HLP’s: Cooperative Learning

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As a teacher, I am always looking for ways to help my students learn, whether they are gifted in my subject area of music, whether they do not prefer this special yet have an understanding and an appreciation for it, or whether they struggle to learn and perform it. I know that my colleagues who teach the core content areas feel much the same as I do. They work hard to prepare their lessons for the core subjects so that our students can stay engaged, remain interested, and will learn what is presented to them.

One valuable framework that I’ve recently learned more about is the set of High Leverage Practices, and these could be able to help support what my colleagues and I do for our students to achieve their best potential in any content area. These practices are those “that are fundamental to support… student learning, and that can be taught, learned, and implemented by those entering the profession” (Okolo, quoting Windschitl, Thompson, Braaten, & Stroupe, 2012: https://vo-general.s3.amazonaws.com/0909b782-90db-4ee8-aa57-29d7ee361600/gTwpzLeQTiiPORlXgCLo_HLPs%20Feedback%20TED%202015%20McLeskey.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ3YBR5GY2XF7YLGQ&Expires=1552052174&Signature=nf8xRTW6TKr5yrsTw3Yb62FUNI0%3D) Included in these practices is Cooperative Learning, as students learn to work together as they learn within a certain content area. This piece could prove to be very beneficial, not only for students who have challenges in learning, but also for all students in general.

Though I see the educational value in “HLP’s”, specifically in Cooperative Learning, I also see that there could be drawbacks in employing them. Given that Windschitl et al. described HLP’s as factors that new teachers will be able to implement in the classroom, I have to wonder about the training current educators would receive in this regard, and what would be expected of them. It could be difficult for some seasoned teachers to implement changes for group work, possibly having to revamp what they have been doing throughout their whole career. Barbara Levin, teacher and author of Case Studies of Teacher Development, An In-Depth Look at How Thinking About Pedagogy Develops Over Time, commented on this notion, saying some “… other teachers don’t want to change what they are doing. They say, ‘We’ve seen this before. It’s the same thing we did before. ‘Or they just [ask] why should they change to this new thing because it will just change again… Other teachers have their classrooms they way they want them and they aren’t willing to change. Change is hard…” (Levin, 2003). Though I can surely see the value in having professional development for current teachers to learn to use and implement HLP’s, I agree with Levin because it is hard to incorporate changes into what and how you may currently teach in any content area, even if the changes do have merit.

Another point that I could challenge within the premise of Cooperative Learning is how teachers may put certain learners together for the best end result. Students working together toward common goals, fulfilling various roles in a group, and offering what knowledge they have about a certain subject can grow in that knowledge and as productive members of that group. Students who may struggle can benefit from working with others, to learn from what their group members know, and also to teach others what material they have learned. Yet, as Dr. Okolo of Michigan State University pointed out, “Despite our beliefs about the benefits of working in groups for diverse learners and our commitment to collaboration among students, cooperative learning can actually disadvantage students who struggle if not implemented thoughtfully and systematically” (Okolo, 2017).

When I think of my own experiences in the classroom, both in my own content of music and also in those settings of my colleagues’ core content teaching, using group work can turn out to be amazing, but is not always easy to facilitate. Making sure that students are placed together in order to tap into their strengths can be challenging task to coordinate, especially if some of those learners struggle in that content area, or if they have particular challenges in their learning. Teachers, do you feel that using the context of Cooperative Learning would be helpful in your classroom group work? How do you construct groups for your students to get the most out of collaboration in your classroom setting?

References

Levin, B. B. (2003). Case studies of teacher development: an in-depth look at how thinking about pedagogy develops over time. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=Fg6QAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA102&lpg=PA102&dq=teachers who don%27t want to change&source=bl&ots=FRJy5Uznyv&sig=XiCtl4l30bk1HAMy9Or7XBOlsxI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjls5zmpNrUAhVD8j4KHXh6CbE4ChDoAQhbMAk#v=onepage&q=teachers%20who%20don’t%20want%20to%20change&f=false

Okolo, C. (2017, June). Cooperative Learning. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from https://d2l.msu.edu/d2l/le/content/576255/viewContent/4999489/View

Windschitl, Thompson, Braaten, & Stroupe. (2012). https://vo-general.s3.amazonaws.com/0909b782-90db-4ee8-aa57-29d7ee361600/gTwpzLeQTiiPORlXgCLo_HLPs%20Feedback%20TED%202015%20McLeskey.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ3YBR5GY2XF7YLGQ&Expires=1552052174&Signature=nf8xRTW6TKr5yrsTw3Yb62FUNI0%3D