The purpose of this qualitative study in the area of cooperative learning was to gain insight into student perceptions of the purpose, process and usage of cooperative learning in their classroom experience. This has enabled me to compare cooperative learning with the traditional methods that have dominated classrooms in which I have been a student. The classroom I observed was a fourth and fifth grade mixed age at an elementary school in a suburban environment. There were twenty four students from families who live in an area that is of high social economic status. The methods I used to collect data were observational, including note taking, surveys and taped interviews. Students names were not used in order to protect their rights to privacy. Parental permission was gained in advance before the study began. The questions that guided my research were: 1) What are student perceptions as to the purpose and benefits of using the cooperative learning model in the classroom I am observing? 2) What do the students I am observing consider success in cooperative activities? 3) What skills do students use to overcome problems they face in the process of cooperative group work? and 4) What impact do high achievers have on student success in the cooperative learning process? In each of the 4 research questions that I have posed, there have been strong correlation's between the surveys, interviews and observational data collected. Students are aware that the purpose and benefits to using this strategy was to learn empathy for their peers. Success for individuals is based equally on an effective process and a positive outcome. Students rely on the skills they posses or learn from other students or the teacher to overcome the problems they face while working in groups. High achievers typically are the students who have the necessary skills to work effectively in the cooperative process and the teacher uses them for the benefit of each group.
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