OAARSN Book Review

Cooperative Learning and Strategies for Inclusion:
 Celebrating Diversity in the Classroom
Edited by JoAnne W. Putnam
Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 1998
ISBN 1557663467  288 pp.
Available from Irwin Publishing for $45.95 CDN

Reviewed for OAARSN by Kirsty Forsyth

Cooperative learning is an alternative teaching method to group instruction in elementary and secondary schools. It is designed to facilitate greater academic achievement and improve social skills for all students regardless of their abilities or cultural diversity. In cooperative learning, there are basic requirements that distinguish this method from regular group instruction. They include: positive interdependence (the accomplishment of the group goal depends on all members), individual accountability (all students are individually responsible for contributing to the group), cooperative skills, face-to-face interaction, student reflection, heterogeneous groups (a mixture of cognitive ability levels, behavioural skills, gender, culture, and S.E.S.), equal opportunity for success, and shared leadership. According to the author, this method can only be successful if educators are aware of these requirements and ensure that they are properly fulfilled.

This book is a suitable reference for educators who are interested in the foundational ideas of cooperative learning (such as, its principles, how it differs from group instruction, and the academic and social benefits of using this method). Furthermore, those who are interested in special education will celebrate the fact that the book raises the issue of curricular and instructional adaptations for including students with special needs (from autism to giftedness), and cultural differences (ESL learners). 

Individuals who are interested in learning how to implement cooperative learning into their classroom will not find this book useful as practical advice, as examples of lesson plans and activities are limited. As a teacher-in-training, I would not consider these examples to be suitable enough to truly understand how to properly implement this method into a classroom. 

With regard to the layout, the book is divided into various chapters edited by educational professionals. Within these chapters, the author has incorporated the issue of cooperative learning and inclusion practices with other common educational issues. These issues include teaching students how to manage conflicts in diverse classrooms, and integrating technology. The layout of the book makes it simple for readers to flip to chapters that are of interest to them, instead of having to read the book from cover to cover.  However, the problem with this type of layout is that the flow of ideas between chapters is interrupted. At times, this caused me to become distracted and I would be required to re-read the section in order to understand the points that were being made. 

Overall, the book contained information that was resourceful, and gave readers a glimpse into the basic concepts of cooperative learning. However, in order to gain a better understanding of cooperative learning and its strategies, I would suggest that readers seek other resources as well as reading this one. 

Irwin Publishing is Canadian agent for important titles in Autism, special needs and mental health generally—such as those published by Jessica Kingsley and Paul H. Brookes Publishing, several of which have been reviewed by OAARSN over the past 15 months. The Irwin Book Club offers 20 % on various professional titles. Visit www.irwinpublishing.com for details.
 

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