Cooperative learning in a community college setting: developmental coursework in mathematics

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This action research study, set in a community college in the southwestern United States, was designed to investigate the effects of implementing cooperative learning strategies in a developmental mathematics course.

This action research study, set in a community college in the southwestern United States, was designed to investigate the effects of implementing cooperative learning strategies in a developmental mathematics course. Introductory algebra was formerly taught in a lecture based format, and as such regularly had a low course completion rate. To create a more engaging learning environment, formal and informal cooperative learning activities were integrated into the curriculum. Bandura's self-efficacy theory, Vygotsky's constructivist theory, and Deutsch's social interdependence theory guided this study. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected through pre and post self-efficacy surveys, semi-structured student interviews, student journal entries, class observations, focus groups, and pre and post mathematics assessments. Data were analyzed using a mixed methods approach. As a result of implementing cooperative learning practices as a part of my teaching, there was an increase in student attendance as well as a decrease in student withdrawal rates. Students were also more motivated to work with each other on mathematics homework outside of class sessions. There was a strong sense of community that I had not witnessed in previous courses that I have taught. Use of cooperative learning practices served as a vehicle to motivate students to work on their mathematics coursework with their peers. Keywords: cooperative learning, developmental mathematics, constructivism, social interdependence theory, self-efficacy, community college