Cooperative learning involves students working in groups on problems or projects such that it fosters positive interdependence, individual accountability, leadership, decision making, communication, and conflict management skills (Johnson, Smith, & Smith, 1991). Felder and Brent (1983) indicate that cooperative learning also enhances short-term mastery, long-term retention, understanding of course material, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. Recent literature suggests a number of cooperative learning strategies; however, many of these strategies may not be as effective or practical in large classes because of the larger number of students. Teaching a large class itself is challenging. Introducing cooperative learning strategies in large classes is even more challenging. Felder has described some innovative techniques including cooperative learning strategies for effectively teaching large classes. This article describes some other cooperative learning strategies that were used in large classes and provides results of student feedback on those strategies. The second section describes the results of a local survey on large class offerings in science education in some institutions in the western part of Nigeria. The third section describes cooperative learning strategies that were used inside or outside of a classroom. The results and conclusions are given in the fourth and fifth sections, respectively.
Cooperative Learning Strategies
Cooperative learning, as indicated earlier, involves group work. Groups may be organized along informal or formal lines. Wankat and Oreovicz (1994) define that informal cooperative learning groups are formed on the spur of the moment for a particular short term task and then dissolved. Such groups are useful in the middle of a lecture, to assign students a task such as solving a problem, answering a complicated question, or developing a question for the lecturer. Engendering a more cooperative class atmosphere, these groups serve as a break when the students’ attention falters, and gives them a chance to practice team work. For the instructor, informal groups are a good way to start experimenting with cooperative learning.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Learning: Using search capabilities, rich interaction, and tracking of information contents through formal or informal teaching methods.
Education: The development of every aspect of the personality, intellectual, physical, and moral to its fullest potential.
Teaching: Discharging accessible resources for effective learning and performance-based assessment.
Computer: Computer is a device that can perform arithmetic and logical operations on data and provide the results of its operations automatically without any human intervention.
Communication: The use of protocol for data transfer or signaling by putting synchronous or asynchronous data streams into channels.