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Blogs Robert Tomason Educator

Protecting the environment requires a cooperative approach, and what better place to practice cooperation than in the classroom? For this, as well as for pedagogical purposes, cooperative learning figured prominently in the coursebook. Cooperative learning involves students in working together with classmates and others, usually in groups of two, three or four. Australia Edubirdie, which acts as a defender of communicative language pedagogy often recommend cooperative learning as a means of involving students in active language use. We see this active involvement in the cooperative learning principle of simultaneous interaction, i.e. at any one time, many students are active, for example, if students are talking in pairs, 50% of students are speaking. Contrast this with the typical teacher-centred mode of instruction in which sequential interaction reigns, with only one person, the teacher or a student designated by the teacher, speaking.

A common pair of related problems that group activities involve one or two group members dominating their group and impeding the participation of others or, in contrast, one or two members attempting to leave all the work to their groupmates. Cooperative learning addresses these twin difficulties by intentionally structuring to provide each group member opportunities to participate and an obligation to do so. For instance, in Project 1 in 4. 1 .5, rather than student pairs writing a report together, each member of the group is responsible for one part of the report. In Project 2, also in 4.1.5, each member of a foursome is responsible for keeping a record of their own family’s garbage and then attempting to reduce the amount of waste their family generates.

The central principle in cooperative learning is known as positive interdependence. This concept is in many ways an affective one, a feeling amongst group members that what helps one helps all and what hurts one hurts all. Environmental educators will immediately note how similar this is to the situation in regard to environment protection. For instance, a forest saved in one country means cleaner, healthier air in many other countries, and by switching to a vegetarian diet, humans promote their own health while at the same time saving the lives of nonhuman animals and sparing the environment the deleterious effects that accompany meat production.

The literature on cooperative learning offers educators many means of promoting positive interdependence:

a. groups share a common goal and develop a common identity

b. each group member has unique information or materials that need to be shared for the group to achieve its goal

c. each group member has a unique role to play

d. all group members celebrate and/or receive an award if the group achieves its goal