Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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Managing Multi-Religious Classes

Homepage > Teachers’ Guide > Managing Multi-Religious Classes

Teaching Sources to help teachers dealing with multicultural and multi-religious classes

Managing Multicultural and Multi-Religious Classes

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3. Cooperative Learning
Promoting tolerance and reciprocity and fighting discrimination in the classroom depends on the kind of educational approach that is used. Properly structured competition can be a healthy and effective way to motivate students to perform. However, when it becomes a permanent feature of the learning environment, it harbors inequality, envy and rivalry. Competitive situations are zero-sum games, where only the winners are rewarded, while low achievers are discouraged and may even lose face.

In contrast, cooperative learning methods encourage pro-social behavior and cultivate trust and acceptance of others. Cooperative learning puts students in win-win situations, which motivates them to work together and help each other. In this way they aspire for one another to succeed, not to fail. Teachers should strive to build a spirit of teamwork and participation in their classes, so that students come to appreciate one another and to cooperate for mutual benefit.

In cooperative learning pupils work collaboratively in small groups to achieve a common goal. This nurtures autonomy, participation, respect and communication.

When success and involvement are interconnected in the group activity, a structure and an attitude of positive interdependence emerges. Team members rely on each other and realize they can only succeed by working together. This helps the development of academic and social skills while encouraging mutual support, empathy and peer learning.

The potential for a meaningful learning experience increases in diverse groups. It is especially important to have this in mind when addressing issues related to the diversity of beliefs or moral values. Students from different cultural or religious backgrounds could learn more from each other if they are put together in mixed groups. However, diversity does not automatically generate understanding and tolerance. It is important that the teacher sets the ground rules and is ready to intervene when needed. Students must learn to address controversy and allow an exchange of opinions in order to develop tolerance, critical thinking and conflict resolution skills.

It is crucial to allow all pupils to play a role in the group that enhances their respective skills and strengths. Such empowerment allows students to realize that their contributions are essential for the success of the group. Personal skills and knowledge are valuable for the group and become an incentive for integration. As everyone has a part to play for the group to succeed, a sense of personal responsibility emerges alongside shared group accountability.

To come full circle, the cooperative learning experience concludes with a stage of reflection. Ample time for sharing should be provided. Each student is invited to examine and evaluate the process, the outcome and to give constructive feedback to other group members. This activity promotes free expression and recognition of the plurality of views held in the classroom. It also enhances the quality of reasoning of the pupils and helps them to integrate new insights.
Online Resources
  • An Overview Of Cooperative LearningIn-depth overview of cooperative learning. This article discusses the theoretical foundations of the approach, the basic elements of cooperation, different types and strategies of cooperative learning and examines key research findings.
  • Effectively Managing the Cooperative ClassroomA comprehensive guide to designing, managing, and assessing effective cooperative learning activities. The article discusses interventions for poorly functioning groups and strategies that can have a transformative effect on a class.
  • The Jigsaw ClassroomThe Jigsaw Classroom is a cooperative learning technique that reduces conflict among school children, promotes better learning, improves student motivation, and increases enjoyment of the learning experience.
Practical Activity
  • World CafèThis activity presents the central beliefs and the intertwined histories of the five major world religions. Working collaboratively, students explore fundamental questions about religion.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.