Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cooperative learning is the only good technique… that we are taught

Shut your recipient mouth and keep up with your eyes opened. After talking with a few fourth year students, I realized that pedagogy classes in the BEALS program are going to revolve around cooperative learning, for the most part. Come on! It’s my first year here and I’m already almost fed up with it. As some fellow fourth years pointed out to me, there are other techniques just as good as this one but we just don’t learn about them. You know why? Cooperative learning, cooperative learning, cooperative learning. That’s it, that’s all. Many teachers at Laval are doing research in this field so that’s what we are taught.

Cooperative learning is a good technique, I agree. I have put it to the test in my practicum and it worked very well, or should I say perfectly. However, I was teaching 6th grade primary students. From what I have learned in my Intro to L2 Teaching class with Darlene, we have to adapt our techniques to the group we are teaching to. This is not what we are shown; we are merely shown to adapt our groups to cooperative learning. We NEED to be more knowledgeable about the many existing techniques in order to become good teachers. If we are not shown these, my fourth year mate argued, we ought to look them up on our own.

I have my own theory about cooperative learning. Even though I have no big research on motivation to support it, I think it is still worth considering it. Basically, I think that cooperative learning only works with younger students. From Secondary 3 on, you might encounter some problems with its use. You know why? Students’ goals vary from one to the other. Some may want to do a master’s degree; some just want to get their diploma quickly; some are heading for the PhD; some continue studying even though they don’t know why; some don’t give a shit, and the list goes on. Acknowledging this, I truly believe cooperative learning can’t always work. Just picture this: while one student is heading for the PhD, one just doesn’t give a shit; put them together and our PhD buddy kills the other one. I’m not even kidding. When students start thinking about their future, this technique just can’t work; one’s future is a personal decision, not a group one.

We will be teaching children, adolescents, pre-adults, adults, seniors, or even babies? I don’t care if the program is oriented towards primary and secondary teaching; that’s not the only reality for English teachers. As my fourth year buddy told me, adults have no time to waste on games. Listen to the witty and ingenious fourth year student and start looking up for other techniques on your own. For reasons unknown, I believe Darlene was right; we do need to adapt our teaching to different classroom situations.