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The Impact of a Cooperative Learning Training Program on Teacher Perceptions About Cooperative Learning

Dissertation
Author: Tammy J. Heath
Abstract:
The headmaster of a private Christian school had expressed an interest in teachers implementing cooperative learning in their classrooms. The problem was that very few teachers at the school utilize cooperative learning strategies throughout the school year. The purpose of this quantitative study was to determine the impact teacher training in the area of cooperative learning has on teachers' perceptions of cooperative learning. The research question addressed the impact teacher training in the area of cooperative learning had on teacher perceptions. Roger's theory of perceived attributes supported the theoretical framework of this study since it included the general processes that systems must go through in order to acclimate to a new concept or technique. Ten kindergarten through ninth grade teachers completed Likert-style surveys about their perceptions of cooperative learning before and after the training. A repeated measures t-test was used to test the hypothesis of a relationship between teacher training and teachers' perceptions of cooperative learning. Results demonstrated that training on cooperative learning techniques did not change teachers' perceptions of cooperative learning. Further research might include an examination of teacher perceptions of cooperative learning utilizing quantitative and qualitative research designs to study the effects of further teacher training on teacher perceptions. Implications for positive social change include revising teacher training in cooperative learning to improve its effect on teacher perceptions which could positively affect student achievement.

iii TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF TABLES v SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY Introduction 1 Background 1 Problem Statement 2 Research Question 3 Nature of the Study 4 Purpose 5 Theoretical Framework 6 Definition of Terms 7 Assumptions 8 Limitations 9 Scope 9 Delimitations 9 Significance of the Study 10 Implications for Social Change 10 Summary 11

SECTION 2: LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction 13 History of Cooperative Learning 13 Basic Definitions of Cooperative Learning 14 Elements of Cooperation 15 Cooperative Learning Models 18 Cooperative Study Teams 20 Cooperative Learning Methods 21 Positive Effects of Cooperative Learning 24 Negative Effects of Cooperative Learning 33 Methodologies of Cooperative Learning 35 Teacher Perceptions of Cooperative Learning 35 Teacher Implementation of Cooperative Learning 39 Summary 42

SECTION 3: METHODOLOGY Introduction 44 Design 45 Setting 45 Participants 46 Researcher’s Role 47 Instrumentation and Materials 48

iv Data Collection 48 Data Analysis 49 Validity & Reliability 50 Participants Rights 51 Limitations 52 Summary 52

SECTION 4: RESULTS Results 53 Data Analysis 54 Research Findings 54 Hypothesis 1 54 Hypothesis 2 56 Hypothesis 3 58 Summary of Findings 59

SECTIONS 5: RECOMMENDATIONS, SOCIAL CHANGE, AND SUMMARY Introduction 61 Perceived Value 62 Perceived Costs 62 Expectancy of Success 62 Limitations 63 Implications for Social Change 63 Recommendations 64 Summary 65

REFERENCES 67 APPENDIX A: LETTER OF COOPERATION 76 APPENDIX B: SURVEY PARTICIPANT LETTER 77 APPENDIX C: CONSENT FORM 79 APPENDIX D: COOPERATIVE LEARNING IMPLEMENTATION QUESTIONNAIRE 81 CURRICULUM VITAE 84

v LIST OF TABLES Table 1 - Perceived Value of the Innovation for Pre and Post Survey 56 Scores 56 Table 2 - Perceived Costs of the Innovation for Pre and Post Survey Scores 57 Table 3 - Expectancy of Success of the Innovation for Pre and Post Survey Scores 58 Table 4 - Test Results for Hypothesis Testing 60

SECTION 1

INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY

Introduction

America’s classrooms include students with various backgrounds, personalities, and learning styles. According to Hawley and Rollie (2002) students come to school with different competency levels, motivational levels, and differences in intellectual and social skills. Therefore, teachers need to be sensitive to the individual differences of their students. Hawley and Rollie (2002) stated: Teachers walk a tightrope between two prominent approaches in the handling of student diversity: (1) all students must study a common curriculum and be required to meet the same specific high standards for success, and (2) take students’ diverse backgrounds into consideration when planning curricula and classes. (p. 33) According to Hawley and Rollie (2002) the common curriculum is ineffective because it does not offer the flexibility that may be needed for students from unique backgrounds. Background Teachers are currently faced with implementing effective strategies that can address the needs of their student population. According to Wong and Wong (2001), effective teachers spend their educational career learning better techniques that will help students succeed in school and in life. Marzano (2003) noted that effective teachers have a variety of instructional strategies at their disposal and he recommended that teachers use research-based instructional strategies. Cooperative learning has been identified in the literature as a successful research-based teaching strategy in which small teams of

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diverse students use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject (Balkcom, 1992). According to Lin (2006), cooperative learning involves a team in which “students work in small groups to accomplish a common learning goal under the guidance of a teacher” (p. 2). Friend and Cook (2007) described teams as “a set of interdependent individuals with unique skills and perspectives who interact directly to achieve their mutual goal” (p. 60). Additionally, researchers have encouraged the use of cooperative learning in order to increase student achievement and social skills development (Siegal, 2005). Thus, this study will focus on teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning. Cooperative learning is an effective teaching strategy in which students of various ability levels work together in small teams to accomplish a specific goal (Johnson & Johnson, 1999). Problem Statement The problem for this study focuses on teacher training in the area of cooperative learning and teachers’ perceptions about cooperative learning. Specifically, it is not known how and to what extent teacher training in the area of cooperative learning impact teachers’ perceptions about cooperative learning. According to Johnson and Johnson (2006) the belief that cooperative learning has a negative impact on student achievement could be attributed to some teachers feeling that it takes more time to teach materials in a cooperative way. This is especially apparent in the beginning when cooperative learning is new to teachers and to students. Also, many teachers teach in a manner reflective of their own learning experiences (Niederhauser & Stoddart, 1994). Maheady (2001) pointed out that numerous schools do not embrace cooperative learning even though their students could benefit from these practices. According to Rieck and Wadsworth (2005),

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many teachers mistakenly believe that cooperative learning lowers academic standards. Vaughn (2001) noted that teachers may feel that implementing cooperative learning in the classroom is too difficult, too time consuming, and many are not willing to give up control of the classroom to students. Research Question/Hypotheses The following research question will be examined in the study: Does teacher training in the area of cooperative learning change teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning? Hypothesis 1 Null Hypothesis: Teacher training in the area of cooperative learning will not significantly change teachers’ perceptions of how highly s/he values cooperative learning as measured by difference scores on the Cooperative Learning Implementation Questionnaire (Abrami, et al., 2004). Alternative Hypothesis: Teacher training in the area of cooperative learning will change teachers’ perceptions of how highly s/he values cooperative learning as measured by difference scores on the Cooperative Learning Implementation Questionnaire (Abrami, et al., 2004). Ho:D = 0 H¹:D ≠ 0 Hypothesis 2 Null Hypothesis: Teacher training in the area of cooperative learning will not significantly change teachers’ perceptions of how high s/he perceives the costs of

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implementation of cooperative learning to be as measured by difference scores on the Cooperative Learning Implementation Questionnaire (Abrami, et al., 2004). Alternative Hypothesis: Teacher training in the area of cooperative learning will significantly change teachers’ perceptions of how high s/he perceives the costs of implementation of cooperative learning to be as measured by difference scores on the Cooperative Learning Implementation Questionnaire (Abrami, et al., 2004). Ho:D = 0 H¹:D ≠ 0 Hypothesis 3 Null Hypothesis: Teacher training in the area of cooperative learning will not significantly change teachers’ perceptions of how successful s/he expects to be as measured by difference scores on the Cooperative Learning Implementation Questionnaire (Abrami, et al., 2004). Alternative Hypothesis: Teacher training in the area of cooperative learning will significantly change teachers’ perceptions of how success s/he expects to be as measured by difference scores on the Cooperative Learning Implementation Questionnaire (Abrami, et al., 2004). Ho:D = 0 H¹:D ≠ 0 Nature of the Study In this quantitative study of teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning before and after a training session, I surveyed kindergarten through ninth grade teachers at one suburban private Christian school in Georgia. All of the teachers at this school have at

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least one year of teaching experience. There is one class per grade level (K3-9 th ). In the study, I addressed the following question: Does teacher training in the area of cooperative learning change teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning? The null hypothesis states that teacher training in the area of cooperative learning will not significantly change teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning. The alternative hypothesis states that teacher training in the area of cooperative learning will change teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning. The independent variable for this study is teacher training in the area of cooperative learning. The dependent variable is teacher perceptions. During a faculty professional development session, the researcher distributed a survey to the participants immediately before they take part in a training session in the area of cooperative learning and immediately following the training session. A repeated- measures t test was used to test the hypotheses relating to the research question. Data were analyzed using The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). More detailed discussion will be provided in Chapter 3. The objective of this study was to determine whether or not teacher training in the area of cooperative learning changes teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning. Purpose Statement The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not teacher training in the area of cooperative learning changes teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning. There is widespread use of cooperative learning in K – 12 classroom (Slavin, 1999). According to Johnson, Johnson, and Stanne (2000) this widespread use is due to three factors: (a) cooperative learning is based on theory, (b) cooperative learning is validated by research, and (c) cooperative learning is operationalized into clear procedures educators can use.

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The findings of this study provide additional guidance for strategies that may be effective in addressing teacher perceptions regarding the implementation of cooperative learning in the classroom. The findings may also provide insights into professional development that may be effective in addressing these initial perceptions. Theoretical Framework The theoretical framework of this study is based on a component of the classic diffusion framework, Rogers (1983) theory of perceived attributes. In his perceived characteristics literature, Rogers identifies 5 perceived characteristics of an innovation, which influence an individual’s decision to adopt or reject an innovation. They are relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, observability, and trialability. Relative advantage speaks to the possibility of increased income, reduced cost, or other factors that may make adopting a practice advantageous over alternatives, including doing nothing. Compatibility concerns itself with a host of factors relating to the degree to which the practice is compatible to current objectives and philosophies of the program participants. Complexity involves the degree of difficulty of understanding and implementing the practice from the perspective of the potential adopter. Observability relates to the degree to which the potential adopter has had the opportunity to see the practice implemented or see the results of the implemented practice. Finally, trailability deals with the potential to experiment with the practice on a smaller, less intensive scale. The expectation is that if an owner can implement the new practice on a trial basis, he or she can possibly even modify the potential practice further to meet specific needs (Rogers, 1983). Based on the perceived characteristics of using an innovation, teachers decided to adopt or reject cooperative learning as an effective teaching strategy. The

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participants in this study formulated perceptions of cooperative learning based on their observations before and after a training session. Definition of Terms The following are key terms that need to be defined for the study: Cooperative Learning: A successful research-based teaching strategy in which small teams of diverse students use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject (Balkcom, 1992). Diffusion of Innovations: Refers to a theory of change that shows the general processes that systems must go through in order to acclimate to a new concept or strategy (Rogers, 1983). Theory of Perceived Attributes: A diffusion theory that focuses on how the program participant views characteristics of the practice under investigation (Rogers, 1983). 3-Part Lesson Format: A best practice requiring teachers to think about each lesson in three distinct stages: (a) Opening/Mini Lesson/Before the Learning, (b) Work Time/During the Learning, and (c) Closing/Sharing/After the Learning. This plan calls for a brief opening and closing, devoting the majority of the lesson to students who apply their knowledge with the support of the teacher and peers. The “before the learning” segment is teacher focused, and occurs during the first 10% of the period. The “during the learning” segment involves a student focused activity in which students will be working in pairs, small groups, and individually as they connect the standards to their tasks, conference and question with the teacher as well as other peers, and prepare for

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sharing. This segment requires 70% of the instructional time. The “after the learning” segment requires approximately the remaining 20% of the instructional time. During this time, the focus is student and teacher-centered as students share their work strategies and the teacher identifies misconceptions and clarifies the learning goals. The Three-Part Lesson Format allows students to spend most of their time “doing” the subject rather than “hearing” about it (Faison, 2005). Classroom Climate: The type of environment that is created for students by the school, teachers, and peers (Crotty, 2002). Hawthorne Effect: An increase in worker productivity produced by the psychological stimulus of being singled out and made to feel important (Clark, 2000). Assumptions The assumptions of this study are related to kindergarten through ninth grade teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning before and after a training session. First, the assumption is made that at this school site, very few teachers utilize cooperative learning strategies throughout the school year because they feel that it does not help achieve the learning objective set by them for their classes. Second, the assumption is made that regular classroom teachers do not have enough knowledge about the benefits of cooperative learning. Third, I assume that after the training session, teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning will change. Last, the researcher assumes that the participants will accurately reflect their opinions about cooperative learning when completing the surveys. According to Roberts (2004), survey responses received from all teachers in the study should accurately and honestly reflect their professional opinions.

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Limitations One of the limitations of this study is that misinterpretation of the questions is possible for some of the participants. A second limitation is that information about cooperative learning must be supported with adequate staff development in order for teachers to successfully implement this strategy. A third limitation is that the findings of this study may not apply to special education teachers since this study focuses only on general education teachers. Scope Rogers’ (1995) diffusion of innovation theory predicts that the media as well as interpersonal contacts provide information and influence opinion and judgement. This study will focus on the impact teacher training has on teachers’ perception of cooperative learning. The tool is designed for a small group of teachers in grades K through 9 located in a specific suburban private Christian school in Georgia. Because of the fact that the researcher is conducting the study only in this school, the results are not generalized to any other population. This is also due to the fact that the sample size is not representative of a larger and like population. Delimitations I examined teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning and whether or not their opinions changed after participating in a training session. Teachers were presented with information on implementing cooperative learning. Data were be collected including responses from a before and after Likert-style survey about cooperative learning. The

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survey was used to evaluate teachers’ perceptions of cooperative learning and whether a training session impacted their perceptions. There are a variety of cooperative learning methods that can be implemented into the curriculum. The school in this study implements cooperative learning using the 3-part lesson format. Teachers are required to think about each lesson in three distinct stages: (a) Opening/Mini Lesson/Before the Learning, (b) Work Time/During the Learning, and (c) Closing/Sharing/After the Learning. Significance of the Study This study is significant because it may provide additional guidance in determining which strategies may be effective in addressing teacher perceptions regarding the implementation of cooperative learning in the classroom. The findings may also provide insights into professional development that may be effective in addressing these initial perceptions. Implications for Social Change Hargreaves (2003) articulated that “school today serve and shape a world in which there can be great economic opportunity and improvement if people can learn to work more flexibly, invest in their future financial security, reskill or relocate themselves as the economy shifts around them, and value working creatively and collaboratively” (p. 1). Roger’s (1983) diffusion of innovations theory centers on the conditions that increase or decrease the likelihood that members of a given culture will adopt a new idea, product, or practice. According to Rogers (1963), diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among members of a social system.

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Implications for positive social change include possible changes in teachers’ perceptions about implementing cooperative learning through further professional development. This is important because research has shown that cooperative learning techniques: (a) promote student learning and academic achievement, (b) help to promote positive race relations, (c) increase student retention, (d) promote student self-esteem, (e) enhance student satisfaction with their learning experience, (f) develop students’ social skills, and (g) help students develop skills in oral communication (Johnson & Johnson, 2001). Summary Today’s classrooms are diverse. Students have varying academic abilities, ethnic and cultural differences, and special needs. These differences are compounded with the expectations for all students to participate in general classrooms and perform well on state assessments. As teachers are feeling pressured to improve student performance on standardized tests, a need to implement alternative teaching methods has developed. One researched-based method is cooperative learning. Cooperative learning is one of the greatest success stories of educational innovation (Slavin, 1999). This teaching method can lead to higher achievement for all students. There are over 900 research studies validating the effectiveness of cooperative over competitive and individualistic learning (Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne, 2000). According to Johnson and Johnson (1999), “when efforts are structured cooperatively, there is considerable evidence that students will learn more, use higher level reasoning strategies more frequently, build more complete and complex conceptual structures, and retain information learned more accurately” (p. 35). The following sections provide a detailed discussion of this study. Section 2

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provides a review of the relevant literature related to cooperative learning, its models and methods, the impact it has on student achievement, teacher perceptions of cooperative learning, and teacher implementation of cooperative learning. This section is followed by a description of the methodology used in this study. The next section describes the findings organized around the research questions. The final section reports conclusions based on the findings and suggests implications for schools, educators, and researchers.

SECTION 2

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

Introduction

In this chapter, I examined the literature on cooperative learning, its methods, and the impact it has on student achievement. The content of the literature review includes the history of cooperative learning, basic definitions of cooperative learning, elements of cooperation, types of cooperative learning groups, cooperative learning methods, positive and negative effects of cooperative learning, teacher perceptions of cooperative learning, and teacher implementation of cooperative learning. The strategy used for searching the literature involved screening a wide variety of print and electronic resources in order to determine the appropriate references for possible inclusion in this study. Literature Review History of Cooperative Learning Research on cooperative learning began in 1897. It has included hundreds of studies (Wong & Wong, 2001). According to Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec (1998) there are three theoretical perspectives that have guided research on cooperative learning: (a) social interdependence, (b) cognitive developmental, and (c) behavioral. Social interdependence theory was derived out of the works of Kurt Koffka (early 1900s). As cited in Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec (1998), other theorists such as Kurt Lewin (1920s and 1930s), Morton Deutsch (1949, 1962) David and Roger Johnson (1970, 1974, 1989), and Dean Tjosvold (1986) contributed to the social interdependence perspective from the 1920s through the 1980s. Social interdependence refers to students working to be

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successful, working cooperatively, making psychological adjustments, and showing social competence (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998). The cognitive developmental theory is based on the work of Jean Piaget (1920s) and Lev Vygotsky (1930s). Piaget (1920s) suggested that when people work together, conflict and conflict resolution occur. Vygotsky (1930s) suggested that knowledge is a societal product (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998). It is constructed from cooperative efforts to learn, understand, and solve problems (Johnson & Johnson, 1998). Some of the major contributors to the behavioral learning theory are Skinner (1968), Bandura (1969), Homans (1974), and Thibaut and Kelley (1959). The behavioral learning theory is based on the premise that extrinsic motivation to achieve group rewards influences cooperative efforts. Extrinsic reinforcers influence perceptions of interdependence and motivation to learn (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998). Basic Definitions of Cooperative Learning Cooperative learning occurs when small groups of students work together to accomplish a specific goal (Killen, 2007). Johnson (2008) identified three interaction patterns in which students can engage as they learn. They include students learning individualistically, competitively, and cooperatively. When students learn individualistically, they can work alone without paying attention to other students. They work independently to meet a specific criterion in which success depends on individual students. Students learning competitively engage in competition to see who is “best”. There is usually a winner and a loser. Students who work cooperatively have a vested interest in each other’s learning and their own (Johnson, 2008). This method of learning is characterized by positive goal interdependence and individual accountability. Positive

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goal interdependence requires students to be concerned about how well everyone in the group knows the information that is being taught. There is a strong sense of working together as a team to accomplish a specific goal. If one group member fails, the entire group fails. Johnson (2008) stated that competitive learning is used most frequently. However, all three interactive patterns are important because students need to know how to effectively interact with each other (Johnson, 2008). Elements of Cooperation According to Johnson and Johnson (1999) “five basic elements are necessary for a lesson to be cooperative: (1) positive interdependence, (2) individual accountability, (3) face-to-face promotive interaction, (4) social skills, and (5) group processing” (p. 26). Slavin (as cited in Webb, Nemer, & Zuniga, 2002) noted that research has shown that when these elements are properly implemented, “group collaboration in the classroom can increase learning and achievement, social skills, self-esteem, and attitudes toward classmates and school” (p. 2). Positive interdependence means that the students feel they are connected in such a way that their success depends on each other (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1998). Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (1998) articulate positive interdependence (a) promotes students working together and (b) it is the driving force of cooperative learning. It unites diverse students with a common goal. Students develop a sense of respect for themselves and others (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1998). Johnson (2008) noted that positive interdependence requires students to learn assigned material and ensure that all group members learn the assign material. Johnson (2008) further stated that when positive interdependence is attained, all group members recognize the importance of their efforts

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and contributions to the group. The success of one group member is dependent on the success of the other group members. According to Johnson (2008) there are several ways positive interdependence can be structured within a learning group. They include positive goal interdependence, positive reward, positive resource interdependence, and positive role interdependence. Positive goal interdependence involves students’ perceptions of achieving their learning goals only if all the members of their group achieve their goals. Positive reward involves the same rewards given to each group member when the entire group accomplishes a goal. Positive resource interdependence involves group members combining specific resources that are necessary to accomplish a specific goal. Positive role interdependence requires students assume complimentary roles in order to achieve a specific goal (Johnson, 2008). Johnson (2008) identified other types of positive interdependence including positive task interdependence, positive identity interdependence, outside threat interdependence, and fantasy interdependence. Positive task interdependence involves each group member completing an assigned task in order for the next group member to complete his or her task. Positive identity interdependence occurs when a motto, pledge, or group name identifies a group. Outside threat interdependence involves groups competing with each other. Fantasy interdependence requires group members to imagine they are in a hypothetical situation (Johnson, 2008). Kagan (1992) noted that positive interdependence is the most critical component of cooperative learning and it occurs when individual and team gains are positively correlated.

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Individual accountability occurs when students are assessed for their individual contributions to the group (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1998). Individual accountability allows the teacher to determine if a student is actually involved in the learning process, or if a student is simply copying the work of others (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1998). This can be done by randomly selecting students to present their group’s work and by administering an individual test to each student. It is the key to ensuring that all group members become stronger and better prepared to complete assignments independently (Johnson, 2008). According to Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (1998), face-to-face promotive interaction occurs when students work to encourage and help one another in completing an assignment. Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (1998) pointed out that helping each other includes explaining and discussing what is being learned. As the face-to-face interaction increases, so does peer accountability and students begin to feel responsible for the success of each other (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1998). Johnson (2008) noted that during face-to-face promotive interaction there is less stress on the group members, they behave in a trustworthy way towards each other, and higher quality decision making is apparent. Group members exchange and challenge each other’s ideas and provide positive feedback. Social skills (also referred to as small-group skills) are necessary when working in cooperative learning groups. Johnson (2008) articulated that students have to be taught the social skills necessary for productive cooperative learning groups. Students must be supportive and trusting of each other, effectively communicate with each other, and be knowledgeable about conflict resolution. The more socially skillful students are, the

Full document contains 98 pages
Abstract: The headmaster of a private Christian school had expressed an interest in teachers implementing cooperative learning in their classrooms. The problem was that very few teachers at the school utilize cooperative learning strategies throughout the school year. The purpose of this quantitative study was to determine the impact teacher training in the area of cooperative learning has on teachers' perceptions of cooperative learning. The research question addressed the impact teacher training in the area of cooperative learning had on teacher perceptions. Roger's theory of perceived attributes supported the theoretical framework of this study since it included the general processes that systems must go through in order to acclimate to a new concept or technique. Ten kindergarten through ninth grade teachers completed Likert-style surveys about their perceptions of cooperative learning before and after the training. A repeated measures t-test was used to test the hypothesis of a relationship between teacher training and teachers' perceptions of cooperative learning. Results demonstrated that training on cooperative learning techniques did not change teachers' perceptions of cooperative learning. Further research might include an examination of teacher perceptions of cooperative learning utilizing quantitative and qualitative research designs to study the effects of further teacher training on teacher perceptions. Implications for positive social change include revising teacher training in cooperative learning to improve its effect on teacher perceptions which could positively affect student achievement.