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.


Vanessa said...

Hi Pierre-Luc

I agree with you about the pedagogy a certain extent. Ped 1 and 2 were exactly the same class with a different teacher, using different terms to define the exact same notions (a teacher's assistant told me so herself) However, when you get to Teaching young children and Ped Culture, the class gets a lot more interesting and does not deal with coop learning anymore. Those two are more interactive courses (especially Ped culture) and most of the time spent in class lead to very interesting group discussions, although sometimes a bit repetitive.
Don't worry, next winter semester, there won't be any coop learning to your agenda.

ViKY said...

Yes, I must say that as a first year student, the Ped classes emphasize Cooperative learning. In saying that there are many other ways, I agree with you. However, in saying that it is not a good method, that's where our opinions diverge. Maybe I got brain-washed in the process of my classes, but I find this method complete in the way that everyone needs to participate in order to create a whole... AND in a fun way. There is no way a Cooperative Learning activity can be boring, students have to move, use their creativity, use their research skills, communicate, participate, and maybe make friends. You talked about the aspiring PhD student wanting to kill the aspiring drop-out... Actually, the aspiring drop-out is un-motivated... Yes, maybe he doesn't like school - Why? - Because of the teacher's way of integrating an activity. Cooperative learning makes everyone feel like they are part of something, hence being important in the process of achieving a goal. Cooperative learning is all about motivation and teaching as being fun and interactive. Pierre-Luc, weren't your there at the Speaq conference with Jim??? He was using CL all the way and look at how much fun we had!

If the Pedagogues talk about Cooperative Learning so much, I think it's because it's the most efficient method they have found so far in history of teaching a SECOND LANGUAGE. This is why, according to you, that it would be inappropriate for University students - Because it is excellent for SLT. You don't learn a second language as a university student aspiring to be a SL teacher... You're supposed to know the language already. As for using CL with adults - Why not?

Anyways, maybe I am brain-washed, but I firmly believe that CL should be the main method learned in our Ped classes because it is the most advanced method learned so far. Yes, there have been many methods before that, but are they as efficient? I don't think so.