Globalization, Cooperative Learning, and ELT
Seyed Mohammad Hassan Hosseini, PhD (ELT)
This article was published at Indian Journal of English Language Teaching, 44 (2006): 2–12.
Concurrent with the process of globalization, the pendulum in Education and especially in EFL/ESL sphere is
swaying towards inter/active ways of learning/teaching. TESOL, in the last decades, has experienced a paradigm
shift from text-based pedagogy towards context-focused andragogy. And some modern approaches like co-operative
learning or contributive learning are rapidly evolving in virtue of the demand of such a context. This paper, as such,
is an attempt towards highlighting the significance of cooperative learning as the need of the hour in today‘s world
especially in the context of globalization. It will also try to have a brief but to the point introduction to the author‘s
approach to ELT.
Key words: Process – oriented approach; Objectivity of mind; Creativity; Competent life-long learner
Globalization poses a number of challenges. One of them is the Western hegemonical version of globalization that
has contributed to the ongoing clash of cultures and civilizations. Inequitable distribution of wealth, lack of
communication, unwillingness to listen to the other, and fanatical attitude or condescending look towards the other
could also be part of the reasons for conflicts amongst nations and civilizations. Yet, more and more nations have
come to realize the inevitability of interdependence, co-operation and collaboration so that humanity survives
despite negative trends of globalization. There are citizens all over the world who believe in oneness of humanity
that has no mental borders or barriers despite the presence of cultural variants and diversities. It is here in such
contexts that English language as an international means of communication plays a significant role in promoting
interaction, global harmony and human solidarity and fellowship. Using English language as the common mode of
communication, however, does not mean that one bypasses or accepts slighting of one‘s culture with a preferential
option for the dominant culture.
Why Cooperative Learning?
The hegemonical trends of market - economy in the context of ongoing globalization tend to impose individualistic
forms of competition. Unfortunately, educational systems in many parts of the world have been promoting teacherfronted and highly individualistic ways of learning and achieving. Traditionally they have emphasized
individualistic achievements and unfair competitions resulting in a division of winners and losers which in turn has
nurtured a sort of hostility amongst students. It is also true that such educational systems have also contributed to
capitalist modes of accumulation of wealth besides being conducive to the benumbing of critical sensibilities
amongst students. Despite the flair and flame for individualistic achievements, there is an innate urge for humanistic
ways of achieving things together. Educators and learners need to realize that the benefits of learning and achieving
together are immense in terms of interdependence.
On the other hand, it seems that the experience of ‗study and forget after the exams‘ is no more helpful in
problem solving in real life situations. Consequently students are the losers. Not only are they missing better
opportunities for effective learning in their academic lives, they are also getting deprived of a modern-world class
education which they deserve. Cooperative learning, as a drastic shift from traditional models, which have become
unbelievably unsatisfactory, provides better opportunities for learners to develop successful learning and
communication strategies, and therefore, it is likely to address and solve the deficiencies found in the conventional
models. To cite some examples, cooperative learning as a process-oriented approach lays emphasis on the process of
learning in well organized contexts rather than products of teaching in decontextualized environments, fosters highly
on co-operation rather than pure individualistic competition, values participation of all class members rather than
merely higher achieving students, appreciates metacognitive strategies rather than survival skills, and most
important accommodates diversities in cultural backgrounds, attitudes, learning styles, etc.
The Development of Cooperative Learning
The origin of cooperative learning, as Cooper (1979) put it, goes back to the first century. And John Dewey (1966)
who put the emphasis on education as a means of teaching citizens the ways to live cooperatively so as to deserve a
democratic society they long for had a considerable effect on the advent of cooperative learning in educational
settings. A structured view of cooperative learning, however, came to existence in 1970s, and the Communicative
Language Teaching paved the way for its employment in language teaching classrooms. Well-known scholars like
Johnson and Johnson, Slavin, and Sharan spearheaded the development of cooperative learning. They have
contributed their insights to improve and enrich cooperative learning and its modules in several ways though mostly
in precollegiate settings. Today, cooperative learning is experimented in different parts of the world, particularly in
Cooperative Learning Defined
It may be of some help to mention it at the outset of this article that cooperative learning is known in variety of
names in literature, chief amongst which are: group learning, team learning, participative learning, peer assisted
learning, peer-assisted instruction, small-group instruction, problem-based learning, active learning, and sometimes
collaborative learning. Whatever the title, a win-win situation for all is the true spirit of this approach without yet, in
some of its methods, neglecting the spirit of fair and healthy competition. Karl Smith (1996) well elucidated the
common misunderstandings about cooperative learning when he said:
Many faculties who believe they are using cooperative learning are in fact missing its essence. There is a
crucial difference between simply putting students in groups to learn and structuring cooperation amongst
them. Cooperative learning is not having students sit side by side at the same table to talk with one another as
they do their individual assignments. Cooperative learning is not assigning a report to a group of students on
which one student does all the work and the others put their names. Cooperative learning is not having
students do a task individually and then having the ones who finish first help the slower students.
Cooperative learning is much more than students discussing material with other students or sharing material
amongst students, although each of these is important in cooperative learning. (74)
Cooperative learning may be broadly defined as any classroom learning situation in which students of all levels
of performance work together in structured groups towards shared or common learning goals. As a collaborative
venture, cooperative learning is an act of learning together. It is a way of facilitating and equipping students to learn
through team-building, critical and innovative thinking and win-for-all dynamics ushered in by the role of the
teacher as a facilitator and orchestrator of learning opportunities who at the same time monitors, intervenes, and
evaluates group and individual performances. In such situations, students are motivated to pursue learning in groups
of varying size negotiating, planning and evaluating together. Instead of working as individuals in unfair and
sometimes unhealthy competition with every other individual in the classroom, students are given the responsibility
of creating a learning community where all students participate in meaningful ways such as learning from one
another, peer pair assessment, team-processing, and so forth. In short, when students are motivated to act as
resources for each other, learning becomes an enjoyable experience.
From amongst various principles and different approaches that govern and guide the techniques and practices
of cooperative learning, Olson and Kagan (1992), however, put forth ―positive interdependence, accountability,
team formation, structuring and structures, and social skills‖ (p.8) as the key elements of cooperative learning.
Positive interdependence is vital to foster group cohesion, which is conducive to attainment of learning goals. In
cooperative learning, formal structures are designed to encourage social behaviours viz. active listening,
cooperation, and respect for others. Cooperative learning takes into account heterogeneous grouping that includes a
number of variables such as sex, ethnicity, culture, religion, age, personality, and language proficiency, and
appreciatively accommodates diversity. It fosters face-to-face interaction and problem solving, group autonomy,
equal participation, collaborative skills and cooperation as values through approaches and strategies like Jigsaw (see
Aronson, et al., 1978) and The Numbered Heads Together of Kagan (1992).
In summary, cooperative learning may best be defined as ―a set of highly structured, psychologically and
sociologically based techniques‖ (Oxford, 1997: 444) which mingle the cognitive and affective aspects of learning
and accentuate contribution and active engagement of all of the participants in learning process, both of which are
humanistic concerns. In cooperative learning, as a humanistic learner-centred approach to education, intellectually
selected heterogeneous teams of 3 to 6 members are motivated to work together on well designed learning tasks for
the purpose of achieving their shared learning goals under conditions that meet the following criteria:
Keys to Effective Cooperative Learning
1) instructor as a fellow facilitator expert, 2) interaction soliciting tasks, 3) well-designed grouping, 4) scheduled
face-to-face interaction, 5) continuity of group interaction, 6) interpersonal and collaborative skills, 7) positive
interdependence, 8) individual responsibility, 9) equal participation, 10) simultaneous interaction, and 11) reflection
or group processing.
A learning exercise only qualifies as a modern cooperative learning to the extent that these pivotal features
are present appropriately, if not equally. If, for instance, individual accountability, in a cooperative learning
situation, appears to be subordinated to positive interdependence, it cannot be considered a modern cooperative
learning, albeit it may be deemed as groupwork. Thus, cooperative learning is more than a mere getting together. It
exists when students feel a need for co-operation and enthusiastically work together to attain their communal
learning goals which they could never do otherwise.
Numerous numbers of studies report magnificent convergent outcomes across a wide range of curriculum areas for
cooperative learning. Studies made by several scholars and proponents of cooperative learning since the 1900s,
particularly studies done since 1970s have indicated not only a number of greater benefits of cooperative learning to
students, compared with individualistic or competitive learning, but how popular cooperative learning has become in
different parts of the world as well. Johnson and Johnson (1999) have observed how cooperative learning facilitates
students to develop self-esteem. Slavin (1995) has shown how cooperative learning strategies have improved
academic performance and greater satisfaction of learners. Garibaldi (1979) has pointed out that it leads to greater
motivation towards learning. Lloyd et al., as cited in Kessler (1992, 1-30), have related positive social behaviours to
cooperative learning. Kagan (1992) has elaborated how cooperative learning promotes language acquisition by
providing comprehensible input in a supportive and motivating environment. Kessler (1992) speaks of personal and
social development and increased active communication even under complex circumstances. And above all, studies
have underscored how cooperative learning moulds students as competent life-long learners who are empowered to
cope with the essentials of living in this dynamic global village full of complexities. And finally, cooperative
learning as an integral approach, by focusing upon training critical and creative thinkers, enables teachers to be
attitude builders and agents of critical awareness and change.
In their review of literature, Liang, Mohan, and Early (1998) observed that ―cooperative learning offers L2
learners more opportunities for interaction in L2 and helps them improve L2 language proficiency‖ (p.14). This is
because, they reasoned, interaction can result in more active involvement of participants for practicing the language
as well as acting as resources for each other in the classroom. Based on theory and research in language teaching,
Jacobs (1988) mentioned five benefits of group activities in comparison with teacher-fronted whole class
1. increased quantity of students‘ language use;
2. enhanced quality of the language students use;
3. more opportunities to individualize instruction;
4. a less threatening environment in which to use language, and
5. greater motivation for learning.
Kessler (1992) believed that cooperative learning is conducive to language learning because it leads to increased
frequency and a variety of language use, increased active communication, increased complexity of communication,
and increased social language development. Likewise, meaningful authentic mutual interaction in cooperative
learning situations, according to Hosseini (2000), increases metacognition abilities of students which in turn lead to
higher levels of understanding and comprehending. Tsui (2002) also offered that cooperative language learning
compared to teacher fronted instruction, provides more opportunities for learners to initiate and control the
interaction to produce a much larger variety of speech acts and to engage in the negotiation of meaning which is
predictable of language learning. And finally, Groarty, as cited in Richards and Rodgers (2001), stressed on six
benefits of cooperative learning in EFL/ESL settings:
1. increased frequency and variety of L2 practice through different types of interaction;
2. possibility for development or use of language in ways that support cognitive development and increased
3. opportunities to integrate language with content-based instruction;
4. opportunities to include a greater variety of curricular materials to stimulate language as well as concept
5. freedom for teachers to master new professional skills, particularly those emphasizing communication,
6. opportunities for students to act as resources for each other, thus assuming a more active role in their
Cooperative Learning Methods
Cooperative learning has many methods viz. Jigsaw I and II, Structured Controversy, Group Investigation, Learning
Together, Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition, and Student Team Learning which includes Student
Teams-Achievement Divisions, Teams-Games-Tournament, etc. Some of the more popular and significant methods
of cooperative learning may be briefly introduced here below.
‗Learning Together‘ (LT), which was developed by Johnson and Johnson (1999a) at Minnesota University, is
considered as a pure cooperative learning method. Members of groups work together towards certain shared learning
goals. They help each other and become familiar with the topic and issues introduced by the teacher. They gain
marks for their group participation and group performance. They are also assessed for their levels of collaboration
(cooperative interaction) with other groups in the class.
‗Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition‘ (CIRC) is another cooperative learning method which was
developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. It has been designed for improving reading achievement of
students especially through writing. In CIRC, lesson elements include discussing the context of each topic, noting
down key vocabularies, reading silently, answering related questions in groups, and paraphrasing and summarizing
the topic. Students earn recognition based on improvements in individual achievements that are calculated as a teamscore.
In ‗Teams-Games-Tournament‘ (TGT), developed by Slavin, teams take part in tournaments in which
students compete with same ability members of other teams.
In Student Teams – Achievement Divisions (STAD) of Slavin (1978), the members of the teams help each
other master the objects introduced by the teacher. STAD is a neutral cooperative learning method in the sense that
it poses no inter-group relationship—neither cooperation nor competition. Teams earn certificates if they achieve
above a designated standard.
And in ‗Competitive Team-Based Learning‘ (CTBL), developed by this researcher (Hosseini, 2000/2012),
the teacher presents the lesson and heterogeneous teams of three or four work on the introduced tasks to prove their
superiority over other teams. In class activities team members have no way but to try to be sure that each member
has mastered the assigned material because the teacher would randomly call upon a student to answer for the team.
Although in this method team members take the finals individually as in CIRC, STAD and TGT, they take quizzes
cooperatively. The philosophy beyond allowing students to take quizzes cooperatively is to subject them to more
opportunities for transference of skills and strategies in a metacognitive way through listening to their teammates
who are in actual fact thinking aloud. Teams are evaluated not only on their members‘ improvements over their own
past performances (as it is in CIRC & STAD) and over their same-level opponents in other teams (as in TGT), they
are also recognized based on the extent to which they outgain other teams. Special rewards would also be awarded
both to best teams with the highest averages and to the most challenging individuals. This kind of grading system is
used as an incentive to harness competition for further cooperation amongst teams‘ members. To lower affective
filter of participants, teams that achieve above a designated standard would pass the course, however. It should be
mentioned that the above description of my approach reflects its surface structure only. For an understanding of its
deep structure, which proves the idea that CTBL is in the last analysis a ‗catalyst for change‘ and in point of fact an
effective ‗instructional weapon‘ for the elimination of dictatorship/apartheid, see Hosseini, 2012.
Academia has no way but to move with the constant flux in the context of ongoing globalization. The fact is that in
such a context ‗English Language‘ is no longer recognised as the language spoken in America or England, for
instance. Nor is it deemed as a second or a foreign language any more. Also, gone are the days when it was
considered as the language of libraries which rendered our curriculum developers put the emphasis on merely
‗reading‘ for example, in our educational system. Rather, it is regarded as the language of economy, politics,
survival, mobility, and prosperity in this globe. The significance of this international lingua franca lies in the fact
that it is a critical prerequisite for obtaining global recognition via expressing intensions and sharing values. In the
light of this backdrop, the author means to say that the development of language skills has to be geared towards
communicative competency inasmuch as students need to develop their language proficiency so that they could
participate in the global communication process, and this calls for urgent and pragmatic overhauling of syllabi and
textbooks revision in our educational system. Learner-centred rather than teaching-centred activities and strategies
should be focused upon in our Education regimes. Thus, an incorporation of cooperative learning strategies in the
syllabi is crucial by virtue of the greater benefits we are likely to reap in course of time through these strategies.
Cooperative learning can also be appreciated in the sense that it, though implicitly, prioritizes the idea of
teamwork as the very demand of tomorrow‘s citizenry. Cooperative learning, in actual point of fact, is a generic
term for a considerable number of group-based learning methods or models. The selection and implementation of
these models in different educational settings in different parts of the country with different cultural backgrounds,
however, demand great care and expertise. In other words, since our classes are, in essence, microcosms of the
Macrocosm – a fraction of the real world, the selected strategies in addition to local economic, historical, cultural,
and particularly political factors ought to take into account and reflect the realities of this complicated, dynamic,
robust, and competitive world. And for this would be, let us call it, ‗reform‘ to come to existence and most important
to proceed successfully, all involved stakes (viz. students, teachers, and curriculum developers and policy makers)
are needed to first and foremost decolonise their minds and forget about the traditional system which has already
failed to bring them effective learning, values, and skills (see Hosseini, 2007). And this sort of daunting task solicits
open-endedness in outlook and attitudes of all respective stakeholders.
Note: For a comprehensive analysis, evaluation, and understanding of the Banking Method, Interactive
Learning methods, and particularly CTBL, its implementation in real classroom situations, theoretical
foundations, evaluation system, activities, strategies, learning culture, teachers/learners‘ roles, etc., and
also for the philosophies beyond the implementation of such methods and approaches in the present
didactic regimes, see Hosseini, 2012.
Aronson, E., Stephen, C., Sikes J., Blaney, N., & Snapp, M. (1978). The Jigsaw classroom. Beverly Hills, CA:
Cooper, C. L. (1979). Learning from others in groups: Experiential learning approaches. London: Associated
Dewey, J. (1966). Democracy and education. New York: The Free Press.
Garibaldi, A. (1979) Affective contributions of cooperative and group goal Structures. Journal of Educational
Psychology 71, 788-794.
Hosseini, S. M. H. (2007). ELT in Higher Education in Iran and India: A Critical View. Language in India, 7(2007).
Hosseini, S. M. H. (2009). Infusion of Emerging Online Technologies into ELT: The Need of the Hour‖, Published
Hosseini, S. M. H. (2010). Theoretical Foundations of Competitive Team-Based Learning‖, Published at Canadian
International Journal of English Language Teaching, 3, 229 - 243. Also, [Online] Available at:
Hosseini, S. M. H. (2012). Beyond the present methods and approaches to ELT/Education:The crucial need for a
radical reform. Tehran: Jungle Publication
Jacobs, G. (1988). Cooperative goal structure: A way to improve group activities. ELT Journal, 42(2), 97-100.
Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (1999a). Learning together and alone: Cooperative, competitive, and individualistic
learning. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. First edition, 1975.
Kagan, S. (1992). Cooperative Learning. San Juan Capistrano, California: Resources for Teachers.
Kessler, C. (Ed.) (1992). Cooperative language learning: A teacher’s resource book. New Jersey: Prentice- Hall.
Liang, X., Mohan, B., & Early, M. (1998). Issues of CL in ESL classes: A Literature review. TESL Canada
Journal, 15(2), 13-23.
Olsen R. E. W. B., & Kagan S. (1992). About Cooperative Learning. In C. Kessler (Ed.), Cooperative language
learning (pp.1-30). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Oxford, R., (1997). Cooperative learning, collaborative learning, and interaction. The Modern Language Journal,
Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching (2nd ed.). Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Slavin, R. E. (1995). Cooperative learning: Theory, research and practice (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Slavin, E.R. (2000). Research on cooperative learning and achievement: What we know, what we need to know. In
P.K. Smith & A.D. Pellegrini. (Eds.), Psychology of education: The school curriculum,
Vol. 3. (pp. 534 – 550). London: London & New York.
Tsui, A. B.M. (2002). Classroom Interaction. In R., Carter, and D., Nunan (Eds.), The Cambridge Guide to
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. (p.122). Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.