EDU 6526: Socially Constructed Knowledge

H – Honor student diversity, development and their right to learn.

H5 – Honor student potential for roles in the greater society.
 Teacher candidates prepare students to be responsible citizens for an environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society.

“The hope is to [help students] find fulfillment through personal inquiry and cooperative group endeavor to make the world a better place by promoting democratic value” (Scheuerman, 2014).

Socially constructed knowledge is obtained by students in the classroom through the process of collaboration and problem solving. Classrooms that practice cooperative learning provide students with opportunities to explore content through discovery, learning, and sharing ideas with others. This method of instruction can be initiated in many ways but must be planned effectively, with the teacher serving as an aid to learning, rather than providing continuous instruction. Typically, students may be presented with a challenge or problem to solve within a group activity that is to be fulfilled. As they work in small groups to find solutions to problems, discover new sources of knowledge, and initiate creative thought and conversations, they will be building strategies throughout their educations to solve real-world problems (Scheuerman, 2014).

My pedagogical philosophy entails that students should consistently participate in cooperative learning activities. In addition, students should be promoted by their teacher to look forward to learning, to have an interest in new material to be presented and discovered in class and should be excited to learn about things that may not have interested them previously. As noted by Dean et al. (2012), “Few other instructional strategies are as theoretically grounded as cooperative learning” (p. 35). While this instructional method may be misunderstood, I have encountered it in many classrooms at all instructional levels and have witnessed some extremely exciting results.

One example that stands out as relevant in this post is a fifth grade classroom that I observed recently. The teacher presented a problem-solving task to her students (which I also tried to solve on my own – it was quite difficult). The students were presented with a mathematical puzzle and would work in teams of four in order to solve it. They continuously tried multiple strategies within their groups to solve the problem and found it to be very difficult. After some time, one group managed to find a solution and presented it to their teacher. This solution promoted their individual group to visibly celebrate their success in front of the class, promoting the other groups to vigorously try to achieve success as well. The groups that solved the problem would be provided another similar puzzle that was slightly more difficult to solve, to further drive their group to do more work while others were finishing their puzzles. This example closely resembled the syntax represented in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Syntax of group investigation model (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015).

Figure 1. Syntax of group investigation model (Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015).

At the end of the lesson, all groups solved at least the first problem that was assigned. The class reviewed their progress and discussed the activity together as a whole. While it is difficult to convey the energy in this classroom, I must communicate that this environment was positive, fun, and exciting. I have never witnessed such enthusiasm for mathematics; it was in fact contagious; I asked if I could take the third puzzle home with me to solve in my own time.

After studying and witnessing the outcomes of cooperative learning in several different classrooms at the elementary and secondary levels of education, I plan to implement this concept consistently in my future elementary classroom. I also embrace other teaching models and hope to scaffold instruction with cooperative learning strategies to further enable my students to work together, in a miniature classroom democracy. I also foresee several other opportunities to use this instructional strategy to help those gifted and talented students (GT) while also finding methods to diversify cooperative learning and assignments to assist those on individual education plans (IEPs) and 504 plans. With classroom inclusion strategies, peer tutoring and group collaboration can significantly help these students with their teacher serving as their assistant and guide to learning. This method if implemented and planned well, can help to serve the needs of a very diversified classroom. While cooperative classrooms may appear noisy and busy on the surface, they have proven to be fulfilling and engaging environments (Scheuerman, 2014). I hope to inspire my students to learn by layering instruction in hopes to have my students appreciate learning more than they look forward to lunch!

References:

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research based strategies for increasing student achievement (2nd ed.). Alexandria: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of teaching (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Scheuerman, R. (2014). Session 5: Cooperative learning and constructivism. Personal Collection of (Scheuerman, R.), Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA. Podcast retrieved from https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/webapps/blackboard/execute/content/file?cmd=view&content_id=_1031333_1&course_id=_84477_1

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