational skills and learn to respect diversities. While some of the students could be highly intelligent in most subjects, working in groups will also allow the others to bring in their individual intelligences into group work. Someone who was earlier regarded as being introverted or dull could turn out to have ideas or skills which will be the ones that save the group when they get stuck.

From the onset, I usually lay out to the groups that everyone must be given an equal chance to contribute, and if someone’s contribution is not going to be used, it must be only for reasons well understood by all.

1 comment:

  1. Ibrahim,

    I have used group work often in my classes and for the most part it is successful. I do get concerned at times about whether all students are contributing equally and whether the shy students are getting an opportunity to speak and offer suggestions. I think that you have thought of the possible disadvantages and have set up requirements to make sure this doesn't happen.

    In my teaching I have had concerns in particular with mixed ethnic groups where there are differences in communication style and also in mixed sex groups where women often are expected to take a passive role.



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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.