Cooperative competence is the measure of
With the teacher and students forming a
collaborative learning team, everyone is gaining skills and concepts
not part of a graded curriculum. Students are learning how to
learn by cooperating with others. Their learning can be measured
by the achievement of the group of which they are a functioning part.
In any learning task, there is a time when a student
has no conception of the task, a time when with the help of a more
competent person he or she can complete the task, and a time when he
or she can perform the task independently. Learning takes place
during the second stage, termed by psychologists the 'Zone of Proximal
Development'. Before this, the student cannot even pretend to
perform the task. When the student can complete the task, no
learning is taking place. Therefore, it is in the middle zone
that instruction should concentrate.
Educational psychologists can tell more about a
child's mental development by seeing what he or she can do with a
little coaching than byy seeing what the child can do without
help. Cooperation is not only the best means of teaching and
learning, it is the best way to evaluate what a student is learning.
Cooperative competence gives each child a feeling of
achievement. This feeling comes not only from being able to do
something but in being able to help someone else to do it. Thus
it is important for each student to work with others more competent as
well as those less competent. It is easiest to accomplish this
with groups made up of students of different ages.
In working toward cooperative competence, the
teacher need not teach each student individually. As long as one
student learns the lesson, it can be taught to everyone through chain
or peer teaching. The teacher can then work independently with
other students who are ready to move on.
If the team is learning meaningful things, they will
want to pass on their knowledge to others in the community.
Their success in doing this serves as a measure not only of their
collective competence but also of their communication skills. In
interacting with members of the community they will uncover new
problems to investigate.
Cooperative competence thus prepares students to
take on useful roles in the community and in the wider society.
As adults they will be able to use their skills in cooperation and
communication to solve real problems.