Saturday, July 30, 2011

Social Learning Theories and Cooperative Learning

This week in our Walden course we explored in depth explanations concerning Cooperative Learning.  This strategy was paired with the Social Learning Theory.  The Cooperative Learning strategy sprouts from the Constructivist epistemology in that “it is a process which requires knowledge to be discovered by students and transformed into concepts to which the students can relate” (Orey, 2001).  It is further extended to incorporate the Social Learning Theory or Social Constructionism/Constructivism as it requires the students to be “actively engaged in constructing, but also actively engaged in conversing about what they are constructing” (Laureate Education, 2008). 

Vygostsky theories of Zone of Proximal Developments and More Knowledgable Others are cornerstones of the Social Learning Theories.  Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) merely states that the students should be within a range where they are ready to learn the next step, they are capable of moving forward (Laureate Education, 2008).  More Knowledgable Others (MKO) provides that a person with more knowledge be available to steer the student to the appropriate resources to move forward (2008).

It is almost as if Cooperative Learning and the Social Learning Theory are synonymous.  Upon introducing this strategy in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works, Pitler et. al describe Cooperative Learning as a strategy that focuses on “having the students interact with each other in groups in ways that enhance their learning.  By doing this the students make sense of, or construct meaning for new knowledge by interacting with others” (2007).

The most interesting thing about the chapter in Classroom Instruction, besides the abundance of technology tools that can be used as a means for this strategy, were the recommendations for formal groupings in Cooperative Learning.  These suggestions took the strategy beyond a basic Think-Pair-Share.  The suggestions may also be helpful to those that wish to try or have tried cooperative learning without much success.  To begin, the authors suggest a ‘sink or swim’ approach.  If the group is successful, all are successful.  The group cannot be successful if one is left behind in learning the concepts.  Face to face, promotive interaction is key.  This is where the students are rooting for each other to be successful as they help each other.  The third is linked with the first as it describes individual and group accountability.  Each student has to contribute towards the end goal.  The fourth stipulation, and in my perspective the hardest, it to have the students learn and partake of interpersonal skills, such as clear communication, trust, decision making, and conflict resolution.  The final component, which I think many overlook, is the group processing.  This is where the group communicates how well they all worked together and what they could do to make the next session better. (2007)

On a personal note, I have tried cooperative learning, many times.  Some lessons went really well and others not so well.  The suggestions in this chapter and the other articles from this week helped to detail some specific parameters that will hopefully change my entire library of cooperative learning lessons to be worthwhile.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008). Social Learning Theories. Baltimore: Executive Producer

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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