The role of the teacher during collaborative learning

A systematic review of the role of the teacher during collaborative learning in primary and secondary education suggests that several types of teacher guidance can be positive. However, the challenge for the teacher is to support interaction between pupils without taking control of the moments in which opportunities to learn arise for pupils.

The review, carried out by Anouschka van Leeuwen and Jeroen Janssen, included both qualitative and quantitative studies (n=66) conducted in primary and secondary schools, and looked at the relationship between the teacher’s role and the processes and outcomes of collaboration among pupils.

The authors found that feedback, prompting, questioning and transferring control of the learning process to pupils were all effective strategies for collaborative learning. The review concludes that when guiding collaborative learning, teachers should try to not only focus on the content of the task, but also on how pupils approach the task and the strategies they use for collaboration, and should let pupils know that help is available without imposing this help.

Source: A systematic review of teacher guidance during collaborative learning in primary and secondary education (February 2019), Educational Research Review, volume 27

The effects of cooperative learning in middle school on reducing bullying

While many studies show positive effects of cooperative learning on pupil achievement, a recent study examined the effects of cooperative learning on reducing bullying in middle school.

A total of 15 rural schools (n=1,460 seventh graders) in the Pacific Northwest were matched based on size and free-lunch percentage, and then seventh graders (Year 8) were randomly assigned to either receive a cooperative learning programme (n=792) or to continue business as usual (n=668). The cooperative learning programme used techniques by Johnson & Johnson, incorporating peer tutoring, collaborative reading, and methods where classmates rely on each other to learn new information while being held individually accountable for what they have learned. The theory behind this study was that in cooperative groups, bullies would not be reinforced by their peers to continue bullying, and socially isolated pupils would have opportunities to interact with others more and make new friends. All participating teachers received a copy of Cooperation in the Classroom and received three training days in person, and check-ins by video conference during the course of the 2016–17 school year. Pre-tests and post-tests (online surveys completed by pupils) evaluated pupils’ bullying and victimisation, stress levels, emotional problems, relatedness and engagement.

After five-and-a-half months of the cooperative learning programme, results showed significant reductions in bullying (effect size = +0.37), victimisation (+0.69), and stress levels (>+0.99) for pupils who had been shown to be marginalised at pre-test, and reduced emotional problems (+0.30) and greater relatedness (+0.43) for all pupils, regardless of their feelings of victimisation/isolation at pre-test.

Source: Cooperative learning in middle school: A means to improve peer relations and reduce victimization, bullying, and related outcomes (November 2018), Journal of Educational Psychology, 110(8)