ENHANCING LEARNING THROUGH CONSTRUCTIVISM AND COOPERATIVE LEARNING STRATEGIES: A CASE STUDY OF LEARNING CHEMISTRY AT VIARÓ SCHOOL
Chemistry is a subject that students are often interested in, but find difficult to learn. The students’ difficulties in learning chemistry are mainly due to the high interdependence of their other subjects.
The use of traditional learning strategies used in our school has worked quite well. However, despite good results, today we live in a world in which we need to change the way of teaching using new technologies. In enhancing our way of teaching, it can help to maintain students’ engagement in their education; and a high level of motivation for achieving high knowledge and basic competences needed today for professional lives.
In order to enhance academic results and maintain a high level of participation of our students in chemistry classes it was decided to make use of constructivism and cooperative learning strategies.
For these reasons, it was decided to create, implement and optimize a general lesson plan based on cooperative learning strategies. In addition, it was decided to design activities based on the constructivist approach called 5 E’s model.
In our case, it was decided to structure classes around small groups which worked together with positive interdependence and individual responsibility. In our school, there are six teams (Fúries, Dofí, Falcó, Huracà, Cicló and Jaguar) which have in the past been only used for physical education purposes. However, in recent years, these teams have gradually been used for other educational purposes; and also been integrated into the daily life at Viaró. Each student belongs to one of these teams. The feeling of membership in a team is very high and this is seen in the various competitions and events held during the academic year. The small groups consisted of 2-3 people who had in common that belonged to the same Viaró team. The groups were balanced using the teacher’s criteria (the teacher took into account the students’ skills).
Regarding language used, the subject was taught in Spanish, Catalan or English. The teacher provided students the basic contents or some keywords in all three languages and explained their meanings. When English was used, a CLIL approach was applied.
Furthermore, the teacher designed and used a collection of activities in which the 5 E learning cycle model was implemented.
These strategies were tested with the Chemistry Baccalaureate students from our school.
The key findings of this study are that students become more active and collaborative in class triggering a positive atmosphere. Another remarkable result is that the confidence of students with great difficulties is improved. In addition, the use of 5 E instructional model and cooperative work strategies promotes active listening and inquiry-based learning. Regarding the use of CLIL approach, it may be an effective way to improve students’ communication skills in English.
It is concluded that the use of cooperative learning strategies blended with 5 E’s model activities may be an effective way to enhance chemistry students learning.