Challenges of incorporating cooperative learning in primary science classrooms

Year: 2001

Author: Boo, Hong-Kwen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The challenge of teaching science is to teach in a way that enables pupils to learn science concepts while acquiring process skills and positive scientific attitudes. One of the effective ways of accomplishing these objectives is believed to be through involving pupils in hands-on activities in the context of cooperative learning. The use of cooperative learning presents immense practical challenges to teachers. This paper is based on data collected in the second phase of a three-part study of classroom practices in Singapore.

The first phase is a questionnaire survey of how primary school teachers' in Singapore organise their classrooms in various subject areas. For the second phase, the research team observed 50 lessons in four content curriculum areas - English, Math, Social Studies and Science. This paper reports on the science lessons which were observed and examines the challenges involved in incorporating cooperative learning in the context of teaching primary science in Singapore. Our classroom observations reveal that while groupwork is being carried out in Science lessons, few of the teachers have structured group learning according to the principles of cooperative learning. A further challenge facing teachers is the design of group tasks that require higher-order thinking and promote real collaboration among group members.