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STUDENTS’ AND TEACHERS’ REACTIONS TO COOPERATIVE

pre-intervention phase. Second, it seemed that teachers were unaware of the alternative teaching methods due to the absence of professional development programmes at those schools for teachers. Third, since cooperative learning was a new method for the Maldives it appeared that it needed to be gradually introduced through the school Grades. Fourth, teachers acknowledged the importance of lesson planning although the time required to plan lessons was great in cooperative learning. Fifth, it emerged that current methods based on individualistic or competitive teaching in some degree contradicts the cooperative values that have been rooted in Maldivian culture for many years. Sixth, use of Dhivehi language appeared to be high when students were grouped due to lack of English proficiency. Seventh, little resistance towards the implementation of cooperative learning emerged. Eighth, teachers’ current teaching workload of an average 20 periods a week appeared to be five periods lower than the national average of 25. Finally, the classroom period of 35-minutes appeared to be difficult and insufficient to implement cooperative learning successfully.

The next section focuses on students’ and teachers’ reactions to cooperative learning

5.5 STUDENTS’ AND TEACHERS’ REACTIONS TO COOPERATIVE LEARNING

Students’ and teachers’ reactions to cooperative learning are presented in this section. It has been divided into four subsections, namely teaching, learning, effectiveness of cooperative learning, and advantages and disadvantages of cooperative learning to teach economics in lower secondary schools.

These issues are depicted in Figure 5.5, and presented separately in the following sub-sections.

Figure 5.5: Students’ & Teachers’ Reactions to Cooperative Learning

5.5.1 Teaching

As we have seen in Section 5.2, teaching changed in the selected classes due to the implementation of cooperative learning. Teachers seemed be positive about new methods of teaching, and were willing to implement lessons according to the procedures outlined in workshops on cooperative learning.

All nine teachers were optimistic about cooperative learning, and believed that it opened their eyes more towards alternative teaching methods. Furthermore, it changed their perception about the traditional teaching methods that they had been following for their entire teaching career. The following quote summarises their ideas with regard to their perception about cooperative learning:

I believe my perception about teaching economics has changed. Now I realise that there is a room for students and I to work together and develop positive relationships among us in order to maximise the learning. This is happening right now… I see my students’ interest in learning [POSTTI5].

Another teacher also agreed with the above comments and reiterated that students would find it difficult to go back to the traditional teaching arguing that students would not want to listen to continuous 35-minute lectures anymore. When I asked whether the changed teaching was due to cooperative learning the following was the reaction:

Students’ & Teachers’

Reactions to CL

Effectiveness of Cooperative Learning

Teaching Advantages &

Disadvantages of CL Learning

Yes, definitely in the Maldives because 35 minutes going on giving lectures, I don’t think students will be interested in anymore [POSTTI5].

When students were asked whether they had seen any changes in the way the lessons were taught, 90 out of 96 students who completed the post-questionnaires indicated the changes and some of their answers were:

… in the past the teacher uses examples very rarely when teaching.

But now because of this new method [cooperative learning] that provided more discussions and examples we can remember things and understand the issues more easily [POSTSQ2].

… when we were taught the last few topics [lessons on cooperative learning] in groups the teacher was helping us that I think was a very fine and interesting way of teaching … we were able to know more about what was happening in the topic and … more importantly we were able to make our own decisions that helped a lot to clear our doubts more freely [POSTSQ7].

… they were very interesting lessons and the teacher was more relaxed [POSTSQ50].

None of the teachers had any major problems with the implementation of the lessons although some minor procedural concerns were raised. Nevertheless, they believed if the teachers were properly trained with cooperative learning techniques these minor things would not be a problem in the future:

… I believe if they are properly trained and if they have the proper attitude towards cooperative learning then yes it will change most of the time and will help students to learn in a meaningful way [POSTTI8].

Although all teachers’ reactions were positive about the implementation of cooperative learning in their classrooms and its effects on students’ learning outcomes, the idea of combining the traditional and cooperative learning was raised during the post-interviews by a teacher. The following quote reflects her idea of combining these two methods to teach economics:

I should say like a combination of conventional and cooperative learning will help a lot in understanding and improving students’

ability to go in depth into the subject ... in a way the conventional way of teaching off course may be a bit monotonous I don’t say no, but for the introduction of a topic yes it is very much required. But for seeing the practical of the concepts then definitely this cooperative learning will help a lot [POSTTI7].

Another teacher also had a similar idea of combining both methods in order to maintain the healthy teaching and learning environment:

… if we do it [cooperative learning] all the time most probably they will get bored as it happened with the traditional method so I think a combination of these two methods would be needed to maximise their interest in the subject [POSTTI8].

5.5.2 Learning

Learning economics more meaningfully at lower secondary school level in the Maldives was one of the objectives of this study. It appeared that teachers and students reacted positively to the learning environments created through cooperative learning. All nine teachers agreed that cooperative learning would generate better learning environments for students to learn economics. They also believed that student learning would be more constructive under cooperative learning than the traditional method where students were expected to rote memorise. The following two comments exemplify all teachers’ perceptions of how cooperative learning creates better learning environments for students to learn economics more meaningfully:

Yes, I believe so because … it [cooperative learning] will make the lesson interesting and will create more positive learning environments for students [POSTTI8].

… see in the conventional learning we don’t know how far the slow learners and average learners have picked up, where as here there is far possibility that fast learners will be in the position to transfer the information what they have received and in a way you know, for example, though we teachers teach and students concentrate and listen, the extent of penetration will be more in their minds if one of their friends give the idea, so that’s what I feel as an advantage of the cooperative learning [POSTTI7].

Likewise, students who were interviewed after the intervention also agreed that cooperative learning would create better learning environments, more interesting lessons, make concepts easier to learn, and they would be able to learn more about what was happening in the topics. The following two comments represent eight out of the nine students:

I think cooperative learning has helped us to learn economics more easily. We discuss among us and we know we all have to understand

the activities so we all help each other. I think this is a great way of learning [POSTSI2].

Yes, the lesson on cooperative learning was very interesting. We were very much interested in doing the activities. Group discussion helped us to understand the lesson better because the students who did know were able to explain to those who didn't. The teacher was able to help all students better [POSTSI5].

On the other hand students who completed the post-student questionnaires were divided with regard to how they preferred to learn economics. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of 90 out 96 students responded that their preferred method of learning economics was cooperative learning. Some of their reactions were:

I prefer the method that we had in economic growth lessons [cooperative learning] because I believe that we can put more effort in and it provided more opportunities for us to bring out good ideas and help each other in this way. Usually I get really bored in the class but I now believe that economics is really interesting after the lessons that we had recently, and the class is also more live this way [POSTSQ40].

I prefer to learn economics the way we have learnt economic growth because the previous method is very boring and we find it very hard to understand anything from the teacher. It is much better to work in groups so we can share ideas and help each other. Also when we are grouped together our cooperation towards each other increases in side the class [POSTSQ31].

Three out of 96 students preferred the traditional method over cooperative learning. Their reactions were:

I prefer the method that we have been following always, because when we have groups some of them will not take part in the activities. Also some students will argue with each other regarding the issues which eventually will be a problem for all of us [POSTSQ52].

I prefer the old method because our teacher questions everyone and teaches that way well. On the other hand forming groups could create problems in the classroom because we are not very familiar with such kind of learning techniques [POSTSQ60].

I prefer the method we have been following always because the teacher explains everything for us and that makes our life easier [POSTSQ21].

Finally, a combination of traditional and cooperative learning was raised by a student, indicating that:

Both lecture and small group learning gives more opportunities for students to learn economics effectively [POSTSQ80].

5.5.3 The Effectiveness of Cooperative Learning

The effectiveness of cooperative learning was raised and discussed during the post-interviews with teachers and students. All nine teachers viewed cooperative learning as an effective method but some had their doubts about the effectiveness of cooperative learning to teach all topics in the economics syllabus.

Seven teachers expressed their satisfaction with cooperative learning, indicating that this method has provided opportunities for students to discuss the issues in groups, help each other, and explain things in their own language. Some of their quotes with regard to the effectiveness of cooperative learning include:

I think it is an effective approach to teach economics because it provides real opportunities for both students and teachers to discuss issues, analyse real problems and find answers together in classrooms [POSTTI4].

It is more effective because students are interacting in the lesson.

They are helping each other, and explaining things in their own language, which is great. They understand things more easily [POSTTI2].

Look our subject is a social science subject: we talk, discuss and find solutions to our social life problems. Cooperative learning provides such environment for students in our schools. So I think students will be more encouraged and interested also when they themselves share their ideas, study about the things going on around the economic systems, business organisations and so on. So I think it is very effective method to teach economics [POSTTI6].

Another teacher supported the above teachers by relating his own experiences to justify the effectiveness of cooperative learning and its likely effects on student learning in the Maldives.

Based on my experience I would say it is extremely effective teaching method to teach economics here in the Maldives. It is because through cooperative learning students will be able to learn from their discussions [POSTTI9].

Similarly all nine students agreed with those teachers who view cooperative learning as an effective method to learn economics. They believed that cooperative learning has provided them with opportunities to help each other and discuss issues in groups which were not allowed in traditional methods of learning. When they were asked whether they regard cooperative learning as an effective method for learning economics, their answers are illustrated by the following two quotes:

Yes, I think because we help each other to learn and also we get chances to use Dhivehi language to clarify things [POSTSI6].

Sure, we can share our ideas and help those students who need help in completing the work. The other thing is the social skills that we learn by working with others. We can’t get these skills if we work individually in a competitive environment [POSTSI7].

However, as previously indicated, one teacher did not see that cooperative learning could be used to teach all the topics in the economics syllabus, although she agreed it in as an effective means of learning economics in general. Her comment with regard to the effectiveness of cooperative learning was:

It is effective method but I don’t think it can be used for all the lessons and all the topics. But to some extent it is applicable and it is good for teaching certain topics using lots of data analysis, or what you call the graph analysis and those things, it is better to have this method [POSTTI1].

5.5.4 Advantages and Disadvantages of Cooperative Learning

Any teaching method a teacher uses has advantages and disadvantages, requiring some preliminary preparation. Selecting a teaching method for a particular lesson depends upon many things such as: the age and developmental level of the students, what the students already know, what they need to know to succeed with the lesson, the subject-matter, the objective of the lesson, time, space and material resources and the physical setting.

Teachers selected topics for their respective classes and implemented them according to cooperative learning criteria provided during the workshops on cooperative learning. Table 5.1 summarises the advantages and disadvantages of cooperative learning outlined by the teachers and students after the implementation of cooperative learning lessons.

Table 5.1: Advantages and Disadvantages of Cooperative Learning

Advantages Disadvantages

ƒ Allows for participation of everyone ƒ Classroom sizes are too small

ƒ Students help each other ƒ Large groups difficult to manage

ƒ Helps foster mutual responsibility ƒ Difficult to implement in lower Grades

ƒ Students use Dhivehi to clarify things ƒ Time consuming

ƒ The extent of penetration will be more in their minds if one of their friends gives the idea

ƒ Classroom time is not sufficient

ƒ Teacher is more aware what is

happening in the classes ƒ Lack of resources

ƒ Helps to develop social and communication skills

ƒ Students often more comfortable in small groups

ƒ Students learn to be patient, less critical and more compassionate.

The above advantages and disadvantages of cooperative learning were outlined by the teachers and students during the interviews, and through the post-questionnaires. Students themselves did not list or outline any disadvantages of cooperative learning. Meanwhile, seven out of the nine teachers indicated that advantages of cooperative learning outweigh the disadvantages of it when it comes to the teaching and learning of economics. Some of their comments that all six teachers shared include:

I don’t find any disadvantages when I went to this method. It is easy for students to understand, they converse with each other, they clarify the doubts and now when they clarify the doubts they use a Dhivehi as a medium to speak among themselves. So they do a better job than the teachers do I think [POSTTI5].

… definitely this cooperative learning will contribute a lot towards self-learning … it will serve as a very useful learning method or learning procedure we can say [POSTTI7].

Another three teachers outlined some of the disadvantages that they see with the implementation of cooperative learning. Classroom sizes, the effectiveness of cooperative learning in lower Grades, and the size of the groups were some of the disadvantages outlined by these teachers. The two following comments summarise their views:

… disadvantages is that because our classrooms are very small and the students in the groups are very large. So there might be a problem [POSTTI8].

… the disadvantage what I feel is, I don’t know it is my individual opinion, it may be bit difficult to implement at the lower Grades because the lower Grade’s students may not be in a position to understand the significance of the entire educational process [POSTTI7].

5.5.5 Summary

This section has presented data on students’ and teachers’ reactions to cooperative learning. It appeared that teachers and students were positive about the implementation of cooperative learning, and the effectiveness of this method in terms of the teaching and learning of economics.