Students working cooperatively is the keystone to developing skills for cooperative interaction with other people in career, family, and community settings. It has been this music teacher’s personal observation that children enjoy learning in group activities but do not always have the social skills to interact with one another successfully. Cooperative learning represents a substantial change in the teaching strategy of classroom instruction. It involves simultaneous changes in the reward, task, and authority structures in the classroom.
Little information exists regarding cooperative learning strategies in music education. This project provides background information on cooperative learning and defines cooperative learning according to David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson (1976, 1990), Robert Slavin (1990), and Yael and Shlomo Sharan (1987). It discusses components of each method, subject areas in which each has been successfully implemented, and describes similarities and differences of cooperative learning strategies. It also presents research outcomes and a brief overview of what has been done with music and cooperative learning.
The investigator’s synthesis of the three philosophies reached the following conclusions in regard to implementation in the music classroom:
1. There must be interdependence between group members
2. Students need to be individually accountable
3. There must be face-to-face promotive interaction
4. Interpersonal and small group skills must be taught to students
5. Teachers must address the value/purpose of the reward structure
6. Students must use group processing to discuss how well they are achieving their goals and establishing working
The investigator believed the components and research outcomes of the Learning Together (Johnson & Johnson, 1990) method provided the best model for implementation into the music classroom.
From this synthesis, the investigator constructed a format and sample cooperative learning music lesson plan. The lesson plan format was evaluated by four music teachers familiar with cooperative learning strategies and four music teachers unfamiliar with cooperative learning strategies. The sample lesson was viewed by the eight music teachers and implemented in the investigator’s second/third combination class and one of her third class grade classes. This lesson was also videotaped and analyzed by the investigator.
From knowledge gained in this project, the investigator offered the following recommendations in regard to implementation of cooperative learning strategies in the music classroom:
1. Begin cooperative learning activities with just one grade level and later expand to include more classes;
2. Teach only one collaborative skill per lesson, especially at a beginning level;
3. Identify two or three specific collaborative skills to work on with all grade levels as a year-long project;
4. Observe group use of collaborative skills a specific number of times and communicate this information to the
5. Introduce cooperative learning strategies by initially making “cooperative learning” the lesson focus;
6. Structure lessons to allow adequate time for group processing;
7. Enjoy the opportunity to observe student interaction;
8. Participate in a cooperative learning teacher training seminar or course.
Cooperative learning is simple in concept but complex and long-term in implementation. Research has shown the results are well worth the process.