The Use of Cooperative Learning in China's Elementary Classrooms: Perceptions by Teachers

Open Access
Liu, Chang
Graduate Program:
Educational Psychology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 06, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Robert James Stevens, Thesis Advisor
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Teacher
  • Chinese Elementary School
  • Educational Reform
  • Motivation
  • Professional Development
Education in China is criticized for its examination-oriented education and "silent classrooms". The tradition of didactic instruction may put Chinese children's development at a disadvantage. Realizing existing problems for basic education, the government proposed New Curriculum Reform (2001) where student-centered active learning, inquiry-based learning, and cooperative learning in classrooms were called for. Cooperative learning has the potential to change China's elementary classrooms. Although cooperative learning has been implemented by teachers in the U.S since late 1970's and recognized for its academic, motivational and social-emotional outcomes for students (e.g. Johnson, et al, 1985; Stevens, et. al, 1987; Slavin, 1978; Sharan, 1990), it has not been well understood or implemented in China's elementary schools. The present study aims to investigate teachers' perceptions and reported use of cooperative learning in elementary-level classrooms. 1029 teachers from 38 public elementary schools in five cities responded to the survey. The majority of teachers reported using cooperative learning in their classrooms, although few indicated following the principles of well-structured cooperative learning. Teachers in more developed districts reported higher rates of using cooperative learning compared to those in less developed districts. Teachers in more developed districts also reported a higher value for students' academic talk and less perceived-cost of using cooperative learning. The school district, teachers' self-efficacy, perceived-cost, and training on cooperative learning significantly predicted frequent versus infrequent cooperative learning use. School district, years of teaching experience, perceived-value, perceived-cost, and cooperative learning knowledge significantly predicted teachers' reported use of the principles of cooperative learning. The implications for teacher training and educational resources distribution are discussed.