He is weird, Mom!… I don’t know why he has to be my partner!”
the girl whined as she walked home with her mother. I happened to be walking back from the vegetable market and my ears pricked up. (I know it is a bad habit to listen in on other people’s conversations but I’m sure everyone in a 2 block radius could hear this. They were loud).
The mom replied,
“Did you talk to your teacher that you don’t want to be in the same group with him?”
“Yes I did. She asked me why and I told her he was weird and laughs all the time. Then she said she’ll help both of us to see how we can learn to work with each other. Everyone in class will laugh at me because he is my project partner!”
I thought to myself “Hats off, teacher”.
Children have a natural tendency to be kind. When group dynamic sets in, they are equally capable of picking on one another or at least not standing up for the other child. A good teacher will pick up on the signals and make sure that the students get the necessary academic and social skill support.
The teacher in the example recognized that both students—the ‘complaining girl’ and the ‘weird boy’ needed help… maybe not so much with academic skills but definitely on the social skills front. Education in India is so competitive and it must take a lot of assurance to be able to manage the level of pressure brought on by our parents 🙂
Cooperative learning is an excellent strategy to foster social skills development in the classroom. There are many schools in India which do encourage teachers to use this strategy, but perhaps not so methodically.
Teachers, remember that cooperative learning is more than just breaking up the pupils into small groups.
Students in each group will have varying abilities. The task must be challenging and interesting to motivate all of them to work together.
All students in the group must participate…otherwise one or two end up doing all the work while the rest play around. There is no equitable academic learning in this situation and poor social interactions don’t lead to acceptance either.
In addition to increased academic skills, cooperative learning lessons must be structured so that students gain
Social skills such as
Listening to each other
Social problem solving
Work Skills such as
Staying on task
Participating in group tasks with limited adult supervision
If teachers foster all these skills in their cooperative learning activities, even competitive Indian parents will take a step back and appreciate the social gains.