A Teacher Fosters Social Competence with Cooperative Learning

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Stacey Magnesio and Barbara Davis
Copied with permission from Childhood Education, Summer 2010.
Stacey Magnesio and
Barbara H. Davis
Stacey Magnesio is a 4th-grade teacher, Hays CISD, Kyle, Texas.
Barbara H. Davis is Professor,
Curriculum & Instruction, Texas
State University, San Marcos.

To cite this article: Magnesio, S. & B. Davis. A Teacher Fosters Social Competence With Cooperative Learning. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Fall/Winter 2010.

Miss Mag, do we have to work in groups?” “Miss Mag, I can’t work with him.” “Miss Mag, can I work alone?” Dodgeball tactics—duck, dart, and flee—seemed to be the game plan in my classroom whenever I wanted my students to work in groups.
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As Kauchak and Eggen (2007) explain:

Piaget views this social interaction as a catalyst for students to reevaluate their own beliefs about the world; Vygotsky sees social interaction as a vehicle for more knowledgeable people to share their expertise with others. In both instances, students learn by listening and talking. (pp. 305-306)

In his theory of motivation, Maslow (1954) described a hierarchy of needs that moves from lower needs (e.g., hunger, safety) to higher needs (e.g., esteem, belonging). He argued that people strive to meet their lower needs before attempting to meet the higher needs. In Kagan Cooperative Learning, Kagan and Kagan (2009) explain the relationship between Maslow’s motivation theory and the effectiveness of cooperative learning:

If students do not feel safe and included, their energy is directed to meeting those deficiency needs and is not free to meet the need to know and understand. . . . When we put cooperative learning in place the need for safety is satisfied through social norms (no put downs; disagreeing politely). The need for inclusion is satisfied through teambuilding and classbuilding. . . . With the needs of safety and security satisfied, the students have more free energy to move up the hierarchy, striving for esteem and knowledge. (p. 4.13)

Moreover, in many classrooms, the majority of interactions are teacher-student, which can create a competitive environment as students vie for the teacher’s approval.
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