10 SES 04 E, Cooperative learning and Career Satisfaction
Do we in the field of Education in the 21st century need to work in isolation and in competition? Co-operative learning has a ‘long history of research across diverse contexts, disciplines, participants, and countries around the world — including studies conducted in higher education…and has produced an abundance of empirical evidence on five elements that mediate its effectiveness’ (Johnson and Johnson in Stevahn, 2013: 34).
Convinced of the value of cooperative learning, a Cooperative Schools Research Group (CSRG) was developed that meant ‘that teacher researchers and the wider research community work in partnership, rather than in separate and sometimes competing universes’ (BERA 2014:5). Two university lecturers, several school teachers, two school governors and others created a group that challenged the idea of working separately. There were also doctoral students working with Anderson and Gristy in the university setting, as researchers in their own right, alongside the others in ‘a participatory approach to scholarship in which university faculty and students work …. toward positively influencing change in the community’ (Stevahn, 2013: 33).
UK centred but with implications for global education, the theoretical framework and international dimension of this work was addressed primarily through the use of the Hertz-Lazarowitz Cooperative participatory model, as first used in the University of Haifa, Israel (2010). In addition, the CSRG group undertook to work together with the set of co-operative values and principles articulated by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA, 1995). These are the 6 organisational values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity and the 4 ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. In the CSRG, conversations, stories and documents shared within meetings across the months we met and worked together - mainly through 2015 – 2016, demonstrated the work was underpinned by these principles and values.
Each CSRG member developed a different research project within their own setting, informed by aspects of Co-operative Learning as outlined by Roger and David Johnson (2013: 34). A meta study project, run by the two university colleagues, was the Anderson and Gristy project; it posed 2 research questions.
- Could we develop a model that could be a supportive framework for undertaking research within a diverse but co-operative community of researchers?
- Could we chart the development of the group through a meta-study so that we could offer a model/ framework to others?
The individual research projects leads were each autonomous but often ideas overlapped and so members of CSRG often worked collaboratively. This generated data for the ‘meta project’ which worked largely to the theoretical framework as articulated by Hertz-Lazarowitz.
The methodology for the meta project included collective biography. This fitted with the agreed cooperative ethos that encompasses collaborative data collection and analysis. It can ‘make visible, palpable and hearable the constitutive effect of dominant discourses…and open both ourselves and discourse to the possibility of change’ (Davies & Gannon, 2006: 5).
Of considerable importance to us all in CSRG, whatever our role or roles, was the support and development of teachers in schools, colleges and academies. In a Singapore schools study, Lee et al ‘highlighted the key attributes bolstering co-operative learning among teachers’ and that ‘by relating to each other as peers, teachers countercheck each other through the systematic and rigorous engagement in reflective dialogues’ (Lee et al, 2013: 55).
Similar findings were evident in individuals’ reflection on working within our CSRG group, although we drew on a broader range of educationalists than only teachers in schools.
The Anderson/ Gristy meta project research project into the CSRG was a qualitative narrative study working with observation and reflections, interviews, narratives and biographies. It also drew on minutes and notes from group meetings. It linked those involved in CSRG and all their projects to whatever point they had reached. The individual projects were diverse and included exploring school pupils’ understanding of the co-operative values within a school; another was about implementing the values and principles of the International Co-operative Alliance and impact on the working environment for staff responsible for safeguarding children. A third project examined roles of Governors of Co-operative Schools and how they are influenced by Co-operative Values. A fourth questioned creating a Cooperative Trust Secondary School asking what comes first, cooperative values or pedagogy. The projects were mixed methods, using qualitative data gathering - plus quantitative data where appropriate. The CSRG group met on average every three months as suited people’s work commitments. The data for the meta project was generated and gathered from early 2015 through to late 2016. Each group meeting always had one of the university colleagues present and most of the others represented - sometimes via Skype. Chairing and note taking was shared. A number that began did not continue for reason of moving schools or jobs, illness or other significant absence from their work place. In addition, schools represented in the group experienced significant changes. This had a profound impact on the make-up of the group but at the time of writing seven remained. A significant milestone was when the group had a paper accepted for the first UK Cooperative Education Conference, in spring 2016 in Manchester, England. This was exactly one year since they had first met and created CSRG. A narrative was created, sharing what for the group had they agreed had emerged. To generate that narrative Anderson talked with all but one of the group (who was unavailable), either by phone, skype as well as in person, making notes and using respondent validation to check data later. One person emailed their thoughts. The notes were then divided up into key themes but were used as close to verbatim as possible to structure an imagined group conversation. Eight voices were represented in the resulting narrative.
The group aspired to become a Professional Learning Community (PLC) focusing on developing professional capital which together could, we suggest be termed a community of Educational practitioners coming together to engage in a cycle of inquiry-based educational learning (drawing on Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012 and Hargreaves, 2016). It also set out to show that working collaboratively and cooperatively was worth the barriers and challenges - and could offer and achieve more than had been anticipated at the start. When the group carried out a formal reflection on progress, given that they were a self-selecting group of people still in contact as CSRG, they would only have positive views. To counter that, all were encouraged to explore exactly why the group was useful for them. From the resulting narratives which will be presented in edited form for this paper, it was clear that in most respects the group had achieved much of what it had set out to do. All group members were positive about their engagement with it. At time of writing, the Anderson /Gristy frame work is still under construction but it has become clear that the CSRG experience has much to offer others that may wish to follow and we would be pleased to present the completed framework at the conference.
BERA (2014) Research and the Teaching Profession Building the capacity for a self-improving education system - © BERA 2014 ISBN: 978-0-946671-37-3 Davies, B. & Gannon, S. (2006) Doing Collective Biography. Buckingham: Open University Press Hargreaves, A (2016) editorial ‘The place for professional capital and community’, Journal of Professional Capital and Community, Vol. 1 Iss: 1 Hargreaves, A and Fullan, M (2012) Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Teachers College Press. Harré, R. 1979. Social being, London: Blackwell Hertz‐Lazarowitz, R., Tamar Zelniker & Faisal Azaiza (2010) Theoretical framework for Cooperative Participatory Action Research (CPAR) in a multicultural campus: the social drama model, Intercultural Education, Vol 21, issue 3.p269-279 Lee,D. Hong,L, Tay, W and Lee, W.O. Professional Learning Communities in Singapore Schools in Journal of Co-operative Studies, 46:2, Autumn 2013: 53-56 ISSN 0961 5784 Stevahn, L. Integrating Co-operative Community-Based Research (CBR) into Doctoral Leadership Studies in Journal of Co-operative Studies, 46:2, Autumn 2013: 32-45 ISSN 0961 5784
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