Cooperative Learning and Quality Teaching: Early Career Teachers Striving for Quality
Emphasising the professional development of early career teachers (ECTs) is an obvious priority in improving student outcomes. However in all the rhetoric around mentoring ECTs this emphasis is missing. ECTs need to be professionally developed in all aspects of their teaching approaches, not just the managerial aspects of teaching. This study uses an action research approach to explore the implications of professional development for ECTs in a particular pedagogical strategy, in this case cooperative learning. This paper examines data from this study that explored the impact of cooperative learning pedagogy on the quality of teaching of six early career teachers (all in their first, second or third year). The paper demonstrates the conceptual links between cooperative learning and a quality teaching framework widely used in NSW, Australia. Classroom observations and teacher interviews are analysed to explore teachers’ implementation of the cooperative learning strategy, their understanding of the practice and its impact on the quality of their teaching. Teachers in their first year of teaching focussed on the cooperative learning strategy, and also struggled with managerial and behavioural issues. They did not pay attention to the need for an emphasis on planning for Intellectual Quality, and to making connections to students’ prior knowledge and identities in their cooperative learning tasks. More experienced teachers however made gains in both cooperative learning and quality teaching after this involvement in the action research study. The paper argues that a focus on pedagogy was significant in enhancing early career teachers’ professional accomplishment, as well as maintaining the enthusiasm they portray in these early years.
Keywords: Cooperative Learning, Quality Teaching, Early Career Teachers, Action Research
Lecturer, School of Education, The University of Newcastle