Cooperative learning: a double edged sword

Author: Baker, Trish

Date: 2009-12-23

Publisher: Whitireia Community Polytechnic

Type: Conference item

Link to this item using this URL:


Although there has been very little research done in co-operative learning in New Zealand, international research is positive about the educational benefits of working in culturally diverse groups. This paper presents the findings of a research project examining New Zealand experiences with co-operative learning in multicultural groups. The paper presents findings from surveys and focus groups with both domestic and international students and with New Zealand tertiary lecturers who use collaborative learning techniques in their programmes. The findings from this research indicate that there is a strong cultural conflict in the conceptualisation of cooperative learning between international students with little prior experience of cooperative learning and New Zealand lecturers who are often not fully prepared to help international students to bridge the gaps. The majority of international students value lecturers' programme content delivery and the achievement of high marks over the development of interpersonal skills; this is contrary to New Zealand lecturers' belief that the development of team skills is the most important outcome from cooperative learning. This cognitive dissonance reinforces the importance of understanding cultural differences and their impact on student patterns of classroom behaviour. This paper recommends that domestic and international students be prepared more effectively for cooperative learning and that lecturers be trained in designing curricula and assessment programmes that are pedagogically sound and culturally accommodating. The paper proposes a model to assist lecturers to achieve this aim.

Subjects: collaborative learning, group work, diverse student groups, assessment, peer evaluation, culture, cooperative learning model, bilingual, multilingual and multicultural education, 13 - Education

Copyright: All rights reserved