Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

Cooperative Learning is not just a function by where students must work together to meet a goal, its true intent is that the collaboration will foster deeper learning (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn,, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 139).  The focus becomes cooperating in an effort to excel (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 143), by where students can work cohesively on something that otherwise could not be accomplished as efficiently independently (Orey, 2001).  If done correctly, it forces the student to better think through what they are learning (Orey, 2001).

Through group work, formulated using a variety of grouping methods, cooperative learning builds on the social component along with knowledge.  Items such as positive interdependence, promotive interaction, group processing and individual accountability are strengthened through this technique (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 140).  Motivation will also be fostered from the accountability, which can in turn increase self-efficacy (Orey, 2001).

As is the case in many arenas, new technology provides for exciting new pathways for knowledge to expand and venture off to.  Incorporating multimedia naturally aids cooperative learning (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 141).  It gives students the ability to consult and review professionals (p. 144), use tools such as a WebQuest to dive deeper into an issue without taking as much time to research (p. 145), or building a website together (p. 147). 

As long as clear expectations, rolls and responsibilities are established, the teachers roll in cooperative learning is needed only as a monitor, assistant or as reinforcement (Orey, 2001). There are some potential issues that we must be on the lookout for such poor attendance, vast differences in learning ability and students not taking accountability in their task. (Orey, 2001).  These potential roadblocks could severely hamper a group’s effort, especially on an activity that spreads across multiple class periods.  Personally, when in a team games unit, attendance can definitely effect the flow of the class.

Aside from possible pitfalls cooperative learning is extremely beneficial when working near full power (Orey, 2001). 


Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Richard-

    I agree with you, cooperative learning does incorporate social learning but one purpose of working with others is to improve understanding. Creating and using social learning communities in a classroom effectively does require a lot of planning but the outcome can be substantial when looking at the results. I teach third grade and I have difficulty with projects at times. Students always want to work with their friend. Some students can do this and still accomplish the given task while others have to constantly be reminded to stay on task. There are other obstacles I have to steer around when trying to use cooperative groups with my students but for the most part the objective is reached. Usually it takes longer than I anticipated but then I realize for most of my students this is their first experience. It is like anything else; students have to be taught the right way to work in social learning communities.

  2. I too believe that motivation can be fostered from the use of cooperative grouping. When I used these methods with my 7th graders, the students are able to help each other work through the problem. Each learner is able to contribute something to the group, and this form of participation leaves the students with the satisfaction of accomplishment. This can be a powerful motivator for future projects and it can also increase the students’ self-esteem.

    With the advent of technology, there are many ways that students can collaborate. The very nature of technology lends itself to socialization, especially through email, texting and blogging. I like the multi-media examples, because students really get into these types of projects. I have had students choose to make a video instead of taking a written test. I can ascertain whether learning has occurred either way, but it’s so much fun to watch a video made by a creative group of 7th graders. And I believe that deeper learning can occur when students collaborate to build an artifact like a video.

  3. Judy- Even though students enjoy working with their friend, sometimes I can not believe the lengths they will go to in an effort to work with their friend. If they spent half of that time actually focusing on the assignment they would get so much work done! Add to it that the friendship can often get in the way of the group activity and you can seee why I try to shy away from it when possible.