‘Cooperative marbles in a jar’: Negotiating formative intervention with primary-aged students

Year: 2018

Author: Morcom, Veronica, MacCallum, Judith

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper we examine an intervention, ‘cooperative marbles in a jar’, as illustrative of Vygotsky’s (1999) method of double stimulation. The intervention was part of a larger longitudinal study conducted with primary aged students which aimed to examine how to develop a collaborative classroom where agency of the teacher and students was valued and supported. The first author was the classroom teacher and the second author the co-researcher/university professor who visited the classroom weekly.
The teacher/researcher’s role, as a facilitator and ‘guide on the side’, was to allow students to take responsibility for their learning and develop shared understandings about collaborative values. The classroom social practices, such as the weekly classroom meeting and daily social circle, provided opportunities for students to practise these values and to participate in authentic activities to promote social knowledge and sharing of ideas. The focus was on student decision making about the direction of classroom activities and the creation of possible interventions in the development of a collaborative classroom. During weekly classroom meetings students raised issues about friendships, group work and the physical arrangement of the classroom as well as setting up incentive strategies to promote cooperation.
The intervention emerged from the weekly classroom meeting discussions. The first stimulation was the problem students identified of their peers not cooperating in groups. The second stimulation was the tool of marbles in a jar which the students developed through discussions in the classroom meeting. Research data sources included regular reflections by students and researchers about the classroom social practices, which were videotaped by the second author, and interviews with the students and their parents. This paper explores how students and the teacher developed this formative intervention and sustained an effective new practice with positive outcomes for students. The significance for teachers of such research lies in developing authentic educational practices that prioritise students’ agency by giving voice to their concerns and having the confidence in students that they can resolve their issues for learning.