Cooperative learning for early career teachers and the importance of teacher role: high stakes testing and its effects on pedagogical approaches

Year: 2013

Author: Ferguson-Patrick, Kate

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Despite the fact that cooperative learning (CL) has a strong research base over decades to support its use in schools it is underutilised.  This can be explained by teachers’ reluctance to experiment with different pedagogies, especially those using group work, in an environment increasingly focused on high stakes testing.  High stakes testing has an impact on beginning teachers due to the practices they establish when they start teaching often continuing throughout their career. There has been little importance given to supporting new teachers with pedagogical professional learning. Early career teachers need support with their pedagogy if we want them to be innovative practitioners, particularly with such a complex one as CL. Pedagogical change and expertise in this particular pedagogy needs particular support in determining the various aspects of CL.  These include organisational structures, how to structure the task; the academic and social behaviours expected as well as the teacher’s role and the effect this can have on the success or otherwise of the CL lesson and the subsequent outcomes that students achieve.   Educational researchers have agreed that the teacher’s role is crucial in order to scaffold the students’ participation in the classroom in order to improve their learning and it is teachers’ pedagogical practices that helped to develop these collaborative work habits.   This presentation will explore three early career teachers’ responses from semi structured interviews where they were asked to reflect on a period of six month implementation of CL in their classrooms in particular relating to their role in cooperative learning instruction.  Their understandings of this role, both prior to implementation and during implementation, and how they look in practice are considered.