Advantages and Challenges of Cooperative Learning in Two Different Cultures
2. Materials and Methods
- What do you think CL is? Describe one concrete example, as specifically as possible.
- What advantages do you think you would observe if you were to use CL in your classroom?
- What challenges do you think you would face if you were to use CL in your classroom?
3.1.1. Learning Environment
Through teamwork in the CL classroom, students supervised each other’s work and felt responsible for each other’s learning (IM 1).
Although my lesson is more theoretical, the classroom environment has become more attractive since I implemented CL in the classroom (IM 9).
I used to teach by lecturing in my classes. I saw the stress of the students in class. But since I teach in a cooperative way, students come to class calmly and enthusiastically, without stress and fear, and do not like to be absent (IF 4).
Some students told me that they are quiet in most classrooms and are ashamed to speak in public, but they speak easily in CL class (IF 3).
CL challenges people to interact in ways that they don’t often think are synonymous with formal education, and so being able to negotiate with someone to achieve a common goal (AF 5).
We are seeing more stress and mental health problems in our student community. I think that the competition makes that worse. It’s a safer environment for students if it’s cooperative rather than competitive (AF 2).
I found that students relax and they assist each other on their assignments (AF 4).
CL is catering for diversity, and fostering democracy or inclusive environments (AM 1).
3.1.2. Quality of Learning
One of the advantages of CL is that it allows students to think more creatively and try to provide stronger and better analytics in the group, and also permits students to look at subject matter from different perspectives (IF 8).
In the CL class, everyone in the groups expresses their opinions, and this makes the students more aware of different opinions (IM 6).
Students have more opportunities to challenge each other’s ideas during teamwork (IF 2).
CL is effective in terms of solving critical problems (IF 5).
Students are more confident in solving difficult subject matter in the group (IM 7).
CL builds relationships, exposes students to new ideas and different perspectives, helps students think more deeply about phenomena, and gives me a break from talking! (AF 8)
One of the key things about CL, is that you get to the root, you engage in a far deeper discussion, because you’re creating ideas, you are adding onto your friends’ ideas, you are also looking at it from different perspectives (AF 4).
It is active construction of knowledge as participants seek to build upon one another’s understandings of the particular issue (AM 6).
CL is advantageous in terms of solving complex problems (AF 10).
You know getting people to solve complex problems and you have some belief that four heads are better than one (AM 1).
At university, well, there’s so little time, and so much emphasis on syllabus (IF 5).
In CL class, content may not be well understood due to lack of time (IM 7).
In CL class, grouping and group reporting is time consuming and as a result the learning opportunity is lost and the instructor cannot draw conclusions (IF 8).
At university, well, the devil is always time, because courses are always crammed and there’s very little time (AM 9).
For me, time is a challenge. Two hours weekly teaching time may not be sufficient, because even if you don’t want to share the content with the students you have to contribute to students’ understandings of the concepts (AM 6).
As you know, the UT is the largest university in Iran and the competition for admission to this university is fierce. At university, we also see some competition for a high mark. Therefore, creating a positive dependence is difficult to implement CL effectively (IF 2).
In the end, the university asks me to record a mark for the student in the system. To encourage students to group work, it is essential to assign a portion of the score to group performance, but in practice there are problems. The student’s concern about the score is one of these problems. Therefore, if the evaluation is descriptive, CL can be implemented better (IM 7).
Whereas when things are graded, and our students here now at UQ are very competitive. Getting good grades are very important for them (AF 2).
I think there’s a perception that grading and hierarchies; you’re a ‘high distinction’, or a ‘distinction’ is seen as an important part of the university education (AF 10).
There are students who are worried about their assessment (AM 1).
Inflexible rules hinder the effective implementation of CL. For example, one of these rules is teaching based on syllabus approved by the Ministry of Higher Education. Another rule is the grading system, which makes it difficult to evaluate teamwork (IM 7).
Sometimes it’s hard to satisfy the university leaders regarding the usefulness of CL.
Many of the courses here are changing, but I’m not sure to what effect, because I don’t know to what extent different models of teaching a course have changed.
Sometimes it’s hard to convince the Head of School and of course all of our processes to change a course to make it ‘different’.
Moving heavy chairs and changing their arrangement in a circle was both difficult and noisy. It also took time for class, while I was worried about running out of time in class (IM 9).
In my class, moving chairs was not pleasant for students (IM 7).
Each session took a lot of time to arrange the chairs, and as a result, the student’s concentration was disturbed and my speech was cut off (IF 4).
In my personal experience one constraint is that it has got internal students as well as external students so that means the classroom proceedings are actually recorded. You are always reminded of the students who are not in the class, but they will have access to the class recordings. So, if you do a lot of CL activities that may not be recorded, that’s one of the constraints (AM 6).
If you want to do a lot of student-centred activities, then maybe the external students will be losing out on a lot of the ideas. So, you have to have some sort of balance between the needs and the demands of the students who are sitting in front of me in the class, and those who are not in the class (AF 2).
In addition to society and university restrictions, some students with higher religious affiliations are reluctant to work in mixed groups by gender (IF 5).
Disorder, indecision and confusion of students in groups are the challenges of CL (IF 4).
Todays, students are not motivated. Consider I have a student whose sister has a master’s degree in Education and she is unemployed. Do you think this situation does not affect her academic motivation? I think high motivation of students is necessary to implementing CL in university classrooms (IM 6).
Social problems and economic concerns affect students’ academic motivation. In such situations, instructors and students will be less motivated to work effectively in the classroom (IM 1).
One of the disadvantages of CL is that one or two people in the group may not be allowed to talk to other members (IM 9).
Sometimes there was no opportunity to draw conclusions because some students spoke more than others in class (IF 5).
Sometimes the subject matter of the lesson was not entirely clear to the team members, and this led to non-subject matter being discussed in groups (IF 8).
Sometimes the discussions were long and non-subject matters were raised in the class (IF 3).
Some students are very active, some students are very verbal, and other students are very shy (AF 3).
Some students say the oral English of overseas students isn’t good and it has a negative effect on their assessment (AM 1).
Some students lack social skills and are not equally motivated (AM 7).
In university I think the biggest challenge of CL is the fear of losing control (IF 2).
I think the only problem with CL is disrupting the classroom (AF 8).
I see that sometimes in informal conversations the instructors mention the benefits of teamwork in the classroom, but most of them use the lecturing method in practice. While most instructors still think that group work is the same as CL (IM 7).
One of the things for instructors will be that they need more knowledge about CL. If you are not familiar with it, you don’t know how to use it properly (AF 4).
First of all, there could be challenges related to the instructors. If we don’t have a clear understanding of what CL is, how it works, what are the benefits and so on and so forth, defiantly we will be less willing to do it (AM 6).
My students and I may need to work to change the culture we have been accustomed to for years. Getting used to the culture of competition instead of cooperation is not just a problem for students, we as educators have been trained in such a system and it is a multidimensional challenge to implement interactive activities in university classrooms (IM 1).
It will be easier to implement CL in university classrooms if children are taught collaboratively from an early age (IM 9).
Because students have been accustomed to the passive method for years and have only been listeners, they resist it (IF 3).
Schools may have been taught cooperatively in year four, five, and six, but they get to year seven and suddenly the system says ‘Well now we need to be competitive’. So that students who are very adept at working co-operatively, they lose it because the system now, somehow decides that it’s more important to be competitive (AM 1).
I’ve got students who are first year. They may have never experienced CL before. I have no idea what they’re come from in their secondary school environment. They might be used to individual work. Then, it takes time to create that cultural shift in terms of this is also an effective way to learn (AF 5).
I suppose in Australia there are many conflicting messages. On the one hand there is that competitive agenda, but often businesses will say well we want people who will be cooperative. In schools principals are looking for teachers to work in a collaborative way, but by the same token there might be rewards for success (AM 1).
We ourselves have been socialised in those terrible systems you know of grades and getting the best result. So, we too, it’s in our genes. We have been socialised for so long to think that competition will deliver the best learning outcomes (AF 2).
I think that in society, at least here in Australia there is an increasing formal relationship.
You look at other people and you think; ‘What are they trying to get from me?’ You see them as a danger, as a threat … They get something then I miss out.
5. Conclusions and Implications
- University administrators need to try to familiarize faculty members with a CL approach through workshops and training courses;
- University administrators and faculty members need to be introduced to the advantages and challenges of CL and use the experience of implementing CL internationally;
- University administrators need to prepare for the potential challenges of CL and provide prerequisites for implementation before it can be implemented by instructors;
- Faculty members need to understand how to implement CL to promote students’ learning.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Sub-Themes||Number of References a|
|UT and UQ||UT||UQ||Interview||Observation|
|Learning environment||Interactive environment, pleasant environment, safe environment||-||High motivation of instructors to teach and engage students in classroom discussions, optimal use of resources||18||30||24||44||116|
|Quality of learning||Deep learning, solving complex problems, developing the students’ understandings and knowledge||-||-||20||25||14||24||83|
|Sub-Themes||Number of References a|
|UT and UQ||UT||UQ||Interview||Observation|
|Curriculum||Time constraints, grading system||Inflexibility of rules, restricted seating arrangements||Changing courses, working with external students||34||36||11||14||95|
|Student||-||Gender, insufficient knowledge of teamwork, lack of student’s motivation, unequal opportunity for participation, non-curriculum discussions||Catering for individual differences||19||14||9||8||50|
|Instructor||Classroom management, the lack of familiarity of CL||-||-||11||16||28||27||82|
|Society||Competitive culture||-||Building positive relationships with others||34||23||0||0||57|
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Keramati, M.R.; Gillies, R.M. Advantages and Challenges of Cooperative Learning in Two Different Cultures. Educ. Sci. 2022, 12, 3. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12010003
Keramati MR, Gillies RM. Advantages and Challenges of Cooperative Learning in Two Different Cultures. Education Sciences. 2022; 12(1):3. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12010003Chicago/Turabian Style
Keramati, Mohammad Reza, and Robyn M. Gillies. 2022. "Advantages and Challenges of Cooperative Learning in Two Different Cultures" Education Sciences 12, no. 1: 3. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12010003