Using student voice to deconstruct cooperative, mathematical problem solving
Sheehy, Lisa A
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Researchers have documented positive effects of cooperative learning on students’ achievement, motivation, interpersonal skills, self-esteem, higher order reasoning and race relations. Although cooperative learning has been widely researched from a variety of perspectives, there is a need to both provide students’ a stronger voice in this research base and to consider the impact of cooperative learning on mathematical experiences. Framed by a poststructural orientation, this study is an account of my inquiry into how the experience of cooperative, mathematical problem solving (CMPS) effects the mathematics of individual group members. Data were collected as the participants, three female, pre-service secondary mathematics teachers, worked cooperatively to solve different mathematical problems. Each of the three problem solving session was immediately followed by a group interview in which the participants discussed their perspectives on the PSS. The following day, I conducted individual, video-based recall interviews where each participant and I paused the video often to point to and discuss ways, primarily with respect to mathematical activity, in which she engaged in and experienced CMPS. As I applied Earley’s (1997) theories about levels of consciousness as a theoretical framework for data analysis, emerging self/other binary tensions were identified. In analyzing the effect of these tensions on individual mathematical activity, it was apparent that many of the tensions hindering individuals’ mathematical activity were connected to traditional cooperative learning structures. Using Derrida’s (1997) deconstructive analytical tools, traditional structures were rethought in such a way that individual mathematical activity was privileged. I theorized that when the primary goal of implementing CMPS is to enhance individual mathematics, rather than improve interpersonal skills and joint products, the cooperative group becomes an invaluable setting for enriching individual mathematical autonomy as well as fostering a strong sense of community among group members.