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Combining Cooperative Learning with
نویسنده : غلامعلی عباسی - ساعت ٢:۱۸ ‎ق.ظ روز ۱۳٩۱/۸/۳
 

Combining Cooperative Learning with

Reading Aloud by Teachers

GEORGE JACOBS & DAN HANNAH

*

ABSTRACT

This article begins with a section that describes cooperative learning and explains eight

cooperative learning principles. The second section discusses the interface between cooperative

learning and language pedagogy. Next is a section about the why and how of reading aloud by

teachers. The heart of the article resides in the last and longest section which describes techniques

for integrating cooperative learning with reading aloud by teachers. These techniques include

ones that can be used before, while and after the teacher has read aloud to the class.

KEYWORDS: Cooperative learning, language learning, language teaching, methods, language

pedagogy, reading, reading aloud

INTRODUCTION

 


Combining Cooperative Learning with

Reading Aloud by Teachers

GEORGE JACOBS & DAN HANNAH

*

ABSTRACT

This article begins with a section that describes cooperative learning and explains eight

cooperative learning principles. The second section discusses the interface between cooperative

learning and language pedagogy. Next is a section about the why and how of reading aloud by

teachers. The heart of the article resides in the last and longest section which describes techniques

for integrating cooperative learning with reading aloud by teachers. These techniques include

ones that can be used before, while and after the teacher has read aloud to the class.

KEYWORDS: Cooperative learning, language learning, language teaching, methods, language

pedagogy, reading, reading aloud

INTRODUCTION

Literacy provides perhaps the most essential tool needed by students. Educators seek to promote

literacy by encouraging within students a life-long facility with and desire to employ the written

word. These efforts begin early on in preschool and continue throughout the formal education

process, for there are no areas nor levels of learning for which the written word does not

constitute a powerful tool. This article describes two means of promoting literacy and other

desired educational outcomes —cooperative learning (CL) among students and reading aloud

by teachers— and suggests ways in which these two routes towards literacy can converge.

The first section of the article introduces CL, a pedagogy for enlisting the power of peers

for promoting learning. After this introduction to the history, research findings, theoretical

underpinnings and principles of CL, the article’s second section explains some of the roles that

98 G. Jacobs & D. Hannah

© Servicio de Publicaciones. Universidad de Murcia. All rights reserved. IJES, vol. 4 (1), 2004, pp. 97-117

CL can play in language learning. Section 3 moves on to the other main element of the

convergence suggested in the article, i.e., teachers reading aloud to their students. With these

three sections as background, in Section 4 the article then provides practical suggestions for

combining CL and reading aloud by teachers. If we conceive of a read aloud session as having

three parts — before the teacher reads aloud, during the reading and after the reading session has

finished — the article suggests techniques for all three parts. This article does not consider the

topic of reading aloud by students, although CL certainly has insights to offer here as well

(MAACIE, 1998; Taylor, 2000).

I. COOPERATIVE LEARNING

Cooperative learning (CL) is by no means a new idea. For thousands of years, humans have

recognised the value of cooperation in a broad range of endeavours, including education.

However, the term cooperative learning seems to date back to the 1970s when a great deal of

research and practical work began on discovering how best to harness peer power for the benefit

of learning. This work continues to this day. Thus, CL has a strong foundation in research. Many

hundreds of studies — by now 1000s — across a wide range of subject areas and age groups have

been conducted (for reviews, see Cohen, 1994b; Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne, 2001; Sharan,

1980; Slavin, 1995).

The overall findings of these studies suggest that, when compared to other instructional

approaches, group activities structured along CL lines are associated with gains on a host of key

variables: achievement, higher level thinking, self-esteem, liking for the subject matter and for

school and inter-group (e.g., inter-ethnic) relations. Indeed, Johnson (1997) claims that CL is one

of the, if not the, best-researched approaches in education, and that when the public asks

educators what we know that works in education, CL is one of our surest answers. In an earlier

interview (Brandt, 1987: 12), he stated:

If there's any one educational technique that has firm empirical support, it's cooperative learning.

The research in this area is the oldest research tradition in American social psychology. The first

study was done in 1897; we've had 90 years of research, hundreds of studies. There is probably

more evidence validating the use of cooperative learning than there is for any other aspect of

education.

What is CL? Cooperative learning, also known as collaborative learning, is a body of

concepts and techniques for helping to maximize the benefits of cooperation among students.

There exists no one generally accepted version of CL. Indeed, disparate theoretical perspectives

on learning — including behaviourism, sociocultural theory, humanist psychology, cognitive

psychology, social psychology and Piagetian developmental psychology have informed the

development of different approaches to CL. Against this background of heterogeneity, various

principles have been put forward in the CL literature (e.g., Baloche, 1998, Jacobs, Power, & Loh,

2002, Johnson & Johnson, 1999, Kagan, 1994 and Slavin, 1995). In the current section of this

article, we discuss eight CL principles and how they can inform teaching practice.

I.1. Heterogeneous Grouping

This principle means that the groups in which students do CL tasks are mixed on one or more

of a number of variables including sex, ethnicity, social class, religion, personality, age, language

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© Servicio de Publicaciones. Universidad de Murcia. All rights reserved. IJES, vol. 4 (1), 2004, pp. 97-117

proficiency and diligence. Heterogeneous grouping is believed to have a number of benefits, such

as encouraging peer tutoring, providing a variety of perspectives, helping students come to know

and like others different from themselves and fostering appreciation of the value of diversity.

In CL, groups often stay together for five weeks or more. To achieve heterogeneous

groups for listening to reading aloud by teachers and other activities, teachers might want to look

at their class and make conscious decisions about which students should work together, rather

than leaving the matter to chance or to students’ choice. The latter option often results in groups

with low levels of heterogeneity. Furthermore, when we opt for heterogeneous groups, we may

want to spend some time on ice breaking (also known as teambuilding) activities, because as

Slavin (1995) notes, the combination of students that results from teacher-selected groups is

likely to be one that would never have been created had it not been for our intervention.

I.2. Collaborative Skills

Collaborative skills are those needed to work with others. Students may lack these skills, the

language involved in using the skills or the inclination to apply the skills during a reading aloud

session. Most books and websites on cooperative learning urge that collaborative skills be

explicitly taught one at a time. Which collaborative skill to teach will depend on the particular

students and the particular task they are undertaking. Just a few of the many skills important to

successful collaboration are: checking that others understand, asking for and giving reasons;

disagreeing politely and responding politely to disagreement and encouraging others to

participate and responding to encouragement to participate. Collaborative skills often overlap

with thinking skills.

I.3. Group Autonomy

This principle encourages students to look to themselves for resources rather than relying solely

on the teacher. When student groups are having difficulty, it is very tempting for teachers to

intervene either in a particular group or with the entire class. We may sometimes want to resist

this temptation, because as Roger Johnson writes, “Teachers must trust the peer interaction to

do many of the things they have felt responsible for themselves”

(http://www.clcrc.com/pages/qanda.html).

I.4. Simultaneous Interaction (Kagan, 1994)

In classrooms in which group activities are not used, including in the typical reading aloud by

teachers session, the normal interaction pattern is that of sequential interaction, in which one

person at a time — usually the teacher — speaks. For example, the teacher stops at some point

while reading aloud, asks a question to check students’ comprehension, calls on a student to

answer the question and evaluates that student’s response.

In contrast, when group activities are used, one student per group is, hopefully, speaking.

In a class of 40 divided into groups of four, ten students are speaking simultaneously, i.e., 40

students divided by 4 students per group = 10 students (1 per group) speaking at the same time.

Thus, this CL principal is called simultaneous interaction. If the same class is working in groups

of two (pairs are also groups), we may have 20 students speaking simultaneously.

Even when teachers use groups, it is common at the end of a group activity for each

group, one at a time, to report to the class and the teacher. When this takes place, we are back to

sequential interaction. In order to maintain the simultaneous interaction that existed during the

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group activity, many alternatives exist to this one-at-a-time reporting. For instance, one person

from each group can go to another group. These representatives explain (not just show or tell)

their group’s ideas. Of course, simultaneous and sequential interaction may be usefully

combined.

I.5. Equal Participation (Kagan, 1994)

A frequent problem in groups is that one or two group members dominate the group and, for

whatever reason, impede the participation of others. CL offers many ways of promoting equal

participation in groups. Two of these are the use of rotating roles in a group, such as facilitator,

understanding checker, questioner, praiser, encourager and paraphraser, and the use of multiple

ability tasks (Cohen, 1994; Gardner, 1999), i.e., tasks that require a range of abilities, such as

drawing, singing, acting and categorizing, rather than only language abilities.

I.6. Individual Accountability

Individual accountability is, in some ways, the flip side of equal participation. When we

encourage equal participation in groups, we want everyone to feel they have opportunities to take

part in the group. When we try to encourage individual accountability in groups, we hope that

no one will attempt to avoid using those opportunities. Techniques for encouraging individual

accountability seek to avoid the problem of groups known variously as social loafing, sleeping

partners or free riding.

These techniques, not surprisingly, overlap with those for encouraging equal

participation. They include giving each group member a designated turn to participate, keeping

group size small, calling on students at random to share their group’s ideas and having a task to

be done individually after the group activity is finished.

I.7. Positive Interdependence

This principle lies at the heart of CL. When positive interdependence exists among members of

a group, they feel that what helps one member of the group helps the other members and that

what hurts one member of the group hurts the other members. It is the “All for one, one for all”

feeling that leads group members to want to help each other, to see that they share a common

goal.

Johnson & Johnson (1999) describe nine ways to promote positive interdependence. Six

of these are discussed below.

Goal positive interdependence: The group has a common goal that they work together to achieve.

Environmental positive interdependence: Group members sit close together so that they can easily see each

other’s work and hear each other without using loud voices. This may seem trivial, but it can be

important.

Role positive interdependence: In addition to the roles mentioned above, there are also housekeeping types

of roles, such as timekeeper who reminds the group of time limits and ‘sound hound’ who tells the

group if they are being too loud in their deliberations.

Resource positive interdependence: Each group member has unique resources. These resources can be

information or equipment, such as paper or a particular color marker.

External Challenge positive interdependence: When the same group stays together over a period of time

— this is recommended by most books and websites on cooperative learning partly as a means of

allowing groups to work to improve their group dynamics — students can aim to improve on past

performance.

Reward positive interdependence: If groups meet a pre-set goal, they receive some kind of reward. Rewards

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can take many forms: grades, sweets, certificates, praise, the choice of a future activity the class

does, the chance to do their team cheer or handshake or just a feeling of satisfaction. If extrinsic

rewards are used, Lynda Baloche (personal communication, May 14, 2001) recommends that

teachers never begin an extrinsic reward program without having a plan for how to end it.

I.8. Cooperation as a Value

This principle means that rather than cooperation being only a way to learn, i.e., the how of

learning, cooperation also becomes part of the content to be learned, i.e., the what of learning.

This flows naturally from the most crucial CL principle, positive interdependence. Cooperation

as a value involves taking the feeling of “All for one, one for all” and expanding it beyond the

small classroom group to encompass the whole class, the whole school, on and on, bringing in

increasingly greater numbers of people and other beings into students’ circle of ones with whom

to cooperate.

One way of expanding the scope of the positive interdependence felt by students is to read

aloud books and other materials on the themes related to cooperation and global issues. Global

issues include such areas of education as peace education, environmental education, human rights

education, multicultural education, and development education (Smallwood, 1991; TESOLers

for Social Responsibility www.tesolers4sr.org; Wood, Roser & Martinez, 2001).

This concludes the introduction to CL as an overall approach to teaching that can be used

with any subject area. The next section of the article looks more specifically at CL in regard to

language pedagogy.