‘How does a co-operative learning strategy impact on students in a postprimary school in Ireland, including Special Educational Needs students?’
Simms-Mc Dermott, Marisa
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The aim of this paper is to investigate the effect of a co-operative learning strategy on students in an Irish post-primary setting. Literature will be explored in the area of collaborative learning. The new strategies being endorsed by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) as part of the new Junior Cycle will be looked at. The Jigsaw strategy will be examined in detail. The complex nature of inclusion will be examined and the gap between policy and practice in the Irish education system. The study explores the experiences and perspectives of Irish post-primary students and how they responded to the Jigsaw strategy being implemented over a term in an Irish school. An Action Research approach was used to carry out this mixed methods empirical study as the researcher was able to complete the research on site. The Piers-Harris 2 Self-Concept Scale questionnaire was used, both pre and post intervention. Triangulation was used by the researcher in an attempt to corroborate the findings. The students’ monthly assessments were monitored for changes. Two students were interviewed post intervention for their opinions and feedback on the Jigsaw strategy. The Piers-Harris 2 Self-Concept questionnaire was administered to a small group of 11 Junior Certificate Schools Programme (JCSP) students. The Jigsaw Strategy was implemented using Junior Certificate exam papers. The same questionnaire was re-administered and changes were noted. A reflective diary was kept by the researcher which noted students’ opinions and reactions. The limitations of the study are the small sample size. The study was of a short duration and may not have attained the same results if it was carried out over a longer period of time. Notwithstanding the limitations, the study in its findings provide particular insights for teachers, students and researchers about key aspects of the new Junior Cycle, particularly for JCSP students and students with SEN. The results overall showed a positive response from the students across the three main areas examined. 1. Self-esteem. 2. Academic. 3. Inclusiveness of the strategy. Although all students had positive results on their monthly assessments, not all students had positive changes post intervention in their Piers- Harris 2 Self- Concept Scale responses. The findings showed that while collaborative and inclusive education is undoubtedly beneficial for students, it is being compromised by the challenges and barriers that exist within the education system. In conclusion, more supports are needed for both teachers and students with SEN. Teachers’ need more Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Special Needs Assistants (SNA) need more training in order to fulfil the assessment tasks required as part of the new Junior Cycle.
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