Cooperative or group learning organizes students into small groups who can work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning. Research indicates that students completing cooperative learning group tasks tend to have higher test scores, higher self-esteem, improved social skills, and greater comprehension of the subjects they are studying. Perhaps the most significant characteristic of group learning is that it continually requires active participation of the student in the learning process.
Conditions and Controls
In spite of its advantages, success with cooperative or group learning depends on conditions and controls. First of all, instructors need to begin planning early to determine what the student group is expected to learn and to be able to do on their own. The group task may emphasize academic achievement, cognitive abilities, or physical skills, but the instructor must use clear and specific learning objectives to describe the knowledge and/or abilities the students are to acquire and then demonstrate on their own.
The following conditions and controls are useful for cooperative learning, but do not need to be used every time an instructor assigns a group learning project:
- Small, heterogeneous groups
- Clear, complete instructions of what students are to do, in what order, with what materials, and when appropriate—what students are to do as evidence of their mastery of targeted content and skills
- Student perception of targeted objectives as their own, personal objectives
- The opportunity for student success
- Student access to and comprehension of required information
- Sufficient time for learning
- Individual accountability
- Recognition and rewards for group success
- Time after completion of group tasks for students to systematically reflect upon how they worked together as a team
In practice, cooperative or group learning in aviation training is normally modified to adapt to school policy or for other valid reasons. For example, collaborative, student-led, instructor-led, or working group strategies are alternatives to a pure form of group learning. In these examples, the student leader or the instructor serves as a coach or facilitator who interacts with the group, as necessary, to keep it on track or to encourage everyone in the group to participate.