The CL / LC Program (Cooperating to Learn / Learning to Cooperate) is made up of a set of actions aimed at teaching students to work in teams.
This program is the result of three R & D & I (research, development, and innovation) projects carried out by the Research Group for Attention to Diversity (GRAD) at the University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC):
PAC Project (1): An inclusive didactic program aimed at helping students with diverse educational needs in the classroom. An evaluative investigation (Reference: SEJ2006-01495 / EDUC) and PAC Project (2): A case study on the implementation and counselling process in the PAC Project program of inclusive educational support (Reference: EDU-2010-19140). Project (3) Keys to learning in cooperative teams as a strategy for social cohesion, inclusion and equity (Reference: EDU2015-66856-R).
The work group of the UVic-UCC Centre for Innovation and Training (CIFE) on “Inclusive education, cooperation between students and collaboration between teachers”, in close relationship with GRAD, makes this program available to pre-school, primary and secondary education teachers through a process of training / advice so that they have the tools and resources to change their way of teaching and modify the structure of their class activities, teaching their students to work in teams.
This program is based on cooperative learning: a way of structuring classroom activity in small work teams, in which students help each other to learn; very different from the structure of individualistic or competitive activity that is still the most common in schools today.
The title we have given to this program – CL / LC Program (Cooperating to Learn / Learning to Cooperate) – is inspired by the title of a book by the International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education (lASCE)and suggests the dual purpose of teams in school cooperative learning: we use them, not only so that students learn more contents of the school curriculum and learn them better («cooperating to learn …»: teamwork as a resource), but also so that students learn to work as part of a team («… / learning to cooperate »: teamwork as one more content or competence that must also be learned).
Now, if we want our students to learn well to work in a team, they should not only practice working as a team in the classroom – although this is obviously very important – but we must teach them, as systematically as possible, to work as a team in a cooperative way – as we try to teach them, in addition, as systematically as possible, the other contents of the school curriculum. Therefore, we must help them to organize themselves in a team, to plan their work, to review the functioning of their team periodically and to establish improvement objectives, so that, little by little, plan after plan, their understanding of how to work in a team grows continually.
Furthermore, it is essential to unify the group of students that we want to work cooperatively, so that they stop being a simple “collection” of individuals and become, more and more, a “small learning community” made up of people who appreciate and help each other learn to the best of their ability.
For all these reasons, the actions that the CA / AC Program proposes to teachers are structured in three areas of intervention:
Area A: «Group cohesion». This consists of actions that “prepare the ground” and predispose students to teamwork.
Area B: “Teamwork as a resource”. This consists different ways of structuring the teamwork of the students, in such a way that the equitable participation of all the members of a team and the simultaneous interaction between them is ensured as much as possible.
Area C: «Teamwork as content». This consists of the actions and tools necessary to systematically teach students to work as a team.
This includes all actions related to group cohesion. The objective is that, little by little, the students of a class unite as a group. This area of intervention must be constantly worked on. Group cohesion is an aspect that cannot be ignored, since at any time certain problems or difficulties may arise that disturb the classroom climate and make it necessary to re-establish a more appropriate climate. The CA / AC Program includes in this area a whole series of actions aimed at gradually improving the classroom climate, which is carried out mainly during tutoring sessions (group dynamics, cooperative games, activities ...).
This consists of all the actions characterized as using teamwork as a teaching resource, so that the students, working in this way, learn the contents of the school curriculum better, since they help each other. In relation to this area of intervention, we cannot expect students to work correctly and effectively as a team just because we tell them to work together, rather than individually. We must also teach them the steps to follow so that everyone participates and interacts with each other. That is why the CL / LC Program offers a series of cooperative structures (that is, different ways of structuring or carrying out teamwork) that ensure the existence of these two conditions: equitable participation and simultaneous interaction.
It is assumed that, in addition to being a teaching resource, learning teamwork should also form part of the school curriculum. This area consists of actions aimed at teaching students, in an explicit and systematic way, to work in teams, in addition to using, on a regular basis, this way of organizing activity in the classroom. For this reason, from the different areas of the curriculum, students must be taught, in a more structured way, to work in teams, while continuing to use teamwork as a teaching resource. In this way, students have the continuous and normalized (not forced) opportunity to practice - and, consequently, to develop - many other basic skills, especially those related to communication. To this end, the CA / AC Program contains, finally, the description of two very effective teaching resources in this regard – the Team Plans and the Team Notebook-.