The purpose of the study was to find the effect of using cooperative learning method on learning achievement and opinion towards science subject of the seventh grade students at Samtse Lower Secondary School in Bhutan. The subjects of the study comprised 82 seventh grade students. The study was an experimental research and pretest-posttest using control and experimental group was adopted. The research instruments were achievement test, opinion questionnaire, observation form and lesson plans. Data from test scores, students’ opinion and lesson observations were analyzed by calculating mean, standard deviation and p-value using paired samples t-test.
The results of test score analysis showed that the pretest means of the two groups were not different but the posttest mean of the experimental group (11.27) was significantly higher than that of control group (16.01). Students’ opinion analysis results showed that the means of interest (2.92), understanding (2.99) and satisfaction (2.81) in the pre-survey increased to high level of opinion on post-survey (interest 3.83, understanding 3.84, and satisfaction 3.78). The level of difficulty of the subject decreased from high in the pre-survey (3.87) to low in the post survey (2.45). The results suggested that there was positive change in opinion as a result of inclusion of cooperative learning.
Key words: Cooperative Learning method, Science, Learning Achievement, Education, Bhutan.
In spite of the emerging innovative teaching methods, traditional teaching is a dominant teaching method in teaching science in Bhutan (Sherab, 2008). The drawbacks of teacher centered learning has led to poor understanding of concepts and has resulted in poor learning achievements in science tests (Tenzin, et al, 2009). Besides, students have negative opinion towards learning science. They have low level of interest, understanding, satisfaction and perceive science as a difficult subject.
Over the past decades cooperative learning method has emerged as a leading new approach to classroom instruction. Researchers have revealed that students learning through cooperative groups have higher academic test scores, higher self esteem, greater number of positive social skills and greater comprehension of content and skills they study (Johnson and Johnson, 1994). So, cooperative learning method would be an alternative to traditional teaching in Bhutan. However, not many studies have been done to determine the effect of cooperative learning method in Bhutanese teaching-learning context. Therefore, the objectives of this study were: 1. To study the effect of cooperative learning method on the learning achievement of seventh grade students studying science. 2. To study the effect of cooperative learning method on students’ opinion towards seventh grade science.
2. Literature Review
2.1 Cooperative learning
Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1994). Kagan (1989), defined cooperative learning as a teaching arrangement that refers to small, heterogeneous groups of students working together to achieve a common goal.
2.2 Theories underlying cooperative learning
(i) The Vygotskian Perspective
The Vygotskian perspective related to cooperative leaning is Zone of proximal development and it formed the theoretical bases for cooperative learning (Doolittle, 1995). Vygotsky believed that the process of the cognitive development is dependent on social interaction and that social learning actually led to cognitive development. This phenomenon was called the Zone of Proximal Development.
(ii) The Piagetian Perspective
Piaget believed the cognitive performance in children is directly associated with the cognitive development stage they were in. Piaget believed that learning involve the participation of the learner. Knowledge was not merely transmitted verbally but must be constructed and reconstructed by the learner (Sigel, 1977).
(iii) Bandura’s social learning theory
The social learning theory of Bandura (1977) emphasized the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Social learning theory explained human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences.
Being student-centered by nature, cooperative learning owed much credit to Constructivism (Liang, 2002). Constructivism is a philosophy of learning that was founded on the premise that learning was an active, contextualized process of constructing knowledge rather than acquiring it (Piaget, 1973 and Papert, 1980).
(v) Dale’s cone of learning
According to Edger Dale (1946), retention rates arw the highest with teamwork which included (a) discussion groups: 50%, (b) practice by doing: 75% and (c) teaching others/immediate use of learning: 90%. As a sharp contrast, the retention rate of the traditional ways of individual and passive learning like lecturing (5%), reading (10%), and demonstration (30%) lasted no more than 30 percent.
2.3 Principles of cooperative learning
According to Johnson and Johnson (1994) there are five principles of cooperative learning (i) Positive interdependence (ii) Face-to-Face promotive interaction (iii) Individual accountability (iv) Interpersonal and small group skills (v) Group processing.
(i) Positive interdependence
Johnson and Johnson (1987) stated that the heart of cooperative learning is positive interdependence. Students in cooperative group depend on each other for ideas, resources and moral support for the success of the group. They work on a common goal and they must think that they are linked to each other (Johnson and Johnson, 1989).
(ii) Face-to-face promotive interaction
It requires children to discuss, share ideas, views and materials, providing and getting feedbacks, encourage to keep one another highly motivated to complete that task they are assigned (Johnson and Johnson, 1987).
(iii) Individual accountability
Students in cooperative learning are responsible for their own and group’s learning. Having small sized group enhances group accountability because each member will be accountable for learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1989).
(iv) Interpersonal and small group skills
Students in cooperative groups practice and develop teamwork skills like leadership, decision making, trust-building, communication and conflict management (Johnson and Johnson, 1989).
(v) Group processing
Students in cooperative groups discuss how well they have achieved the goal, describe what member actions are helpful and unhelpful and make decision about how to continue or change (Johnson & Johnson, 1989).
2.4 Related research
Several studies have examined the effects of cooperative learning methods on student learning. Humphreys, Johnson, and Johnson (1982) compared cooperative, competitive, and individualistic strategies in science classes and found that students who were taught by cooperative methods learned and retained significantly more information than students taught by the other two methods. Sherman and Thomas (1986) found similar results in a study involving high school general mathematics classes taught by cooperative and individualistic methods. Wodarski, Adelson, Todd, and Wodarski (1980) found significant gains between the pretest and posttest scores in teaching nutrition.
Johnson and Ahlgren (1976) examined the relationships between students' attitudes toward cooperation, competition, and their attitudes toward education. The.results of the study indicated that student cooperativeness, and not competitiveness, was positively related to being motivated to learn. Humphreys, Johnson, and Johnson (1982) also found that students studying physical science in a cooperative learning treatment group rated their learning experience more positively than did students in competitive and individualistic treatment groups. Tjosvold, Marine, and Johnson (1977) found that cooperative learning strategies promoted positive attitudes toward both didactic and inquiry methods of teaching science, and students taught by cooperative strategies believed they had learned more from the lesson than did students taught by competitive strategies.
3. Research Methodology
3.1 Research design: The study was an experimental research and pretest-posttest design using two groups was adopted.
3.2 Subjects of the study: Subjects of the study comprised 82 seventh grade students of Samtse Lower Secondary School. They were divided into two groups-control and experimental.
3.3 Research instruments: Four research instruments were used:1. Achievement test 2. Opinion questionnaire 3. Lesson observation form and 4. Lesson plans.
3.4 Validity and reliability: A panel of experts assessed the instruments for validity. They were pilot tested for reliability. The Chronbach’s alpha reliability coefficient for the questionnaire was 0.83 and for the test the KR-21 coefficient was 0.75.
3.5 Experiment procedure: Pretest was administered to the two groups. To study the opinion, a pre-survey questionnaire was administered to the experimental group. The two groups were then taught the same topic ‘Sunlight’ using seven lessons. The control group was taught with traditional or lecture method while the experimental group was taught using cooperative learning techniques i.e. jigsaw, STAD, roundtable, team-pair-solo and group investigation. Two science teachers observed the lesson in the experimental group to study the extent to which the lessons were characterized by cooperative learning environment. At the end a post test was administered to both groups and the post-survey opinion questionnaire was administered to the experimental group.
4. Data Analysis and Findings
The data was analyzed in three parts 1. Test score analysis, by comparing the scores of the two groups in terms of mean, standard deviation and p-value using paired samples t-test. 2. Opinion analysis, by comparing the opinion of two groups in terms of mean, standard deviation and p-value using paired samples t-test. 3. Lesson observation analysis using mean and standard deviation.
The results of test score analysis showed that the pretest means of the control group (8.63) and experimental group (8.70) were not different but on posttest the mean of the experimental group (11.27) was significantly higher than that of control group (16.01).
Students’ opinion analysis results showed that the pre-survey means of interest (2.92), understanding (2.99) and satisfaction (2.81) in learning science increased to high level of opinion (interest 3.83, understanding 3.83, and satisfaction 3.78). The level of difficulty of the subject decreased from high in the pre-survey (3.87) to low in the post survey (2.45). The results indicated that students’ level of interest, understanding, satisfaction increased and perceived learning science as a less difficult subject as a result of inclusion of cooperative learning.
The results of lesson observation analysis showed that teacher observers strongly agreed that cooperative groups were characterized by positive interdependence (mean 4.6: strongly agree) and individual accountability (4.52: strongly agree). Teachers agreed that students showed face to face interaction (4.14: agree), interpersonal and small group skills and group processing (3.77: agree) during cooperative group activities. In sum, it indicated that the lessons were carried out in cooperative learning environment.
The study drew two major conclusions:
1. Cooperative learning increased the learning achievement of seventh grade science students.
2. Students’ level of interest, understanding, satisfaction increased and students perceived learning science as a less difficult subject as a result of cooperative learning.
The study had two major findings. The first was that cooperative learning method increased seventh grade students’ learning achievement. The second was that students’ level of interest, understanding, satisfaction increased and perceived learning science as less difficult subject as a result of cooperative learning.
The first finding was consistent with the findings of Humphrey, Johnson and Johnson (1982) that students studying physical science by cooperative learning method learned, retained and scored better than students taught by competitive and individualistic methods. The finding was also congruent with Wodarski, Adelson, Todd, and Wodarski’s (1980) findings that there were significant gains between the pretest and posttest scores in teaching nutrition using cooperative learning method.
A possible reason to account for such significant gain could be because of the socially oriented lessons taught and learned through small group interactions (Vygotsky, 1978). As students interacted, they shared their ideas and point of views, give and receive support from each member and help each other dig below the superficial level of understanding of the material they were learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1990). Teacher observers noted these behaviors during the lesson and commented:
“...The classroom environment was completely different. Normally, students hardly talk but this time we have seen even the quietest student in the class actively interacting with the group members....” (Teacher B)
Such interaction among group members could have lead to clear understanding of concepts and retain them in memory. According to Dale (1946) student retain 50% of what they learn through discussions and 90% of what they learn by teaching their peers. This mechanism of cooperative learning could have led to gain in test scores.
Another reason to account for the gain in test score could be due to the less threatening classroom environment. Students in the experimental group experienced more freedom to express their ideas and enjoy the lesson than did control group where teacher dominated the class. Teacher observer noted the change in learning atmosphere and commented:
“...The teacher did not impose any hard rules that would intimidate the students. He was rather approachable, friendly and caring. In such less threatening class, students seemed to learn better and enjoy the learning experience...” (Teacher A)
According to Johnson and Johnson (1990), when students interact, shared ideas and point of views, give and receive support from each member and help each other, it enables them dig below the superficial level of understanding of the material they are learning.
Other reasons to account for such gains could be because of the equal opportunity for success in cooperative learning. Students in a group learnt in the spirit of ‘Sink or swim together (Johnson and Johnson, 1990) and they made sure that each member has understood the material they were learning. This was evident as teacher observers agreed to statements such as ‘Students made sure that all members in the group had learnt’.
Moreover, several learning theories also account for the high learning achievement. Since cooperative leaning has its root in theories of child-centered learning, theories such as Vygotsky’s (1978) theory of social learning which contends that student learning depend on social interaction; constructivism which states that student construct their own knowledge and their learning increases depending on their involvement; and Edger Dale’s (1948) learning theory which states that student retain information better when they learn through group discussion and teaching peers, support the finding.
The second finding of the study that students’ level of interest, understanding, satisfaction increased and perceived learning science as a less difficult subject, was consistent with the findings of Humphreys, Johnson, and Johnson (1982) who found that students studying physical science in a cooperative learning treatment group rated their learning experience more positively than did students in competitive and individualistic treatment groups. It was also consistent with the study of Tjosvold, Marine, and Johnson (1977) who found that students taught by cooperative strategies believed they had learned more enjoyably than did students taught by competitive strategies.
Some possible reasons to account for such change in opinion could be due to the less threatening and enjoyable learning environment where students could freely express their ideas and point of views, give and receive support from each member and help each other dig below the superficial level of understanding of the material they were learning. According to Slavin (1995), such learning environment ultimately helps students in psychological wellbeing and increases the level of interest.
Another reason to account for such positive change in opinion could be due to the pleasure and satisfaction students derived from having understood the concepts they learnt. It was evident from students’ high ratings to statements such as ‘I learn science concepts by understanding not by memorization’, ‘I am satisfied with what I learn in science class’, ‘Each science class makes me happier’.
The fun and enjoyable learning atmosphere can also be attributed to students’ increased level of interest and satisfaction. The researcher planned quizzes, tests and games at the end of each group activity to make the lesson interesting. For example, in a lesson using STAD, students first learned a concept in group and a test was done but without seeking help from peers. The individual scores were added up and the total points scored became the score for the group. The group securing the highest point was rewarded. Students found this activity of cooperative learning so interesting that even the next lesson had to be conducted using STAD. It indicated that among the five techniques, children liked STAD the most.
Besides the two findings, a notable point in the observation analysis was that the mean of fourth principle of cooperative learning, interpersonal and small group skills, was lower than that of other principles. The possible reason for such low mean could be because students were not experienced in working in cooperative groups. Although group exercises were conducted before the treatment to make the students familiar among themselves and socialize with each other, the short period of time the researcher used for this session might not have been enough for them to be familiar enough and work with interpersonal and small group skills.
Currently cooperative learning has been found effective in many countries like Australia, Russia, Singapore, New Guinea, Ireland and Lebanon, The U.S.A, Canada, Germany, England, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Turkey, Panama, Singapore, Hungary, etc. Since this study also found cooperative to be effective in teaching grade seven science in Bhutan, it can be claimed that cooperative learning is not culture bound and it can well be used in Bhutan as an alternative to traditional teaching.
However, some limitations of the study may be noted. Firstly, the subjects of the study were only two classes of the seventh grade students. Secondly the experiment was conducted within a very short period of time, just over a month and only 14 lessons were used. Thirdly, the study was conducted in a semi-urban school and the results might not be generalized to urban and rural schools where teaching-learning context is quite different. These factors limit the generalizability of the findings.
7.1 Recommendation for practice: The study recommended teachers in Bhutan to use cooperative learning method as an alternative teaching method to teach science.
7.2 Recommendation for further research: 1. To study the effectiveness of cooperative learning method in other subjects and other levels of education. 2. This study used variety of cooperative learning structures like team jigsaw, STAD, group investigation, roundtable method, team pair solo, etc. Researches may be conducted to study the effectiveness of each of these techniques.
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