Following a recent teacher talk wednesday – #TeacherTalkWednesday, where the discussion was around cooperative approaches to learning, my colleague Cicely Alsbury has very kindly contributed to my blog:
Cooperative teaching and learning is about fostering an educational environment which provides opportunities to build resilient, inquisitive, resourceful and inspired learners.
I grew up in an educational system where it was entirely possible that one could ‘fail’ a grade and be held back. Although there are arguments for and against such systems, what this system immediately taught me was to never give up, always keep trying, always ask questions and seek answers, where it was ok to make mistakes along the way as long as I learned from them. Before being introduced to cooperative teaching and learning techniques, it was these characteristics which I’ve noticed can be lacking in my students and it’s these characteristics which were mentioned in staff meetings, school agendas, and pedagogic CPD sessions. I was constantly having to say “it’s ok to get it wrong just try again” coupled hand in hand with answers to questions like “I don’t get it” followed by responses like “Ok, so what can you do to try and find these answers”. Signs posts in class rooms like “C3B4ME” is a prime example of how many teachers across the UK consistently try to build in resilience and resourcefulness in students. It wasn’t until I arrived at Tavistock College and began my staff induction training on cooperative approaches to learning that I realised that these teaching and learning techniques can provide structure to lessons which fosters support for the overall development of our learners to achieve these vital characteristics, alongside learning the curriculum.
For instance, the cooperative values (Self-Responsibility, Self-Help, Democracy, Solidarity, Equality and Equity) offer both staff and students a way to consider how they are able to work best for themselves and for those in their community. Students are drawn into a dialogue which teaches them to help their classmates, help themselves, and help the entire class or year group. Teachers on the other hand, gain reflective approaches to how they’re engaging with their students, and their own colleagues. I’ve attached an outline of these 6 cooperative values along with some definitions so you can see for yourselves and apply them to your own practice and classroom.
As a result one of the initiatives for our School Improvement Team we decided to address the cooperative values with our student body by supplying tutors with a different activity each week. Each week allowed a different focus, on a different value. Students were reminded of these values daily on their student bulletin, and one tutor time was dedicated to the activity so as to consistently instil the value. Our aim was for the students (and staff) to practice and apply the cooperative value to their lives around the college. This power point has been provided so you can try this out in your own classrooms and offer your students the opportunities to reflect on their individual cooperative values. There are some instructions listed on the bottom of the different slides and you’ll notice that there are some worksheets which can be printed off in advance to run some of the activities.
So why choose cooperative approaches to teaching and learning? I chose them because I want my learners to know what it feels like to be confident in themselves and their abilities to succeed. I want my learners to become resourceful, to be able to find answers to questions they can come across in the future, outside of these college walls. I want my learners to feel that they are able to help themselves if they get it wrong in the ‘real world’; they can get back up, brush themselves off and become the most amazing person they can be. What do you want your learners to be able to do?
Here’s a set of resources and strategies to promote cooperative values in learning: