Cooperative Learning and Task-Based Learning

Posting by Ade Tuty Anggriany | 6:34 AM

A. Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small teams, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. Each member of a team is responsible not only for learning what is taught but also for helping teammates learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement. Students work through the assignment until all group members successfully understand and complete it. Cooperative efforts result in participants striving for mutual benefit so that all group members: gain from each other's efforts (your success benefits me and my success benefits you); recognize that all group members share a common fate (we all sink or swim together here); know that one's performance is mutually caused by oneself and one's team members (we can not do it without you); and feel proud and jointly celebrate when a group member is recognized for achievement (we all congratulate you on your accomplishment).

Elements of cooperative learning
It is only under certain conditions that cooperative efforts may be expected to be more productive than competitive and individualistic efforts. Those conditions are:

1. Positive Interdependence
In this condition, each group member's efforts are required and indispensable for group success, and it has a unique contribution to make to the joint effort because of his or her resources and/or role and task responsibilities.

2. Face-to-Face Interaction
In this condition, each group should be: orally explaining how to solve problems; teaching one's knowledge to other; checking for understanding; discussing concepts being learned; and connecting present with past learning.

3. Individual & Group Accountability
In this condition, each group should be:
  • Keeping the size of the group small. The smaller the size of the group, the greater the individual accountability may be.
  • Giving an individual test to each student.
  • Randomly examining students orally by calling on one student to present his or her group's work to the teacher (in the presence of the group) or to the entire class.
  • Observing each group and recording the frequency with which each member-contributes to the group's work.
  • Assigning one student in each group the role of checker. The checker asks other group members to explain the reasoning and rationale underlying group answers.
  • Having students teach what they learned to someone else.
4. Interpersonal & Small-Group Skills
In this condition, social skill must be taught including leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication, and conflict-management skill.

5. Group Processing
In this condition group members should discuss how well they are achieving their goals and maintaining effective working relationships, describe what member actions are helpful and not helpful, and make decisions about what behaviors to continue or change.

Class activities that use Cooperative Learning
1. Jigsaw
Groups with five students are set up. Each group member is assigned some unique material to learn and then to teach to his group members. To help in the learning, students across the class working on the same sub-section get together to decide what is important and how to teach it. After practice in these "expert" groups the original groups reform and students teach each other. (Wood, p. 17) Tests or assessment follows.

2. Think-Pair-Share
It involves a three step cooperative structure. During the first step individuals think silently about a question posed by the instructor. Individuals pair up during the second step and exchange thoughts. In the third step, the pairs share their responses with other pairs, other teams, or the entire group.

3. Three-Step Interview (Kagan)
Each member of a team chooses another member to be a partner. During the first step individuals interview their partners by asking clarifying questions. During the second step partners reverse the roles. For the final step, members share their partner's response with the team.

4. RoundRobin Brainstorming (Kagan)
Class is divided into small groups (4 to 6) with one person appointed as the recorder. A question is posed with many answers and students are given time to think about answers. After the "think time," members of the team share responses with one another round robin style. The recorder writes down the answers of the group members. The person next to the recorder starts and each person in the group in order gives an answer until time is called.

5. Three-minute review
Teachers stop any time during a lecture or discussion and give teams three minutes to review what has been said, ask clarifying questions or answer questions.

6. Numbered Heads Together (Kagan)
A team of four is established. Each member is given numbers of 1, 2, 3, 4. Questions are asked of the group. Groups work together to answer the question so that all can verbally answer the question. Teacher calls out a number (two) and each two is asked to give the answer.

7. Team Pair Solo (Kagan)
Students do problems first as a team, then with a partner, and finally on their own. It is designed to motivate students to tackle and succeed at problems which initially are beyond their ability. It is based on a simple notion of mediated learning. Students can do more things with help (mediation) than they can do alone. By allowing them to work on problems they could not do alone, first as a team and then with a partner, they progress to a point they can do alone that which at first they could do only with help.

8. Circle the Sage (Kagan)
First the teacher polls the class to see which students have a special knowledge to share. For example the teacher may ask who in the class was able to solve a difficult math homework question, who had visited Mexico, who knows the chemical reactions involved in how salting the streets help dissipate snow. Those students (the sages) stand and spread out in the room. The teacher then has the rest of the classmates each surround a sage, with no two members of the same team going to the same sage. The sage explains what they know while the classmates listen, ask questions, and take notes. All students then return to their teams. Each in turn, explains what they learned. Because each one has gone to a different sage, they compare notes. If there is disagreement, they stand up as a team. Finally, the disagreements are aired and resolved.

9. Partners (Kagan)
The class is divided into teams of four. Partners move to one side of the room. Half of each team is given an assignment to master to be able to teach the other half. Partners work to learn and can consult with other partners working on the same material. Teams go back together with each set of partners teaching the other set. Partners quiz and tutor teammates. Team reviews how well they learned and taught and how they might improve the process.

The advantages of cooperative learning for elementary school students
According to Glasser (1986), children's motivation to work in elementary school is dependent on the extent to which their basic psychological needs are met. Cooperative learning increases student motivation by providing peer support. As part of a learning team, students can achieve success by working well with others. Students are also encouraged to learn material in greater depth than they might otherwise have done, and to think of creative ways to convince the teacher that they have mastered the required material.
Cooperative learning helps students feel successful at every academic level. In cooperative learning teams, low-achieving students can make contributions to a group and experience success, and all students can increase their understanding of ideas by explaining them to others (Featherstone, 1986). Components of the cooperative learning process as described by Johnson and Johnson (1984) are complimentary to the goals of early childhood education. For example, well-constructed cooperative learning tasks involve positive interdependence on others and individual accountability. To work successfully in a cooperative learning team, however, students must also master interpersonal skills needed for the group to accomplish its tasks.
Cooperative learning has also been shown to improve relationships among students from different ethnic backgrounds. Slavin (1980) notes: "Cooperative learning methods [sanctioned by the school] embody the requirements of cooperative, equal status interaction between students of different ethnic backgrounds..." For older students, teaching has traditionally stressed competition and individual learning. When students are given cooperative tasks, however, learning is assessed individually, and rewards are given on the basis of the group's performance (Featherstone, 1986). When children are taught the skills needed for group participation when they first enter a structured setting, the foundation is laid for later school success.

B. Task Based Learning
Task-based learning (TBL) is an approach which concentrates more on carrying out tasks (solving puzzles, writing projects, investigating topics and so on) than on graded structures and vocabulary. Task -based learning offers an alternative for language teachers. In a task-based lesson the teacher doesn't pre-determine what language will be studied, the lesson is based around the completion of a central task and the language studied is determined by what happens as the students complete it. The lesson follows certain stages:
1. Pre-task
The teacher introduces the topic and gives the students clear instructions on what they will have to do at the task stage and might help the students to recall some language that may be useful for the task. The pre-task stage can also often include playing a recording of people doing the task. This gives the students a clear model of what will be expected of them. The students can take notes and spend time preparing for the task.
2. Task
The students complete a task in pairs or groups using the language resources that they have as the teacher monitors and offers encouragement.
3. Planning
Students prepare a short oral or written report to tell the class what happened during their task. They then practice what they are going to say in their groups. Meanwhile the teacher is available for the students to ask for advice to clear up any language questions they may have.
4. Report
Students then report back to the class orally or read the written report. The teacher chooses the order of when students will present their reports and may give the students some quick feedback on the content. At this stage the teacher may also play a recording of others doing the same task for the students to compare.
5. Analysis
The teacher then highlights relevant parts from the text of the recording for the students to analyze. They may ask students to notice interesting features within this text. The teacher can also highlight the language that the students used during the report phase for analysis.
6. Practice
The teacher selects language areas to practice based upon the needs of the students and what emerged from the task and report phases. The students then do practice activities to increase their confidence and make a note of useful language.

The Advantages of Task-Based Learning
Task-based learning has some clear advantages:
  • The students are free of language control. In all three stages they must use all their language resources rather than just practicing one pre-selected item.
  • A natural context is developed from the students' experiences with the language that is personalized and relevant to them.
  • The students will have a much more varied exposure to language with TBL. They will be exposed to a whole range of lexical phrases, collocations and patterns as well as language forms.
  • The language explored arises from the students' needs. This need dictates what will be covered in the lesson rather than a decision made by the teacher or the course book.
  • It is a strong communicative approach where students spend a lot of time communicating.
  • It is enjoyable and motivating.

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