Understanding two year college mathematics faculty perceptions and use of cooperative learning
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Cooperative learning, or the instructional use of small groups so that students actively work together to increase their own and each other’s learning, is a well-documented pedagogical approach to promote student learning. However, despite ample research on cooperative learning in the K-12 setting, there is little research on two-year college mathematics faculty perceptions of cooperative learning and their reported use of this instructional strategy in mathematics courses. A mixed methods study was conducted on two-year college mathematics faculty at Texas two-year colleges to understand their perceptions regarding cooperative learning and its use and what the implementation of cooperative learning looks like in developmental and college-level mathematics courses. Results show that two-year college mathematics faculty who implement cooperative learning are more likely to report having support and opportunities to learn than faculty who report that they do not implement it, implying that college administrators, deans, and department chairs must find ways to provide this support and let two-year college mathematics faculty experience strategies that support student learning. Non-implementing faculty were more likely to report that the barriers to implementing cooperative learning (time constraints, student characteristics) were prohibitive. Further, there are notable differences in classroom instruction among faculty who report using cooperative learning, ranging from primarily traditional lecture instruction with minimal time devoted to small group work, to collaborative learning, in which students work informally in small groups on self-directed tasks, to formal cooperative learning in which the instructor incorporates all the essential elements identified by Johnson and Johnson (2009). Strikingly, collaborative learning, with less formal structure imposed by the instructor, appeared to be more successful in promoting these essential elements than the more formal cooperative learning prescribed by those authors. This supports assertions in the literature that collaborative learning may be at least as appropriate a choice at the two-year college level (Hennessey & Evans, 2006).