The use of cooperative learning strategies in pre-service secondary school teacher education at two state universities in Zimbabwe: a critical investigation.
Chingombe, Shamiso Iline.
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The study critically investigated the use of cooperative learning strategies in pre-service secondary school teacher education at two state universities in Zimbabwe. It focused on Great Zimbabwe University and Midlands State University. The study was guided by the works of Levi Vygotsky, Reuven Feuerstein and the African concept of ubuntu. A qualitative phenomenological design was adopted. Interpretivist and the grounded theory were the paradigms used in this study. A grounded theory has the potential to generate new theories based on the data collected from participants. The research participants were five lecturers and ten students. Data collection instruments included two focus group discussions (FGD), five interviews, along with ten questionnaires. FGD were composed of three male students and seven female students. Interviews were carried out with one male and four female lecturers. In addition questionnaires were administered to ten students and instruments were triangulated to neutralize the weaknesses from the other instruments. Thematic analysis and Nvivo computational analysis were used as data analysis instruments. From the findings, it is evident that majority of participants broadly and unwittingly generalized the strategies being used by teacher educators in pre-service secondary school teacher education. The erroneous operationalization of cooperative learning (CL) in the context of group work by many participants led to the poor coverage of other strategies widely known. Technically, some participants failed to clearly identify the specific CL strategies, a clear indication of poor understanding of the concept of CL. The confusion on what CL actually meant was not just evident among students but also among some the lecturers. There were indications that there is need to complement CL with other teaching methods. CL was distinctive in ensuring that students with individual differences work harmoniously. Findings also clarified that CL creates a teamwork culture which inspires students to work collectively in order to achieve a common goal. CL has been valued for developing cognitive skills by both lecturers and students. Easy understanding can also be achieved when heterogeneous grouping is done. In the study, it also emerged that diverse ideas shared among students help to broaden the learning scope as CL stimulates students to work as ants on an anthill. Findings from participants revealed that CL enhances social skills as students from diverse background and cultures have the opportunity to form communal associations. In addition, CL was applauded for promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills in both students and lecturers. Research outcomes similarly disclosed that CL reduces discrimination among learners. In implementing CL as modern-day pedagogy, one of the significant shortcomings that inhibited its efficacy was lack of clear standard guidelines on the grouping criteria. Findings have also revealed that CL groups in Zimbabwean universities are either nonscientific or non-standardised. The researcher recommends formalisation of CL approaches within the institutions to guide lecturers on proper implementation of CL. The Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) also needs to reconsider the way they supervise institutions. They ought to come up with certain standards to guide lecturers in the implementation of CL. Further recommendations are that lecturer– student ratio should be rationalised. It is imperative that groups should consist of a manageable number of at most ten to enable students to be fully involved in discussions. The quality control department of universities should also ensure that some CL strategies are implemented correctly. Lecturers should ensure that all CL groups are monitored all the times so that students remain focused. The researcher proposes the ecological supportive learning and communalist enhanced learning theories. An ecological supportive learning theory denotes that the individual, society and the environment influence an individual’s learning. The communalist enhanced learning theory is anchored on the social interdependence which promotes task, behavioural and goal interdependence.