Title

Cooperative Learning in the Elementary Classroom: A Qualitative Study in Two Settings, a Private School and a Public School

Date of Degree

2006

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Program

Education

Advisor

Gilbert M. Hinojosa

Advisor

Richard A. Gray

Advisor

Susan M. Hall

Abstract

Cooperative learning is a method of learning that has been extensively researched and used in the classroom. Although many studies have examined cooperative learning, many questions remain unanswered regarding procedures used in different classroom settings. This qualitative study examined the similarities and differences of cooperative learning in private versus public schools. This study measured the following supportive aspects regarding cooperative learning: (a) the procedures being used by students and teachers during cooperative learning; (b) the views of students, teachers and administrators regarding cooperative learning; (c) the integral factors facilitated during cooperative learning; (d) whether or not rewards and competition should be considered a central aspect of cooperative learning in private versus public schools. The participants included students in two third-grade classrooms in a private Catholic school, and students in two third-grade classrooms in a public school along with their teachers and two administrators at each school. The researcher utilized three different types of data collection, which included observations of the classroom during cooperative learning, documents from the classroom, and structured interviews with the students, teachers, and administrators at both the private Catholic school and public school. This qualitative study took place for one 6-week period at a public school and one 6-week period at a private Catholic school. The findings of individual structured interviews, observations, and documents revealed that procedures employed by teachers during cooperative learning included the following: directly teaching the subject to students before beginning cooperative group learning, placing students in groups of four, closely monitoring students, assessing students, and rewarding students. Students reported sharing, taking turns, and helping one another as procedures used during cooperative learning. Cooperative learning was viewed as being valuable in the classroom. Positive interdependence, promotive interaction, group or individual accountability, and collaborative skills were considered integral factors of cooperative learning. Rewards were measured as an essential part of cooperative learning, and competition was not considered a vital part of cooperative learning. A few teachers and administrators considered competition an important factor of cooperative learning during the interview process; however, competition was not observed being facilitated in the classroom during cooperative group learning.

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